How did you do with last week’s writing of a composite sketch of yourself? Learn anything new about you, or did you have difficulty being that introspective? Did you get a good start on seeing yourself in the mirror? Or is the vision a little fuzzy?
Now that you’ve got that sketch or outline of who you are as a person, it’s time to start making lists. Not lists that will soon be lost in a paper pile, but lists that will help you lay the groundwork for setting goals that will result in real change.
But instead of goals, I’d like you to think of them in terms of focus points. And the first focus points I’d like you to hone in on is what went wrong and what went right for you last year? And why?
Taking Stock and Rehashing
Years ago my family and I started a tradition whereby we ring in the New Year by watching the ball drop in New York on television, or by going out for a simple dinner. (Chinese food, in honor of the movie A Christmas Story, is often the choice.) Then we get a roaring fire going in the fireplace and sit around discussing what the outgoing year was like for each of us and what we’d like to see change or occur in the New Year.
The discussions have been introspective, fun and lively and have sometimes stretched to 2:30 or beyond in the morning. We learn a lot about one another. Sometimes what we learn is uncomfortable. (Like when your son tells you what type of person you are and you cringe because you realize he’s right and you can’t stand that part of your personality either.)
On those years where we’ve been out of town (like the year we celebrated New Years at Disneyland) we just take the first weekend back home to go through the little ritual. And that’s what happened this year.
A Proper Focus
We’d been out of town on a ski trip, and all of us ended up acquiring the horrendous influenza making its way around the world—and dropping like dominoes. So we didn’t feel much like going through the ritual, until a week ago. Even then the engineer, my younger son and I felt lackluster. (My older son had returned to his home in Washington.) Even depressed in some ways. 2017 hadn’t ended quite as we’d hoped, or planned.
I started out by saying 2017 had been a rough year for me, and I was pretty happy to see it go. The engineer asked me to elaborate, so I did. Repeating all of the negatives left me exhausted and frustrated. But then something prompted me to start from the beginning again, and I went through all of the good things that happened. After I was done, the engineer chuckled and said, “Well, it sounded like a pretty good year to me!”
I chuckled back and said, “Yeah, I guess it was wasn’t it?”
Instead of focusing on the good stuff, I’d started out with the “bad.” I’m not sure why I did that. Aside from occasional bouts of melancholy (which, I admit, can be rather severe), I’m usually a positive, glass-half-full type of person.
One reason, which our family is prone to, is that it may be that I zoomed through so many activities in a horrendously overloaded 2017 schedule that I didn’t have—or take—the time to really savor the good things. Once they got checked off the list, I just roared into the next one. Check, check, check! I walked through plenty of rose gardens—so to speak—but I didn’t take the time to examine the intricacies, beauty, and aroma of each one.
Goal Setting Snags
And that leads me to exploring the problems with goal setting.
How often do you focus on the negatives and failures rather than what went right and what you should keep doing?
We concentrate so much on where we’re going and where we want to be that we forget where we’ve been. How much of last year was a good foundation for what you can do this year?
Did you learn more about health and good nutrition last year that you can put into practice this year? Did you take a Bible study class that really opened your eyes and set the stage for more intentional, simple and peaceful living? (Rather than rush into another Bible study, maybe you should really focus on the last one and practicing those things to make them perfect!)
Look Behind You
Honestly, you don’t really know where you’re going until you see where you’ve been, AND you know why you went that route. So that’s what we want to concentrate on this week—focusing on where we’ve been this last year. Taking a bird’s eye view of your path, what transpired, and how it ended. Not where someone else has been; but where you have been. And maybe how you got there. (Yes, if you’re married and have children, it is likely that someone has been on your path with you. That’s okay. Explore how they affected your path, too. Maybe you had to put a marker down on your path, take a trip down their path with them for a while and then return to your path to pick up where you left off. That’s often an unavoidable part of life.)
Then—after taking a bird’s eye snapshot of your year—use the following questions to dig deeper. The sources for these questions are writer K.M. Weiland’s “4 Life-Changing New Year’s Lessons for Writers” (the questions I’ve selected are relevant for everyone); and Career and Life Coach Marla Beck’s “Fire in the Belly.” I’ve also included my own in the list. Spend some time thinking about and answering them.
1. How are you—emotionally, physically, spiritually—different now than you were
2. How is your life different?
3. What have you lost?
4. What have you gained?
5. What would you never want to trade from this past year’s experience, whether
it’s something beautiful or painful, or both?
6. What beliefs have served you particularly well this year?
7. What beliefs failed you? (I think more than anything else, the answers to this
question the last two years have affected and changed me the most.)
8. What answers do you feel you have found that you didn’t have last year?
9. What questions are you still left with?
10. Have you let others’ goals and dreams crowd your own out or push them aside?
(Write down what, specifically, those might be.)
11. How did working on others’ goals and dreams (helping them pursue them)
benefit or detract from your life?
12. Did you constantly let life sidetrack you last year?
13. Did you say “yes” to too many things and not say “no” enough to others?
14. Do you constantly let life sidetrack you emotionally, physically, and
15. If you could pick out just one word to focus on for this year, what would that
word be? Faith? Trust? Perseverance? Love?
16. How is your spiritual life? Lukewarm? Weak? On fire? Holding pattern?
It’s a lot of questions, but it’s a good place to start. A place on which to build a strong foundation for your future. And as I said last week, foundations are everything. You want yours to be hefty and strong!
I remember an adorable gymnast named Annabelle that my dad and I were coaching. She oozed personality, talent and focus. She knew what she wanted. But she wanted to “skip the basics and get to the nitty gritty.” She wanted to bypass the essentials. She didn’t want to take the time to build a foundation. After my dad snickered a little, he told her she needed the basics in order to learn the tougher, more exciting moves. She didn’t like it, but she understood and worked even harder on her basics so she could move on and improve. Faster.
And not only is foundation everything, it’s something you always need to return to. Like a concert pianist that always warms up with her scales and spends daily practice time on them, you need to keep returning to and referring to your basics. Those questions and insights that uncover the real you. The more you do that the easier and more natural they become. The more you do that the more neural connections your brain and body make to build upon. The better you’ll get at being you—the person God wants and intended you to be!
As we move forward this year, we’re going to be focusing on balanced living—the emotional, the physical and the spiritual aspects of life that make it rich and complete. I hope you’ll join me as we continue this journey together!
May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).
Photos by Google Images
For further study go to:
K.M. Weiland’s blog post: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/new-year-goals-for-writers/