When a project concludes, there is a natural opportunity for evaluation. This is because clarity always comes at the end. And in some cases, the evaluation cannot be avoided.
Take for example, a sports team. At the end of a season, the team has either won or lost. If they have lost, the team will undoubtedly evaluate their season. Even if there is no formal meeting among the team, the reality of not winning will force introspection.
The players’ minds will naturally evaluate the team members, how hard they worked, what strategy they employed, and what they could improve for next season.
Smart teams (and individuals) will formally dissect “last season” looking for solutions to improve their performance “next season.” But everyone will look back in one way or another. Finality has that effect on us.
Failing in an objective particularly forces self-reflection. And failure can only be fully known at the end.
The current Olympic season is full of these moments, I’m sure.
The swimmer who falls just short of winning the race may wonder what would have happened if they trained just a little bit harder. The team who fails to qualify for the championship game may wonder what would have happened if they practiced together more. The coach whose decisions didn’t work out may wonder about the result had they studied more film.
But when the end arrives, there is no opportunity to go back and make changes. You can’t go back and train harder, practice more, lift more weights, or study extra film… the end has come and your opportunity has passed.
Albeit harsh at times, clarity always comes at the end.
Of course, this reality extends beyond athletics. We see it all around us.
When we receive our final grade at school, we know whether or not we succeeded in the course requirements.
When we set our sights on a weight loss goal, in the end, we realize whether we made enough (or the proper) adjustments to our lifestyle.
When we arrive at the end of a job, we can look back and evaluate whether we effectively fulfilled our role.
When we retire, we are able to fully analyze whether we achieved our professional objectives or not.
When our children move out of home, we are faced with questions if we did enough to prepare them for the road ahead.
When a relationship ends, we are able to look back with clarity on our contribution (or deduction) to it.
When we fail in a goal, we are left to wonder why.
And ultimately, at the end of our lives, if given the opportunity, we will undoubtedly look back with pride or regret at how we chose to live.
The end always brings clarity.
It also brings finality.
When the course is over, so is your opportunity. When your child moves out, so is that phase of parenting. On your deathbed, you can’t go back and change the previous decades.
Unfortunately, most of our lives are not lived with that sense of finality. As a result, we live many days with the assumption that “we can always do it later” or “there is time to change tomorrow.” And because we don’t believe we are at the end, we are less forced to look back and evaluate the trajectory of our lives and the decisions we make.
Urgency is difficult to manufacture.
But I believe this principle holds opportunity if we allow it.
The “end” of life’s major milestones are infrequent (for example: the end of an athletic season, the end of a career, the end of a parenting stage, or the end of life).
But every day provides opportunity for evaluation.
Every time I kiss my child goodnight, I can look back to evaluate if I was an intentional parent.
Every time I say good-night to Kim, I can evaluate if I was a faithful, loving spouse.
Every time I end the workday, I can evaluate if I gave my best to my work.
Every time I receive a bank statement or credit card statement, I can evaluate if I made wise decisions with my money last month.
Even every time I close a social media account on my computer, I can evaluate if I used the time and conversation in a healthy and productive fashion.
Clarity comes at the end. Maybe we need to recognize the significance of that more often.