The Secret to Career and Life Management

By Nancy Anderson

With fall officially here, it’s a perfect time to conduct a review of gains and losses you experienced this past year. Frequent reviews are the secret of career and life management, since reflecting before going forward consolidates gains, and the learning that follows failures.

“I donít want to look at my failures,” said one of my clients, Laura, when I asked her to review the consequences of choices she made the past year, “It’s too embarrassing.”

“Then you are bound to repeat the failures,” I said, smiling. “Don’t be afraid to examine the results of mistakes, if you learn from them, they turn into successes.”

Tolerance for error is an important quality to develop, as is the ability to correct without self-recrimination. Once you look at mistakes as choices you thought were right at the time, you simultaneously realize you would not make those choices now. Since you are not the person you were when you made the poor choice, why punish the new you?

Like many people who measure themselves by how much they get done, Laura believed if she kept going and going like the Energizer Bunny that would keep her on the fast track at work.† Paradoxically, holding still so she could listen to her inner voice was the solution to her career frustration. But she was afraid that voice would guide her in a direction she did not want to go.

Next: How to create an effective self-review

Effective managers pay attention to voices in the marketplace because customers and competitors are valuable sources of information. When inventory and services are not selling, good managers get rid of them to make room for what will sell.† Unfortunately, outmoded habits are hard to give up because at one time they worked. In Laura’s case, excessive activity distracted her from feelings she did not want to feel, such as anger about not getting the recognition she felt she deserved.

When Laura looked at the choices she made the past year, failures as well as successes, she discovered she did well when she trusted her judgment; failure occurred when she followed her bossís lead. In those cases, she had deferred to his opinion, rather than trust herself.

“I see now that I need to stand up for what I know,” Laura said, after we went over her list of the yearís gains and losses. “I was afraid Iíd be ridiculed or fired, and my next thought was, what would I do then?† But mostly I was afraid my boss was right and I was wrong.”

“Because someone is in a position of power does not mean he or she is an authority,” I said. “Authority is knowing what you are doing, and that comes from experience as well as intuition. Given that definition, you are the authority, Laura, but he has the power. Since he wonít change, itís time for you to change.”

Laura nodded. “Yes, I do. Had I not done this review, I would not have seen that the barrier in my career was my fear of being an authority, but that makes sense. Itís a big shift to see myself in that position. But I’m ready for the challenge.”

A few months later, Laura landed a job as operations manager in a smaller company. The woman who hired her liked Laura’s take-charge attitude.

“She said they needed someone with the courage of her convictions,” Laura said, laughing.

“Well, that’s you, Laura,” I said.

Your Review

Begin your review of the past year by dividing the choices you made into three categories: Money, Work and Relationships. Under each heading, separate the year into four quarters: January to March, April to June, July to September, and (to come) October to December. Next, describe the consequences of your choices in each quarter. What turned out well? What did not work? To conclude your survey, answer the following questions:

What was the need or desire that motivated my choices?

What did I expect to happen (as opposed to what happened)?

When did I stop and think things through before I took action?

Whose opinions influenced my choices?

When did I listen to myself?

After you complete your survey, you will see why review is the secret of career and life management. The insight you gain into your motives and needs will encourage you to do regular reviews in the future. Like all good managers, you will set aside time to celebrate the choices that worked, and to learn from the choices that did not work. Then you will make better choices in the future.

Related Links:
5 Questions that Will Change Your Life
Create a Structure For Your Success
The Best Way to Get Motivated
Not a Failure, But a Different Ending

Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion. Her new book, Work with Passion in Midlife and Beyond is available in online and retail bookstores. Her website is Send questions about your career and life goals to


Emma S.
Emma S3 years ago

I've come late to this - but at about the right time of year! Thank you.

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga6 years ago

that is awesome

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Mark S.
Mark S7 years ago

Very good advice. Thank you for sharing it.

Annemarie W.
Annemarie L7 years ago

Good stuff

Debbie W.
Past Member 7 years ago

How pure this statement, written by an unknown prisoner in Ravensabruck concentration camp and left by the body of a dead child ...

Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have infliced on us, remember the fruits we have bought thanks to that suffering ... our comradship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgment let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.

There are life lessons to be learned in everything we do, if we're smart enough to see them.

Carolyn Apsey
Carolyn Apsey7 years ago

Trust the process! Carolyn A

Carolyn Apsey
Carolyn Apsey7 years ago

Trust the process.

Mike Masley
Michael Masley7 years ago

A work in progress...

Loo Samantha
Loo sam7 years ago

thanks for the article.