As 2017 draws to its close most of us are going to find ourselves reflecting on the year that’s passing, and taking stock of our personal balance sheet to see how we did. Did we squander our capital – our time, our health, our relationships – or did we build on it, by following through with our good intentions and doing just a little better in some of those spheres than we had in previous years?
Making this kind of personal reckoning can be frustrating, because our intentions so often outstrip our actions. We all want to be more mindful and more intentional – I certainly do! – but life has other plans and we’re so often caught up in dealing with what’s coming at us in the moment that we lose the clarity that the long view brings. The holidays are difficult for people, I think, because they shine a bright light on how we’ve used our time on earth in that last 365 days, throwing our failures and shortcomings into sharp relief. And it’s parlously easy to pile on the blame and shame for those failures, while giving the good things you’ve done short shrift.
Don’t do it. Not this year. I’ve got a better idea.
Brendan Burchard, the New York Times best-selling author of High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way and my coach, suggests asking yourself five challenge questions that can help you engage in mindful and constructive self-assessment, to finish strong, and to lead off the New Year armed with more than just good intentions. So, before the end of the year, take out a pad and pen, and ask yourself:
- What are the five things I have been grateful for in 2017, and what are three things I’ve missed appreciating this year?
- What are the five things I struggled with most in 2017, and one way in which I could have handled each of them better?
- What are the five things I need to let go of, or forgive myself for in 2017?
- What are five things I achieved this year that I’m proud of?
- What are the five things I will remind myself of, in order to succeed in the next 12 months?
This precious season during the month of December is a time of wonder, rich with marvels large and small. My hope is that you will find the opportunity to reflect on the year just we have just finished, and to take in and celebrate those moments of wonder that are all around us right now. Start with these small steps in the right direction, and use them to make 2018 your strongest year ever!
Our niece Zoë holding our youngest nephew Samuel, Christmas 2015.