I love this time of year, not just because of the wonder that comes with having young children who are excited for presents under the tree, but because winter gives me a chance to breathe. Yes it's dark and grey (especially if you live in the northern latitudes), but the extra outdoor chores no longer need tending to. The gardens and grass have stopped growing, and the leaves have all been raked up until springtime.
I'm going to share with you a few keys for ending this year well and beginning the next one on the right foot. As a school teacher, I was always on school vacation the last week of the year, so if at all possible, I'd head out to the mountains where I could spend time in a cabin next to a hot fire for a long weekend away from all the distractions.
One of my favorite spots was the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. I'd tent at night, but spend the waking hours in front of one of the numerous six foot tall fireplaces reading, journaling, and visualizing the next year. It was always decorated for Christmas and at 4,000 feet, I could usually count on cold temperatures if not some snow to make me feel like I was back home in northern New England.
Here are the steps I take, starting first with the past and allowing it to inform my future:
1. Audit of the Past Year
I begin by setting up a table with two columns. This makes up the first entry of my new electronic journal in Google docs even if we aren't officially in January yet. The first column is titled "Wins & Accomplishments of 20___" and the second is titled "Obstacles & Challenges I Overcame." The entire point of this activity is to start on a high note. It builds gratitude and helps me to celebrate growth even if I didn't reach all of my goals or had some difficulties along the way. I assess my annual goals. I will also go through the photos on my phone and my social media feeds. I'll also look through my calendar. Some people I know will even color code different events in their calendars based on the events that were life giving, neutral, or draining so that they can be intentional about getting more of the right activities on the books in the coming year.
2. What Did You Learn?
I don't know about you, but I can go through the fire if there's growth waiting on the other side of the trial! Following my audit, I'm biting at the bit to jot down everything I've learned. Many of you have heard me say often that "it's the process that makes you rich," and it really is! It takes time for growth to happen. This makes it all the more important to sit in it and celebrate rather than brushing it off and jumping into the next phase of the journey like many of us tend to do. I skip a line at this point, create a new table with only 1 column, and title it "Things I Learned in 20___." Then I write a brief description of the growth, the insights, and the newfound awareness followed by a short title in bold so that I can go back and make reference if necessary. I can't tell you how enlightening these written accounts are six or eight months down the road! They're the stuff books are made of!
3. Who Do You Want to Continue Building Relationships With & Who Do You Need to Continue Supporting From Afar?
Obviously, there are people who come into our lives for a season. Very few last a lifetime because of individual growth trajectories, differing values, and the lack of common ground in which we connect. It's okay and it's normal for these seasonal friendships and professional relationships even though it can be difficult to let go. Most of us only ever meet 3-5 true confidants who are genuinely for us as human beings. Most are constituents who are for the same things we're for, but whose loyalties don't extend past the common ground shared for those particular seasons.
4. What Didn't Work and Where Are You Aiming For?
By this point, I'm so jazzed up that I see my failures and shortcomings as learning opportunities instead of loss. These, along with the areas I saw the most success in are what inform my new annual goals. From here, I set up categories with the strict understanding that balance is a myth. This is where knowing your priorities is very important. For me, it's my faith, my family, and then my ministry, business, and/or career in that order. For me, I'm merely a steward because we believe that everything belongs to God anyway, even the children He's entrusted us with. What helps with the overwhelm is trying to find overlap in each area. Can I read a Christian book on Biblical stewardship that helps build my faith and my business at the same time? How about the parallels of parenting, leadership, and communication as well as networking opportunities by attending a family conference? Most everything I do is killing two or more birds with one stone.
5. What Do You Need to Do to Grow Into the Person Who Can Achieve These New Goals?
By this point, you've listed your performance goals, but the important goals are the "growth goals" because without these, the performance goals which are usually characterized by economic growth and expansion will seldom become reality. We must continually grow our capacity to believe for the ever expanding vision. Think about what you need to be reading. What do you need to be listening to and watching? Consider the categories of your goals. For me, I want to be putting information about faith, family, leadership, communication, culture, organizational management, professional coaching, neuroscience, selling, etc. into me. LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to find some of the best resources and most enlightening conversations about any topic you're interested in.
Do you see why this time of year gets me so excited? Yes, we are facing a lot of uncertainties and problems needing solutions. And yes, leaders have a heavy load to bear. But the exciting part of it all is that without the difficulties, we would never put our heads together to come up with what will inevitably make the world better.
Don't hold the world back from what you carry! Here's to your best year yet!