Looking back to look ahead
What are you planning for 2024? Wait! Before you jump in, take a few moments to take stock of this year. Then think about next year.
On New Year’s Eve 2016 I attended an unusual party. It was an evening of reflection on the year, led by Margaret Benefiel (now executive director of the Shalem Institute. Margaret gave us questions to consider about the past year. She then gave us the opportunity to look forward to the next year. What a gift! Since then, I’ve done a similar process every year on the 30th or 31st of December.
Each year when I review, it’s surprising how much I’ve forgotten. The challenges may loom large, but the gifts fade into the background. The review helps me remember and appreciate what I’ve experienced through the year. Reviewing the year is valuable for its own sake. And it also helps clear the deck for thinking about next year.
Here are some questions to consider for the past year:
-What happened this year? What caught your attention in your own life and beyond?
-What challenges did you face?
-What can you celebrate about this year? What went right? (Some of the celebrations may be related to the challenges.)
-What did you learn this year?
-Who are the people who meant the most to you this year?
-What space did you create in your life?
-How did your spiritual life go this year?
-What did you complete?
-What did you not complete that you want to let go of?
Take some time over the questions. Consider writing by hand to slow yourself down and help stimulate your brain to remember.
Here’s a powerful yet underrated question to ask about next year: “What do I want?” I like to ask the clergy I coach, “What do you want?” They gaze into the distance and say “That’s a good question…”
Isn’t it selfish to think about what you want? It’s much easier to put effort toward something you want than something you don’t want. The desire draws you forward. If you are doing more of what you want, you’ll make a better contribution. And you’ll be more pleasant to be around, for both co-workers and family. That’s the opposite of selfish.
As you consider what you want, take a look at the different areas of your life. Ask yourself what you want in each area:
-Family life (immediate and extended)?
Don’t forget to ask yourself, “What else do I want?” You may surprise yourself.
Let’s be honest: none of us will spend all of our time doing what we want in the coming year. Yet I hope in 2024 you can find ways to do more of what fulfills your deepest desires.