After seemingly endless months of biothreats, war fears, and sinking portfolios, it takes a resolute spirit to fend off the season’s many seductive invitations to get happy by buying things.
But instead of chasing pleasure with price tags on it, consider using this time of year to fill up your heart and soul by stepping back to take stock.
Reflecting on the past year will allow you to revisit your goals and gradually to realign your personal and professional life with your values. You’ll be able to figure out the best way to heal your clients’ wounds, learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself for your shortcomings, and commit to new growth. This process also can help strengthen your bonds with loved ones, colleagues and professional friends, clients, and your inner self.
As you reflect, I recommend first considering how each important issue affects you personally, then how it impacts your family. Next, move outward to include friends and colleagues, and finally your professional life. Feel free to develop your own topics for reflection, or consider exploring the following avenues of growth:
How do you feel about the past year?
Have you experienced the death of someone you loved, a divorce, a serious illness, or even a “good” stress such as marriage or moving? Are you reeling from events in the larger world?
Take some time to assess your psychological outlook. If you’ve been haunted by fear, anger, or feelings of vulnerability, think about how you might be able to move on and put these feelings behind you.
The need to integrate fear and hope was brought home to me recently at a unique D.C. theatrical event. MacArthur Grant-winning dancer-choreographer Liz Lerman invited the audience to share reactions to the trauma of the past months, both in words and in actions. When she led us through a “dance” of hand gestures and movements, I could see that I was divided. Part of me was still dealing with recent stresses, including the death of my father, while another part was moving forward, enthusiastic about upcoming family events, speeches and seminars, and other exciting developments. Liz’s simple exercise had the profound effect of integrating both parts of me.
By seeing where you may feel stuck, and where you are moving forward, you can strategize your own way of healing the wounds of the past. For example, you might express your anger by volunteering to help resolve conflict, calm your fears by taking steps to protect yourself and your loved ones, or assuage a sense of loss by honoring it with a suitable memorial. Try to let go of any self-recriminations about not having dealt with difficult situations more perfectly. In fact, it’s often helpful to contemplate this next question: What do you wish you had done differently?
What regrets do you have, personally and professionally, about the past year? Forgive yourself for any mistakes or failings, and decide what you will do in the future. Then let go, and move on.
For example, if you regret not having spent more time with your spouse or children, plan how you will remedy this, perhaps by setting aside a specific day or time for them every week. If you feel you failed certain clients, you could decide to meet with them one by one to discuss their goals and adjust their plans accordingly.
What do you want to accomplish in the new year?
This may seem like preaching to the choir, but many planners are so busy helping others identify and work toward their goals that they forget to do it for themselves. Reassess your short-term and long-term goals, determine what progress you intend to make toward each of them next year, and write down what actions you will take to make it happen. Don’t postpone this process because “there isn’t enough time right now”–that’s why so many shoemaker’s children went barefoot.
What are your sources of hope and healing?
If you’re carrying a lot of traumatic baggage from the past year, make a list of what helps you get “back to one,” i.e., reconnect with your more hopeful and serene self. For me, it’s a combination of joyful movement (ballroom and tap dancing), creative activity (making jewelry and giving it away), fun (playing Scrabble and going to the theater), emotional catharsis (schmaltzy show tunes), and closeness to the people I care for.
Whatever works for you, commit to doing more of it in the coming year. Be sure to make this commitment specific and concrete, not just a good intention.
Do you want to make more of a difference in the world?