December 30, 2014

Wrapping Up the Year: What Didn’t Work?

Arrow crashing down with text: What Didn't Work for Us?

We’re almost to the new year, and that means we’re inundated with posts about the best stories of the year, the best blog posts of the year, and the biggest industry changes of the year. The year’s end is a good time for reflection for ourselves too: What did we learn about ourselves over this past year that might help us in the future?

I want us all to have an even better year in 2015. *smile* To do so, we might need to work on our weaknesses or identify what didn’t work for us this past year.

  • What decisions did we make that sabotaged our success?
  • What processes did we try that held us back?
  • What things did we prioritize that didn’t match with our goals?

As I pointed out with Courtney Milan’s advice in my post about slow writers, sometimes correcting an issue simply comes down to avoiding situations that force us to face that issue in the future.

  • What decisions would have better odds of success for us?
  • What processes might be a better match for how we work?
  • What priorities would better lead to progress toward our goals?

In other words, sometimes knowing how to succeed starts with knowing what doesn’t work. So the better we understand ourselves, the more likely we are to know how to succeed in the future.

But First, the Disclaimers…

#1: Don’t Be Too Hard on Ourselves

This exercise shouldn’t be about beating ourselves up. No matter what, we can’t be perfect about any aspect of our lives—much less every aspect.

Looking for weaknesses or areas to improve isn’t about trying to make ourselves feel bad for not being perfect or to add to our self-doubt. In fact, we wouldn’t do ourselves any favors if we focus so much on one “weakness” that we ignore all our strengths to the point that we lose ground in those areas.

#2: Balance, Balance, Balance

We can analyze many aspects of our life for this “what didn’t work” question. Those aspects of our life can fit together like puzzle pieces, so that’s a big reason why we’ll never achieve anything even close to perfection in every area of our life.

For example, if we decide to change our approach to our career, that might affect our relationships. Or if we want to spend more time on our relationships, that might affect our career. Etc., etc.

#3: Be Conscious of Our Priorities and Choices

Instead, we want to think about things we could do better or ways we could improve without compromising other areas of our life that are important to us too. Life balance has to be part of our equation, and no one else can tell us where that line of balance falls for our life.

We shouldn’t feel guilty for consciously letting an area of our life slide because we’ve consciously decided that it isn’t worth worrying about. The point is that we’ve consciously thought about it and made that decision. *smile*

Analyzing Ourselves: Our Strengths and Weaknesses

I’ve talked before about using the Myers-Briggs test to learn more about our characters. But we can obviously use this test to learn more about ourselves as well.

I’d originally started digging deeper into the Myers-Briggs test because I came across this post about how authors tend to mischaracterize the INTJ personality type. As a borderline INTJ, I found the post fascinating. (Apparently, many fictional villains are INTJs. Maybe I should practice my evil laugh. *wink*)

Step One: Learn Our Type

Mandy’s post led to several more sites with more information. But first, I wanted to confirm what I thought I remembered of my test results. I like this version of the test because it not only gives your results, but it also tells you how strong you are in each measurement.

As I mentioned, I’m a borderline INTJ because I have only a very slight preference for T(hinking) over F(eeling). In other words, the INFJ description applies equally well to me, and I’d probably score one way or the other differently from day to day.

(And it’s a good thing my motto has always been Why Be Normal?, as those categories are two of the rarest personality types. I can’t do anything normally. *grin*)

Step Two: Read Up on Our Type

Once we know our type, we can read about our type (and any other close types) to gain insights into how we think and feel and relate to the world around us. Some of the links that I like for explaining the variations are this one (related to the test link above) and this one. (That second link gives very detailed explanations and an overview of how we might change with maturity.)

Step Three: Dig Deeper into Our Type for Strengths and Weaknesses

We can also dig deeper to understand how our personality might affect our strengths and weaknesses as far as our career or our relationships. For example, my INFJ strengths explain why I love helping people with this blog, but those weaknesses also point out why I’ll never be great at sales and marketing. *smile*

Analyzing Ourselves: Apply What We Know

The more we understand about ourselves, the better we’ll be able to prioritize and know which aspects aren’t worth the time and effort to get close to near-perfection. For example, my personality type tends to become frustrated with too much focus on details.

