New Year’s Resolving

By solle on 03/01/2011 — 3 mins read

Is feeling bad about something all one’s life anything to particularly feel bad about?

Looking back over the whole year I have a tendency to only remember the problems, failures, troubles. Obviously many things over the year also went quite well, but at the end of the year I get stuck with where I have gone wrong, the poor decisions, the poor work, the wrong work, the seeming lack of progress, the dull sketch books, the paucity of anything half decent that deserves to be added to a portfolio, and the overuse of the word ‘enable’ in annotations (thanks Andrew Travers).

But from these haunting penumbras of doubt there are always marvellous lessons of inevitable self-improvement.

Failure is the moment of learning. A moment of jeopardy that is both interesting and enlightening. There is a cyclical relationship (and radical pattern) between failure and success and failure is the first necessary part of the cycle. You learn by watching something (or yourself) fail to work.

Ultimately, be grateful for the failures.

By accepting failure, I can live with nothing to lose and can indulge my interests with occasional critical successes as well as more failures in order to design my life. (33, Richard Saul Wurman)

If nothing is wrong you are less likely to be motivated to make changes and lift yourself out of your comfort zone.

Putting time and availability in perspective.

Every year needs to be another year of knowing oneself and agreeing only to endeavours that I can action with full concentration, support and be fairly sure of a successful (and useful) outcome. And to stop agreeing to do the things I cannot possibly do properly or carry out successfully.

Realising that every opportunity that crosses my path doesn’t have to be taken – and agreeing to stuff for infamy is not a good idea. The strength is in knowing which to leave.

As I’ve mentioned before the highlight of every year is providing help and support and encouragement for those around me. Being in the right places at the right times to catalyse others towards new challenges and successes is rich reward and time is not better spent.


Training myself to focus on what is in front of me and slowing down to learn more. Discipline has to become part of the daily pattern. To really be successful at anything I need to be able to switch into a totally focused and immersed-in-task mode for at minimum three to four hours at a time. This needs to become part of every day. No excuses. It takes mental stamina and training to lengthen periods of focus and discipline to not be distracted every five minutes by the slightest disturbance. Change won’t happen overnight.

It is very easy to lose touch with what it’s like to do one thing at a time. And the difference it makes to being able to deliver something of real quality rather than acceptable.

All this training is a combination of labours both manual and mental. Most people feel that these labours are really only mental battles but after a while they come to realise that they are in fact quite manual.

Living deliberately (the message of Henry Thoreau Walden): making choices consciously about the way you live your life, not having your life live you.

How often do you sit in a good straight chair and do nothing else at all?

Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn’t write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated.

(Thanks to Richard Saul Wurman, 33 – Haruki Murakami, What I talk about when I talk about running – Padgett Powell, The Interrogative Mood – Susan Maushart, I unplugged my kids)


I am a user centred design leader working across senior design leadership teams and user centred design operations. I work across a wide range of digital services within the public, private and not for profit sectors.