Right now – today – you are in a perfect position to move forward in your life
in two key areas.
Opportunity knocks – especially right now
You stand on the brink of the last month of the year. One filled with holidays, obligations and responsibilities. December will open up to you at the end of this week.
I'm encouraging you to do this because you are better when you do this. And when you are better, so is your family, your workplace, and the world. Yes, it's a ripple effect. Healthier, more grounded individuals make for a healthier world. (And I'm not just talking about physical health here.)
So take up to one hour today or tomorrow to plan and prepare for this key month, so the holidays and end of year don’t overtake you. Here are three very simple steps you can take:
1 | Shut off all devices and remove all distractions. If you are a parent with little kids, do this during nap time, before kids get up, or after kids go to bed. Or cheat. This would be the time to use your devices to let your child(ren) get mesmerized. I don’t often advocate this, but, if you cannot get a break any other way, what you will gain longer-term is worth it.
2 | Write out: (1) Where you want your focus to be this season; (2) Simple, concrete steps (list them!) you can take to make this focus happen.
3 | Post this note (whether handwritten or typed) in a place you can see it every day from now till the end of the year.
For me, it looks like this
I want my focus to be on the miracle of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. I will (a) use my Christmas devotional by Ann Voskamp (The Greatest Gift) every morning to remind myself of the focus; (b) set aside time during this first week to accomplish all the “rush” items: get the (rest) of my Christmas cards out and make or purchase all my gifts; (c) endeavor to bring that focus on Jesus into my relating with family and friends.
And I will pray daily for God to enable me to stay focused this way.
Honestly, I know I’ll blow it from time to time. But I’m setting myself up for greater success by writing it out and putting it in front of me. Even if I only hit 50%, it’s better than 0%, right?
A New Year ahead – and how you can make it ROCK!
This is also an ideal time to start thinking about the coming new year, 2019. A lot of people let the new year come right at them; you can get a jump start.
Why do this? My simple answer is this: Why not? If you set aside the time – however it works for you, even in the “cracks” of your busy life – it will pay dividends later.
You could go ahead and invest in a fancy course like Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever (BYE). I did one year, and yes, it was valuable. If you never have done it, that may be your way to go.
If, however, you want something more affordable and simple, try what I suggest below.
Set aside 2–3 hours this week. If you a parent and have a spouse or partner, get his/her help with this. If you are a single parent of small children, you will need to get creative with this. If you don’t have little kids, then why can’t you do this?
You only need a couple hours for this exercise. It is not bound by culture. In fact, I would encourage you, no matter what your cultural or faith persuasion – Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Agnostic, Atheist or anything else – this simple exercise will lead to a much more contributive, fulfilling and productive year ahead.
1 | Reflect
Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you look over the last year. They can be applied to a variety of situations. Write down your answers. This makes them real and gives you a reference point.
- What were my high points?
- What were my low points?
- How did I help myself succeed?
- Who else helped me?
- When did I contribute to my own failure?
- What could I do differently?
- Who were the people who filled my life with joy and value?
- Who were the people who brought negativity into my life?
- How could I change my relationship with them?
- What am I most grateful for this past year?
2 | Repent
Get painfully real with yourself. Yes, you blew it from time to time. You are human. But do not drag yourself through the dirt and leave yourself there. Write it out. And use this process as one of cleansing and repentance. If you pray, do so with heartfelt vigor.
- In what areas do I need to improve?
- Who have I hurt or offended and how?
- What can I do to rectify the situation(s)?
- How can I approach 2019 with a clean slate?
3 | Recalibrate
This is the planning part. Take time to first assess yourself in the following areas and then set 1–3 simple goals for each area:
Physical • Mental • Emotional • Relational • Professional • Spiritual
Keep your goals simple and measurable; that is the key. (For example, “Get fit” is a nebulous goal; “Lose 10 lbs. (~4.5kg) and achieve a BMI (Body-Mass Index) of 23” is better.) As always, write these out, and refer to them daily. Simple, doable daily steps are the key. Ask yourself the following three questions for each area:
- Where am I now?
- Where do I want to be a year from now?
- What daily (or weekly) actions do I need to take to get there?
4 | Renew
Take time before 2019 begins to get refreshed. Give yourself extra sleep. Is it just me, or do the habits of bears (to hibernate) make even a little sense during the colder months? Here are a few good questions to ask here as well:
- Who will be my inspiration in the year ahead?
- What adventures will I pursue?
- What new skills do I want to learn?
- What new lessons do I anticipate learning?
- How will I be able to contribute in a significant way?
5 | Rejoice
December – the end of another year – and January – the start of something new – are months to rejoice. As Christmas nears, I celebrate what I believe to be the greatest gift: the birth of Jesus.
This may not be what or who you celebrate in December. And you may struggle with the cold, or loneliness, loss and personal disappointments in this season that is supposed to be so merry.
Still, think about this: You are here. Now. You can breathe, move and think. You can delight in the simple things, and the people, around you. Just having life is something to rejoice about.
This is a season to sharpen our awareness of the multitude of blessings in our lives. And to recognize this: no matter how much is wrong in the world, there is a whole lotta right. Even if you’ve been dealt a particularly hard blow.
Several close friends of ours have been battling cancer this year. They didn’t begin 2018 thinking that would be their lot. But each one I personally know has been leaning into the lessons found in the midst of the hardship. That alone inspires me.
I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but for this moment, I have what I need: life, love, breath and hope. I can rejoice in that.
How about you? Can you make time to rejoice this coming month and as we head into the new year? It’s time to start. Right now.