To put that into writing terms, I’m ready to tear my hair out after a nitpicky editing session. Using macros to search for issues helps a bit by automating the process, but I have to focus first on the bigger nitpicky problems because I know I won’t have the patience to do multiple passes.

I could fight that tendency, but why? I’d much rather work around my weakness and save that time and energy for an aspect where I’ll have a greater chance of success. Instead, I can ensure my work receives strong copyediting by others with that strength, and not fruitlessly try to overcome that weakness by forcing myself to do something I’m not good at (and hate doing).

What Should We Change for Next Year?

After we’ve gotten to know ourselves better, we can see if or how those aspects affected our successes or failures of the past year. Then we can decide what we should do differently next year.

For example, I’m far too weak when it comes to procrastination. *sigh* Analyzing myself revealed the core issue of why: I’m a perfectionist who gets enjoyment from novel experiences, which often manifests in endless explorations when trying to learn something new. Learning something new is great, but not when I use that as an excuse to avoid moving forward with imperfect information.

So what should I change? A stronger emphasis on self-deadlines (or even mini-deadlines for each step of a process) might help. Or timers might help balance between a free rein to explore and the endless over-thinking black hole I use for procrastination.

On some level, I knew all this about myself already (after all, my personality likes analyzing things *grin*), but seeing it in context of these test results helped me see them not as weaknesses that I can overcome simply by being more stubborn. Just having better intentions won’t be enough to steamroll through those weaknesses.

Instead, by seeing these weaknesses as part of me, I know I have to find ways to work around them. Acknowledging my weaknesses isn’t about beating myself up, but about recognizing where I need to try something else.

We might all be able to make improvements in our decisions, priorities, and processes for this next year if we better understand what didn’t work this past year. And more importantly, if we understand why they didn’t work. Maybe with that information, we’ll all be fabulously successful in 2015. *fingers crossed*

Do you ever stop and think about how and why failures occur in your life? Might your personality affect why you succeed or fail? Does that information help you make better future decisions? What didn’t work for you this past year? What changes do you think might help?

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Julie Glover

I’m constantly self-evaluating. I think it’s a good practice if you don’t get bogged down in failures or lists, but still manage to look ahead and take action. Probably my best discovery in the last year is that I don’t well-match the advice to just write, write, write and not edit as you go (“turn off the internal editor”). This was a wonderful epiphany for me, because I think it will save me throwing away so many words because I’ve gone down a rabbit trail in the plot and not realized it until I’m way far down the wrong road. So yay for that self-evaluation!

And I’ve taken the MBTI several times. Like you, I’m so close on T/F that I’m really an INXP (X being a place marker). When I read the descriptions, though, I lean toward INFP so that’s where I place myself. I also enjoy helping, hate selling. 😉

Killion Slade

Hi Jami! This is a perfect post as I was discussing this very topic with my copy-editor last night. In 2015, I wanted to learn where opportunities and strengths lie so I can work on getting better for the next books. I took the test and learned that I’m within the 4-5% range of folks. “INFPs are idealistic, humane, creative, quirky, and individualistic. They see themselves as unique individuals, equipped with a special blend of skills and abilities.” I’ll admit, without having studied much of the Fe, Ne, Si, and Tes – the information provided tends to be a bit overwhelming, but I can begin the drill down to learn more over the course of the year. The one thing I thought was very interesting was how the Fe needed the intensity and the word “novels” was mentioned. I have found, in my life, that since I began writing how much I have mellowed as a person and life doesn’t throw me for a loop as it used to. This Fe seems to provides the level of intensity I need to maintain a balance elsewhere in my life. So HOORAY and cudos for learning that part of my personality 🙂 I’ll admit, I’m kinda of an all or nothing kinda person. I don’t want to invest the time, energy, heart & soul into a project if I can’t complete it. Then I feel as it is a waste of time and time is probably the most valuable gift anyone can…  — Read More »

Carolyn M Kenney

The day before New Years eve I usually look at the past months to see what I accomplished and the things I didn’t. I look at the reasons so that I don’t make the same mistakes the following year. If I get too deep into the whys and ifs that I use to plot, I’d go crazy. I just make a note that in order to do better, I have to be sure I avoid the outside influences and climb over the mountains that got in my way. So far, I came up short only one time this year. It was in August when my dad passed away. I’d planned to publish three books on Amazon. I published two. I let my dad’s wife get the better of my creative process. Can’t let that happen again!

