It’s a new year, and a new decade. The old door has closed, and a new one has opened. What will we do with it?
It depends. On what? How we look at the closing of the door. If everything has been sailing along and our lives have been doing great on all fronts, we aren’t apt to want to close the old door but to continue sailing. But if we’re like most people, we’ve had our share of ups and downs and we’re ready to shut the down doors and to try something—anything reasonable—to move more of those down times over to the good times column in our lives.
They say to move forward it is wise to look back. To see what happened during the year, to figure out what went right and wrong and then to decide how we want to go forward to get more right in our lives.
Speaking frankly, some will blow off the opportunity. Some will look back at their career, but not at their life. Some will look at their life, but not look at it in context of the lives of others in their immediate families. And some will feel so overwhelmed by the idea of taking stock in what’s working for them and what isn’t, they’ll throw up their hands and say, “Forget it.”
Of those, some will convince themselves that life is always going to have ups and downs and things that go right and things that don’t, and do absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, that brings no opportunity aside from sheer luck for anything to get better, so these folks are often the ones that will be disappointed in last year and next year. And so long as they use this same approach, the year after and the one after that.
We are all going to have ups and downs and good times and tough ones. That’s life. So the objective isn’t to create a perfect life. It is to create a life with more good than bad, more ups than downs and more fulfilling and content times.
Even with all the planning and goals in the world, the unexpected will happen and blow our plan to the moon. But knowing what our plan was and what most matters to us, we’re better able to cope with those events.
For example, one year, I spent six months caring for my mother. She was in and out of the hospital a lot and couldn’t be left alone. That altered my vision and course for the year, but it was necessary and a privilege to be there for her. She’d always been there for me. As a result of her illness, many of the things I had hoped to accomplish had to slide to the following year’s calendar. It worked out. Some goals were reached, some weren’t, but I consider that a year well-planned. We’re always going to win some and not quite get there on others. But if we’re focused on them, we’re likely to get closer to what we want than we were. That’s a win.
Life doesn’t begin and end with our schedules. Or with our plans. Actually, more often than not, we start with a daily Plan A that morphs continuously. Sometimes, by the end of the day, so many unexpected things happen that our Plan A has morphed over and over and ends up being Plan Z. Some days, the Plan A has so many unexpected little things come up that it transitions all the way to Plan ZZ. Those surprise events are the reason a daily priority list is vital.
If you create a daily priority list, you’re more focused. What you hope to accomplish is before your eyes and you tend to insert other things that arise around them or to actually incorporate into the priority list a little extra time for those pop-up, surprise items and events. If you prioritize—put the most important things first and do them first—then the odds of getting them done are better. If you don’t get everything done, then at least you’ve accomplished the most important things that topped your list. That keeps you less anxious and more balanced. Read that: you spend a lot less time living in “crisis” mode. We all need less time in crisis and more time calm and balanced.
Long ago, we learned the value of having a daily plan, and we have little trouble grasping the wisdom of putting that which is most important at the top of the list. We also know the value of balance and the havoc that comes to us and those who rely on us mentally, emotionally and physically when we’re living and working in chaos or crisis-mode. It’s so much harder to do anything, much less to do it well, when we aren’t calm, clear-minded and focused.
One of the best life lessons learned is found in self-discipline. Not for its own sake but for the value it adds to the quality of life—our lives and the lives of those we interact with closely. Bluntly put, if we plan, we get more of what we want. If we prioritize, we get more done while we are balanced and not frantic or anxious, and that equates to us enjoying more peace. It’s that simple.
And that complex. Of course, we won’t always have well-planned days. Some days our plans will fall apart before breakfast. But better to see such days on occasion rather than they be our norm. Of course, we won’t be able to anticipate everything that comes up. But we will better deal with those things because we are prepared on those things we did anticipate. And of course, havoc will visit. But a visit is far less destabilizing, frustrating, and/or irritating than a steady diet of havoc.
Those are some of the real benefits of taking the time to plan, but perhaps the biggest benefit is that at the end of the year when we look back, we see that we’ve gotten more of what we said we wanted. We know more of what we did that worked and what didn’t work, and we can adjust accordingly. We also spot easily those things that just don’t serve us well and we have no doubts about dropping them from our lives, opening doors and windows to new things that might serve us better.
If we don’t assess our lives as we’re living them, the odds are that we’ll come to a point where we realize we have little of what we most want. Or worse. We’ll have everything we never wanted. That brings regret, recriminations. Sorrow and disappointment. Depression. Who needs any of that? What benefit is in any of it?
Agreed, figuring out what we don’t want is equally important to finding out what we do want, but we don’t typically start out knowing a lot of either—at least, most of us don’t. We figure it out as we go. If we assess often, really think about our lives, the odds are so much better that we’ll gain more of what we want and cull more of what we don’t in shorter spans of time. Assessing often gives us the chance to be quick studies rather than to leave it to mid-life crises to get us to stop and think about what we’re doing and to decide if it’s what we want to be doing.
One caution: Do not plan every minute of every day. Allow time in your daily life to just be still. To pause and think. To enjoy the sun or whatever makes you joyful. Don’t underestimate the value of that. It’s as important to your sense of well-being as ticking items off your priority list you’ve accomplished. And there’s that pad of time you build in for things that crop up. That’s another benefit of prioritizing your daily list and getting the most important items done first thing.
Twenty-Twenty is here. And with it comes a fantastic opportunity for us to look back, take the lessons that offer enrichment, then look ahead, wiser for our experiences. We can make this a great year, a good year, or a lousy year. We choose. And we choose by our willingness to seize the opportunity offered to evaluate who we are, what we want. Where we are, where we want to be. And to decide what we’re willing to do for ourselves to become what we want and get where we want to be.
Make no mistake. This time, now, is our opportunity to invest in ourselves by living intentionally and deliberately. It’s a new year, a new decade, and with it comes our chance for a fresh start and new beginning to create more of the life we most want. The question is, will we seize it?
I hope we will. And that 2020 will be joyful, prosperous and at its end, we’ll look back and say, “Wow! I dreamed of accomplishing this much, of being this balanced and content, but I surprised even myself!”
Wouldn’t that be a fun assessment to do leading into 2021?
P.S. Deep Freeze, my novel in the StormWatch series is out now. In order, the books are: Debra Webb’s Frozen Ground, Vicki Hinze’s Deep Freeze, Rita Herron’s Wind Chill, Regan Black’s, Black Ice, Peggy Webb’s Snow Brides and Cindy Gerard’s Snow Blind. Peggy Webb’s Snow Brides releases tomorrow and Cindy Gerard’s Snow Blind, next Thursday. Track the storm from the start or read the books in any order. They’re in digital or paperback.