Another year has gone by. If you’re anything like us, you just don’t know where the time is going and while birthdays and other yearly celebrations used to be occasions to have fun, as we get older they feel more and more like reminders of our own mortality and the finite nature of life. If it feels like it’s too early in the morning for this level of existentialism, sorry… we’re going all in this time. Make your coffee and throw some Hazelnut Leaner Creamer into it. Aaaaahhhh! That’s the good stuff… Now let’s get comfortable, sit back, and reflect on our lives over the past year and maybe think about where we’re going next.
- How do you feel about the mistakes you made?
We all come from somewhere different, and we are all on our own journeys through life. The mistakes we make will always be uniquely our own; things only we had the opportunity to do in ways specific to our own idiosyncratic failings. When put that way, our mistakes seem almost special, don’t they? Maybe you feel that way about them, but more likely you don’t. And some mistakes are bigger and more dire than others. Whatever the mistakes are, remember that dwelling on the past and torturing yourself over what might have been is not healthy. If there is a lesson in your mistake, learn it and move on.
- Do you feel proud of what you accomplished?
You might look back on the things you have accomplished and feel some pride. That’s not a bad thing. You should absolutely take some time to feel your bigger accomplishments and the sense that you have done some great things. So often not stopping to smell the roses can be what burns us out. On the flipside, maybe you accomplished something big (got a degree, finished a project, got that promotion) and it didn’t do anything for you… this might be a red flag that you need to reevaluate things. Often if we achieve something big and feel disconnected from it, it can be a sign that the life we are living is not in alignment with our authentic selves and who we really are; a great accomplishment that we don’t have strong feelings for might mean we are on the wrong track…
- Do you like the things you have in your life?
Speaking of being on the wrong track, how do you feel about the things in your life. Not just the material things (though there is an undeniable satisfaction to walking into a room, looking at the objects, and feeling like it is our space), but also the people and activities we make time for. Does your fantasy football league still bring you joy or do you wonder why you still bother? Is your weekly Dungeons and Dragons group still exciting or does it feel stale? Do you find yourself longing for poker nights with the gang? Do you wish there was more space in your life for romance? Do you want children some day? If you find yourself mostly satisfied with whatever you have to look forward to day by day, then you’re probably on the right track. If you look around at the life you lead and find yourself puzzled by the details and left with the weird feeling that this stuff does not make you happy, then you might have some housekeeping to do.
- What do you want to accomplish over the next year?
This is where the hard (or maybe it’s easy… I don’t know, hypothetical reader) questions come in. What do you want to get done over the next year; what figurative mountain do you want to be standing on this time next year looking down from? As alluded to earlier, living in your authentic self means only you can provide those answers. So often we are told to chase things that won’t actually make us happy, just because it is expected of us. Maybe you don’t know what you actually want, and your journey over the next year will be to figure out who you are and what you really desire in your life. Maybe you do know who you are and what you want and the real question becomes what is the most important thing for you to achieve? Whether the goals are personal or professional, there are only so many hours in a day and you only have so much energy. And even choosing your battles, you may not accomplish those goals at all.
As you sit here sipping on your Hazelnut-flavored coffee, remember to make more times for reflection if you can rather than let yourself get caught up in the grind of life and risk being burnt out; stop and look around lest life pass you by (I think there was an ‘80s movie about that…). And whatever it is you decide to reach for over the next year, remember that the right answer to that question will be the one that is most important to you.