Photo by Michael Skok on Unsplash

Looking back to look ahead

December 28, 2023

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.

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.
Now you’re ready to think about next year. You’ve completed the year, even if you didn’t finish everything you wanted. This year I wanted to finish writing a book. I didn’t quite finish, but I wrote seven out of eight chapters. For me, that’s something to celebrate.

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)?


-Work life?

-Spiritual life?




-Letting go?

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.

Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations, and online resources.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

Don't Miss What's Next

Get early access to the newest stories from Christian Citizen writers, receive contextual stories which support Christian Citizen content from the world's top publications and join a community sharing the latest in justice, mercy and faith.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This