This article originally appeared as Ending 2013.
We are to that point in the calendar where we officially write THE END on the current year. Each of us comes up with our own rituals for marking this. It’s different for me now that I’ve “given up work”–not as straightforward or obvious.
When I was in corporate America, Dec. 31 was my favorite work day–partly because most of the office had taken vacation and I could get a ton of work done. But every Dec. 31, after everything else was buttoned up, I’d also spend an hour reflecting on the year that was ending. There were always things to point to that made me proud, excited, happy. It was a great little ritual because it never occurred to me to dwell on what had gone wrong. I left the office and walked into the new year with confidence.
Now, I’m not so good at that. It’s tempting to tell myself that it’s because I haven’t gotten anything done in the dying year that justifies being happy, proud, or excited.
But I can finally see that’s not really what’s going on. (Thank heavens!)
Once we are out on our own, it’s harder to set a course and stay on it. That’s one of the side effects of that flexibility retirement blesses us with. As we age, things tend to get less predictable as well. Illness or injury quite often, but also opportunities that make us veer off course from the things we said we were going to do. Two weeks in Mexico with the perfect travel companion? Of course the volunteer work you were going to find can wait. A friend with a litter of puppies that have him overwhelmed? You love puppies–why not help out?
So how do you assess a year once you’ve given up the annual goal setting process at work? Do you even need to ask “Was this a good year?”
I think we do. All of us want to be competent and deciding that the year was done well is an example of that. But the parameters need to change.
Instead of looking at work projects and milestones with kids (graduations, potty training, whatever), at this point we need to ask ourselves more personal questions. These are the ones I’m going to use as I end this year:
- Did I do the things I felt were important?
- Was I authentic in how I lived this year?
- Did I offer kindness when I had the chance?
- What did I create?
- How did I have fun?
- If I was starting again on January 1, what would I do differently?
That last one is just to prime the pump for the coming year. Endings are beginnings after all. As I close this chapter, I’m laying the foundation for the next one.
It’s not about whether you meet all those goals anymore. It’s about how well you’ve lived this particular chunk of your life. Only you know what’s important about that, so find the questions that resonate for you. And then be happy, excited and proud of all you did with the last twelve months.
Happy New Year!