Marcy Kennedy

Thanks for such a great post. I’m in the process right now of looking at what worked and what didn’t for the past year, what I need to change and improve, and what new things I want to try. I really appreciated how you emphasized the need for balance and that if we consciously prioritize one thing over the other, it doesn’t mean that we’re making the wrong choice just because we don’t make the same choice as someone else might have made.

I didn’t realize that you and I score very similarly in personality. I’m an INTJ as well. We’re definitely one of the more misunderstood types 🙂 My husband is an ISFJ, and we’ve found it very helpful to understand our types because it helps us understand why we have conflicts in certain areas (like my tendency to question authority and willingness to abandon the established way of doing something if I spot a more efficient and effective method). I suspect that INTJs are a more rare type among writers, in the same way that they’re more rare among women.


I am also a INF/TJ (got exactly 50 – 50 on that today, but they gave me an F).
I think it’s funny that this is considered a RARE type when I personally know two other people with this type – and several commenters are also this type. What are the odds?
I enjoy looking back at my previous year’s goals and seeing where I met and where I fell short. I always tend to make my goals semi-lofty because I need that push to work harder. It’s been interesting to be self-motivated since quitting my day job and writing full-time.


I’m INTJ, but fairly close to INTP. My T isn’t too terribly high, either. But my I in particular? Really high. As in, I get crabby and snappish if I go 8 hours surrounded by people.

Yet I’m the type of person who hear you sneeze at the store, ask “Illness or allergies?”, and then suggest some things you could take to help. I can chatter up a storm (and am, apparently, interesting to listen to, because people will intentionally talk to me and ask questions that trigger my monologues).

I think my biggest failure all year has been planning as if I’m well. I’m far better than I could be, but I’m unwell. I know that. But I keep pushing myself too hard and then getting upset with myself when I crash.

This coming year (or at least month), I’m going to aim for more micro-plans. See how that goes.


Interestingly, I’ve tested as strong NF since I was in High School–at which point my English teacher said, “I’m jealous: That’s the PERFECT personality type for being a writer…”

At the time I didn’t think much of it, since I figured I didn’t have enough expertise to write non-fiction, and wasn’t in any way confident of my ability to tell a good story. Over the years, I had several people tell me I SHOULD be writing, but again had the sort of blank response of… WHAT?! (Though I kept journals religiously starting in 8th grade, was a journalist for a number of years, and wrote for work regularly, too…)

It really wasn’t until I read an interview with Stephenie Meyer about the genesis of her Twilight series that I thought… I dream, too… I could write about those! LOL

I guess the point is: We all come to our inspiration differently, and that affects how we feel about goal-setting. At this point, my J is driving the boat and I feel like I’m catching up from so many years of not having produced published work, so I’d like to take advantage of my journalistic training to be prodigiously productive this year. We’ll see how close I come to meeting my goals… 😉


Thanks for sharing my post on INTJ characters, Jami. I especially love your advice here to read up on our type and explore its strengths and weaknesses. Find out I was an INTJ was a game-changer for me. Now I’m happily pursuing things that make me happy and not feeling guilty about it. I also know better why some recurring challenges were recurring challenges for me and how to approach them better/where to shore up skills, etc. This is great advice.


[…] time, we talked about analyzing our failures from the past year. But we’re starting fresh with a whole new year now, and we want to […]


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Angela Ackerman

I just did the MB, and shared the results with Jay. He reminded me that you are INFJ…guess what I am too?

Introvert(22%) iNtuitive(25%) Feeling(12%) Judging(11%)

You have slight preference of Introversion over Extraversion (22%)
You have moderate preference of Intuition over Sensing (25%)
You have slight preference of Feeling over Thinking (12%)
You have slight preference of Judging over Perceiving (11%)


[…] I’ve already seen several retrospectives analyzing what we can learn from what succeeded and what failed over the past […]

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