Nonprofit Summer Exercise 11: Livin’ On A Prayer


We’re halfway there, everyone! How does it feel?

Today’s exercise is a simple one – much like the very first exercise, I simply want you to reflect on the month of July.


In your notebook, or however you wish to record, consider the following questions:

  1. What went well
  2. What sucked

The lists can be as long and expansive, or short and sweet as you’d like. When I do this activity, I think about projects, milestones, people, and peripheries. For example, having a really great first meeting with someone could be something that went well, or having your computer crash might be something that sucks. These things don’t need to be just work related. Personal moments shouldn’t take a back seat to work stuff here.

The point here is to really let loose. If something comes to mind, write it down. There are no wrong answers.

Once you feel like you’ve completed your two lists, take the time to review them. Are there more good things than bad? Or maybe more bad than good?

Now choose your top three best moments and bottom three crappiest moments.

Do a bit of mapping around each one. What makes it the best or worst? What kinds of things led to this happening? Was it preventable, or repeatable? What kinds of other items on your list are connected to these things and how? Are these things something you did, or something that happened to you?

Take the time to check your point of view. Celebrate that list of wonderful stuff. Take a moment to bask in the warmth you feel – whether it is pride, gratitude, humbleness, joy… feel those moments again deeply and really take note of how they came to be.

Take a moment to grieve a bit for the crappy stuff. Disappointment. Sadness. Frustration. Embarrassment. It’ll sting a bit, but feel it. Now, think about how you might have been able to make things go differently. Was any of this your own doing? Was it caused by a bad habit you want to break? Is the locus of control within you, or somewhere else? Try to write these ideas and explanations out. Sometimes it is incredibly powerful to own a moment by simply writing “the event was not as successful as it could have been because I forgot to xyz” or maybe “the event didn’t go well because the power went out across the city and we were forced to shut it down early.”

Finally, are there any lessons to be learned from these two lists? Are there things you need to do (or stop doing) in the future that would change what your future lists might look like? Make note of these things.

When I complete this exercise, my list of accomplishments always astounds me, and as time passes I find less things to add to my crappy list. Doing this once a month helps me recognize how much I actually achieved, and that sometimes feeling stuck in a rut is really all in my head. Other times, I recognize deeply where I’ve been making mistakes or needing to rejig how I perform my job.