As we head towards the end of the year, it’s natural to reflect on the year just passed and start to look at the coming 12 months.

You can look at where things have gone really well and where they haven’t gone quite as well as you’d have liked and, if you are feeling really ambitious, you can even try to figure out why. Then, in theory, you can repeat your successes and avoid the same pitfalls in 2012! Sounds simple doesn’t it? But in reality I wonder just how many of the defining things that happen to us during our careers and business lives we actually influence directly, in a meaningful way.

I think it’s Gary Player who’s often quoted as saying “the harder I practice, the luckier I get” and it’s true that practice should make perfect.

The more you do something, the more proficient you should become - your experience builds over time and you should be able to spot an opportunity or get the nub of any issues pretty quickly. If not, then you might want to reconsider your career choice! However, I’m sure all of us can recall times in our careers where no matter how certain we are that we’ve done all of the right things, all at the right time, things still went pear shaped, and likewise when we’ve been ‘winging it’ a bit, things seemed to just fall into our laps.

Well, you might say that’s just life, isn’t it? Yes it is, but it never ceases to surprise me how much capacity we have for self-delusion. Over the years, I’ve lost count of the number of candidates I’ve dealt with who have made extravagant claims about how much the current success of their company is all down to them. No reference to, or even concept of, potential external factors that might have helped their causes. Things such as structural changes in the supply chain or the fact that they happen to be operating in a high-growth sector… no, it’s all down to them, nothing else! Likewise, I’ve dealt with many clients whose only benchmark for ability in an individual is the bottom line success of the business they are in. Notwithstanding that in some ‘mature’ sectors just to stand still can require lots of effort, ingenuity and no little skill.

The reality is you can’t control everything that happens to you in your career or business. What’s important is that you are able to cope with the situations that come your way and the only way to do that is to make sure that have the right mindset and you equip yourself, Gary Player-style, with the right tools to react to whatever comes along. That in itself is a key attribute, a real skill that, if all the economic pundits are correct, will prove invaluable as we head into 2012.