Many of us view the calendar’s turn from 2007 to 2008 as an opportunity to start anew and to improve upon the year just past. But despite this resolve, it’s easy to predict that 2008 will be another year filled with small slips and large blunders. As a psychologist whose work focuses on five core concerns–about vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority, and helplessness–that are especially powerful influences in our personal and collective lives, I offer this list of ten mistakes I’ll probably make on the way to 2009.
1. Sometimes, I’ll make choices driven too much by safety concerns and too little by other important considerations. Fear will prevent me from carefully weighing alternatives and their likely outcomes–and potentially important opportunities will pass me by.
2. But at other times, I will foolishly and impulsively fail to exercise due caution. This temporary sense of invulnerability will leave me regretful about the consequences of my actions.
3. Sometimes, I will confuse what’s unfair with what’s merely unfortunate; as a result, I’ll hold onto unwarranted grievances that leave me brooding and angry, and that distract me from more crucial pursuits.
4. But at other times, I’ll fail to recognize or appreciate real injustices, including those that I perpetrate myself. Sadly, this blindness will prevent me from acting to address the many instances of undeserved suffering in the world around me.
5. Sometimes, I’ll be unnecessarily suspicious of people who actually deserve my trust. These misjudgments will foreclose promising possibilities for collaboration.
6. But at other times, I will be gullible and believe things that are untrue. Even worse, I’ll mistakenly place my faith in individuals who will abuse that trust for their own selfish purposes.
7. Sometimes, I will wrongly presume to be better than others–convinced that I’m more deserving, that my moral compass is more true, or that my insights are more discerning.
8. But at other times, I’ll be consumed by self-doubt and judge myself too harshly. The paralysis that results will prevent me from embracing valuable opportunities.
9. Sometimes, I will err in thinking that my own actions cannot make a difference; I will abandon efforts too soon–or not even try at all. The benefits from greater determination and resilience on my part will never be achieved.
10. But at other times, I’ll grossly overestimate my capacity to control events around me. I’ll stubbornly persevere and waste precious time and effort that instead could be devoted to pursuits where positive results are attainable.
Admittedly, that’s quite a few mistakes. In my own defense, I expect to have lots of company. But knowing that these errors await, we can work harder to recognize them before they ensnare us. And by more carefully analyzing issues of vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority, and helplessness when they arise, we can respond more effectively to the challenges that these concerns will undoubtedly pose in the year ahead. Finally, we should call upon those individuals who hold or seek positions of leadership in 2008 to do much the same—and we should evaluate them accordingly.