At Year’s End: Recapping the Past, Looking To The Future

06 December 2011, by A. Cedilla

Welcome to December. Congratulations, you made another year!

It’s around this time that networks start promoting their December “Coming Soon!” program schedules, traditionally going all out at year’s-end by running special broadcasts with titles like “The Year In Review” , followed by “The Best and Worst of 20__” and “The Top Ten Lists of The Year.”

It’s not just the media doing this, though. It’s a thing we all like to do around the tail-end of the year. We take this time to re-cap, looking back on everything that happened and everything we’ve done, and then making the time to visualize what we would do differently next year, planning for these things and hoping we would get to accomplish them within the next 365 days.

And it’s almost next year, you know. Blink, and you’ll be surprised how quickly it gets here. So before this year ends, how did it go for you? What stood out? Anything new you learned about yourself this year? What are your heartfelt goals for next year? Better have some pen and paper handy, then. You have some work to do.

And here are a few bits of advice to help you along with the planning process:

  • Do not make New Year’s resolutions. They will only make you feel bad about yourself.

You start a fresh year with good intentions, but when life makes your plans go awry, you blame yourself — a little voice in your head whisper-shouts on a loop, “You’re not being disciplined enough, and you lack willpower. You’re such a loser, you’ll never get anywhere at this rate, what’s the use…”

When things get pressured you can get into the tendency to blame yourself for either having too many things to deal with (goal overload) or not being enough to deal with these things (skewing the view towards a personal deficiency).

You get buried in regret, recriminations and disappointment, and this can skew your view of how the rest of the year will go. You sap your own energy.

Or you can put the blame on someone or something else: the economy for ruining your finances so you’re pinching pennies ’til they scream, your in-laws for raising such an ungrateful spouse, the food industry for all the additives making you fat….you can go on a roll for days, and that’s exactly what you waste: the time that could be spent actually making the differences you want in your life.

When you make your plans, also set a trial period for enacting those plans–more on this in the end notes — so you can accurately gauge the effectiveness of the changes you’re going to incorporate into your life.

December 31 and January 1 are only a second apart, you can’t expect any changes to stick at the flip of a calendar page. Give yourself time to ease into it and focus on making it work.

Look back on what stood out for you this year.
If you have a record to jog your memory, a daily journal, a calendar — any calendar that you used to record your activities, online or on paper, will work– use that. Do your own retrospective: recap the year, the best and worst of it, and take note of what you learned this turn of the wheel.

  • What new limits and-or old barriers did you encounter? How did you get past them (or not)?
  • How have you tested yourself or risked yourself this year? How much did you grow from doing so?

Did you notice any trends?

  • What big things turned out to be small things really? Maybe it’s time for you to let go of some things because they’re not really worth it.
  • What small things turned out to be big things? Maybe it’s time for you to give some small things the attention and importance they deserve.

Which actions did you take that made a big difference in your life?

  • What did you regret/not-regret doing – and what did you learn from (not) doing it? You can learn about your risk tolerance and what really matters to you. What did you learn about yourself from these events?
  • What did you realize you should have done? Why didn’t you do it, and was it worth it? How are you going to apply what you learned this year moving on out?

What do you want for next year?
Now is not the time for self-censorship — dream big. Then get to the heart of the dream — pretend you accomplished your goals already. You did it, you made it. It was hard and sometimes you felt like throwing in the towel, but you persevered and now you’re dancing like Rocky Balboa on top of the hundred steps. Take a breath. Ready?

Looking ‘back’ from that place where you’re dancing, ask yourself: To get here, what did I do to have accomplished this, by this time? Your answers determine the actions you’ll need to take, the stages you have to plan for, and the time-lines, resources and deadlines you need to consider.

What ways do you trip yourself up trying to get to where you want to go?
Look again at the trends you noticed, and pay particular attention to the habitual actions you take when faced with something new or uncomfortable, for example.

  • One common mistake is getting ahead of yourself, where this means you let fear and uncertainty get ahead of YOU.
  • When you dwell on your fears and what-if’s for too long, you are letting the past dictate the present, and thus your future.
  • When you get your brain stuck on a loop, you overthink, and too much time pondering leaves little time for taking action that can actually, actively make a difference.
  • Another offshoot to this is not basing your intel on facts but fears and what you think you know, and not grounding yourself in reality. Sure, a lot of things can happen. But what are the most likely things that can happen, based on realistic expectations? You do the same things, you get the same results. Do you want the same things next year, or do you want it to be better?

Side note: Taking actions based on fear of something happening is called avoidance, but sometimes the risks you avoid pay off in bigger problems down the line than if you had taken them.

In an article on student debt by Justine Pope, “The other student loan problem: too little debt,” he takes on a different view of the issue: taking reasonable risks instead of avoiding them entirely can pay off better than choosing to stay within one’s comfort zone. If you stay within your limits, how will you hope to expand them?

Try to ask your questions in different ways:

  • How do I get in my own way? = What do I habitually do without thinking twice?
  • How can I get out of my own way? = What do I have to keep doing to change things around?
  • Which way do I want to go? How do I want to do it? Who do I have to help me, or go to for advice? What resources of my own have I forgotten? Answer the questions, and then prepare for this one

How do I prepare myself to take the risks I want to take next year?

Helpful links:
Give Your New Year’s Resolutions a 30-Day Trial to Work Out the Kinks and Set Yourself Up for Success, a Lifehacker article by Alan Henry based on New Year’s Resolutions 30 Day Trial by Christopher Penn.

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