December is always a bit of a weird month for me.
Things feel like they’re coming to an end everywhere you look. Spotify Wrapped comes out in November for some reason. Every article you read for four weeks is some variation of “these were the best 10 things of the year.” Everyone seems to be looking backwards—meditating on the year that just was. It’s an extended, exhaustive, wrap-up of the year.
And I’ve noticed I have a navel-gazing, self-reflective streak myself. Any opportunity I have to look inward and backward, and ascribe narratives, and cast aspersions and judgements on my efforts—I’ll take it.
So, for those of us who like clean starts and round numbers, the end of the year is the ultimate time to ruminate about how we think we did these past twelve months. We may have set goals, lofty or otherwise, that we didn’t meet. Maybe we had expectations, sub-conscious or otherwise, that we realize haven’t materialized.
I always get insanely hard on myself. I think about new things I didn’t try, or healthy habits I didn’t maintain, or things I didn’t manage to do at the sterling semi-professional level that I think I should reach. Trying stand-up comedy. Joining a frisbee golf league. Getting in super good shape. Winning a Nobel Peace Prize.
Whatever it is, it’s hard to avoid the familiar (and far too simplistic) refrain: “another year has passed without all my dreams coming true.”
I probably don’t have to spell this out for you, but—that’s not how it works.
Our lives are extended sequences of steady incremental progress. Every year, we learn more. We grow. We don’t all develop at the same pace, but the direction is invariably upwards and forward.
I would wager, as hard as you might be on yourself day-to-day, you accomplished a great many things this year on your own path towards your own greatness. And you deserve to revel in that.
So, let’s spend some time this December trying to look at things that way – with grace, and leniency towards yourself, and with a few grains of salt.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Here are the non-negotiably true things you did this year:
—You moved forward.
—You did a whole lot better than you’re probably giving yourself credit for.
And those are just the things that I know apply to every person reading this article. When you reflect on your own personal journey this year, I urge you to remember more than whatever macro trends you’re focused on.
Intentionally or not, no matter how hard you did or did not try this year, you put your energy towards select specific things. Look around and observe the fruits of your labor.
How has your friend group, your sphere of influence, changed since last year? Are you living in the same place? Have the same job?
It’s likely that if your answers changed from last year, it represented healthy growth and progress. And if they didn’t change, it’s likely because you found some comfort that you’re happy to stick with.
Adjust your perspective
We are, unequivocally, our own harshest critics. And it’s an entirely natural thing to rate our frustrations and challenges higher in our little year-end reviews than our successes.
Change your POV. Do anything you can to see your year in a different way, or remind yourself of the multitudes it contained.
I sat down and looked at my calendar and remembered all the dinners and concerts I went to, and all the work I did (and hopefully enjoyed). There are months—February, August—that I completely forgot.
I’ve heard from others that they like to do a similar thing with their camera roll, or their social media feed. (That sounds like a more fun way of doing it—more pretty pictures to look at, at least).
And with every new perspective you gain, you get closer to a healthy objectivity that’s not influenced by your own biases. And that’s the place from which you can start to really evaluate and work on your goals for next year.
Your future is brighter than you can imagine
No matter the shape that your year took, no matter the place you currently find yourself in, no matter how old you are, there is always more greatness and growth right around the corner.
That’s why I love natural stopping points and fresh starts in my life. Any opportunity to calmly and objectively look around and take stock is invaluable. It just means another opportunity to jump into your pursuits with renewed energy and drive. I’ll take any occasion to replenish those reserves that I can.
Good job this year, pal. Thanks for coming along on this ride with us.