Goodbye 2015! Thanks for the Memories!

Keeping Time

With less than 24 hours away from a new year, it FINALLY might be the right time to think about what is coming next in our lives. And before you launch into goal setting, intention creating and vision boarding for what you want to manifest in 2016, have you taken the time to say goodbye to the current year, 2015, and all the gifts she has presented along the way? Our 24/7 culture glorifies the busy-ness of life, telling us to forge a head and fill our calendars with goals to accomplish, appointments to make, feats to overcome, all the while transforming ourselves and our world, for the better every day. How many of us live day to day, week to week, month to month checking things off from our to-do lists or bucket lists and not looking back? When is there ever enough time to look back?

Over this past year, you may have found yourself asking, “Where did that week or month go?” I used to ask myself this question too many times in the past. For many years, I lived my life that way; finishing one project and jumping into the next (or more realistically, multi-tasking all the while—working on too many projects simultaneously while my plate was too full). Sometimes, we give ourselves permission to “reflect” a bit; recap what worked, what didn’t and what we will do differently next time. Many people do this in their professional lives, but how many of us do this in our PERSONAL lives? How many of us would benefit from doing this in our personal lives? You may have heard the quote by Henry Cooke, “Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.” This year, I challenge you to take some time BEFORE the New Year arrives, before making other plans, to respectfully look back over this past year of your life and give some “Thanks” for the days you have lived.

Looking back and giving thanks not only honors the experiences you lived this year, it also brings perspective. In doing so, perhaps you may recognize those significant life “dots”—you know, the questionable events that happen where you are not sure of their significance at the time, or moments where you may have had difficulty making a decision at a fork in the road but decided to follow your gut and landed in a new place. Or maybe there are experiences to look back on where you may not understand why you had to go through a horrible or trying situation, and then in retrospect, when you look back, you understand the importance. These life events or dots help us identify where we’ve been, where we’ve landed, and may give us confidence and a sense of direction as to where we are going.

In the commencement speech he gave to Stanford University Graduates in 2005, Steve Jobs noted:

“…You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

Steve was referring to the challenging times in his life and turning points, such as dropping out of college, being fired from Apple, and being diagnosed with cancer. His underlying message was that if those things, which were unfortunate and devastating at the time, did not happen, he would have taken a different path and not ended up where he did—leading Apple once again, and launching a variety of new industries (personal computing, desk top publishing, movie animation, digital music, cell phone and mobile apps to name many industries he influenced). The world would definitely be different than how we know it now.

Lastly, Jobs noted how the dots connect, and that though we may not see how they connect at the time, and understand their importance, we need to trust in ourselves (“your gut, destiny, life, karma…”) that they will connect and that they will lead us to exactly where we need to be. Going back to connect the dots can bring us a sense of connection with our own time line, and aid us in going forward with more confidence.

Try this exercise: before ringing in 2016, look back over 2015 month by month. If you kept a gratitude journal or even a regular reflection journal, now would be the time to revisit and reread what you wrote from an earlier time in the year. If you are not the journaling type, no problem. In that case, mentally reflect what stood out to you in your life month by month. What experiences, both good and bad, stretched you in a new direction, lead you to a different place than you envisioned, or caused you to reevaluate your life? Acknowledge the events and give gratitude to them all—even the bad. Think of the unfortunate events with a reframed mind—as Steve Jobs did, as silver linings— finding some redeeming aspect of the event enabling you to learn something about yourself and/or others. You can chose to grow post traumatically in these situations by doing some internal work—reflection helps tremendously with that growth.

By saying “thank you” to all the experiences in our past year, we can feel good about where we are, and more confident in where we will go. I will be spending my day revisiting this year, thanking her for the opportunity to live those days. I will shed a tear here or there, I am sure. But I will also smile. And with each tear and smile I mindfully acknowledge, I will give thanks for being able to feel those emotions too. After I say good bye to this year, I will greet the New Year with strengthened inner resources I need to live my tomorrows. May your 2015 bring you the strength you need to greet 2016 with a smile, and may know you have what it takes to make this New Year exactly what you need it to be!

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