As I get older I'm always amazed by how fast time flies. Another year has so quickly come and gone. Its sometimes hard to remember where all the time has gone! The end of one year provides the opportunity to reflect on all that has happened. From those reflections we can explore life lessons and patterns of behaviour we want to change or perhaps continue with. By doing this we can find wisdom that can be useful for the future.
I am grateful to Michael Hyatt for the following questions to appraise the previous year and look ahead to the coming year. I will share my answers with you to help you think through your own thoughts about 2017 as it comes to an end.
I would strongly encourage you to also write down your own answers and not just keep them in your head. As we write our thoughts begin to disentangle themselves and bring clarity in a way that is otherwise just not possible. Or as someone has said, "The softest pencil is more powerful than the sharpest mind." It becomes even more powerful as we find a way to store what we learn over several years at a time. As philosopher and poet George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Repeating the past without change then condemns us to repeating the same mistakes or doing the same things expecting a different result.
As I share the questions below I have added some of my own reflections to help you think through your own experiences. If you want more clarification from me feel free to ask in the comments section below. My hope for you as I indulge myself in this way publicly is that you will be prompted to have insights that will put you in a stronger position for whatever this new year has in store for you....
1. If the last year of your life was a movie, what genre would it be?
Would it, for example, be an adventure, a comedy of errors, a romance or a suspense mystery?
For me the overall theme was one of slow motion with sudden unexpected surprises. In 2017 everything seemed to have slowed down in my life. Following my second cataract surgery I was medically advised to take an extended period of leave. Thankfully the surgery went well. The unexpected consequence was I had the longest break from work I have had in more than 20 years with a whole month off! That gave greater opportunity to reflect on my priorities and overall life direction. Also my eyesight has improved so significantly that I find I hardly have the need for glasses! I have worn glasses since my early teens so that is a radical unexpected positive change which I am grateful for (especially as during 2016 my eyesight was rapidly deteriorating and no corrective glasses were able to stop it) !
Other positive surprises included the opportunity to go to a family wedding in India. As well as enjoying the wedding and meeting extended family from around the world, my mother was able to be with her five sisters and brother in the same place for the first time in 62 years!
2. What were your plans, your dreams and your concrete goals if you had any?
I was able to set goals and plans in the following 10 domains:
Intellectual: to look for increased opportunities to learn and grow.
Emotional: to make more time for extended family and friends while being thankful for how my mother has recovered well from her surgery following her fall in December 2016.
Physical: to continue to develop my health and fitness with a new variety of exercises.
Spiritual: to develop growing intimacy with God through prayer and Biblical meditation.
Marital: to keep short accounts and keep connected to my wife Sally in the busyness of day to day life.
Parental: to support and encourage each of our four children in the God given calling for each of their lives.
Financial: to reamin content with where we are financially while looking for increasing opportunities to serve and earn.
Vocational: to embrace the responsibilities and opportunities my NHS job provides.
Avocational: to keep the blog and podcast going while also looking to expand and develop this. I have wanted to develop these resources into a published book.
3. What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year?
While making some progress with the book writing it is going at too slow a pace for my liking. I have set various deadlines, but continue to find it difficult to make it a priority in my life. I am way behind in my writing schedule. Any suggestions or tips would be happily received!
Seeing the frailty and ill health of some friends and family has also reminded me of the importance of making the most of friendships and relationships.
4. What did you feel you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren't?
By expanding my exercise routines to include cycling and circuit training on a regular basis I have notices my energy levels, stamina and well being have extended to new levels.
5. What did you accomplish this past year that you were most proud of?
Learning to relax and slow down in a new way following my extended period of sick leave.
Taking some private work opportunities to a new level.
6. What were some specific themes that kept recurring?
The importance of rest and clear boundaries to keep fully focussed in the moment .
Integrate life and work together.
Embrace whatever comes and do not fight or resist unexpected interruptions.
Ensure you have margin for the unexpected.
7. What were the major life lessons you learnt from this past year?
- Have your plans but embrace the unexpected.
- Organise your life around your work, but not your days.
- Love and enjoy others for who they are and not what you can get out of them.
- Keep focussed on one thing at a time and stay in the present moment.
- You must have margin in your life.
- Achieving anything of lasting value will take longer than you anticipate and cost more (time, money, effort) than you realise. But in the end it will be worth it!
What have been some of the lessons you learnt in 2017 and what do you have to be grateful for?
P.S. There is still time to take my 2017 reader survey!