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Reflection Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” ~Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman who lived in the mid-1700s. This quote is often repeated and more often ignored. Even in our own homes and lives, we often overlook the mistakes we made in past years, dooming ourselves to making the same mistakes again in the future.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time of transition when many people start to identify the hopes and dreams they want to see realized in the coming months.

We call these New Year’s Resolutions.

According to Forbes Magazine, an amazing 90 percent of these resolutions are never achieved and most are forgotten by February.

As I look back on this year I find I’ve accomplished a couple of the goals I’d hoped to achieve last January, but not nearly the number that I dreamed I could. I would guess that the same holds true for many single moms, who don’t have enough time in one day to meet all the demands of the family, much less make any additions.

But, realistically, the same is true of all people. We all tend to expand our universe to meet the furthest reaches of our influence. Not too many people carefully guard space in which they can relax and refresh themselves.

I remember walking into a new home my then-husband and I had just purchased. I looked with amazement at the cabinet space in the kitchen and declared there was NO WAY I had enough stuff to fill them – and would never have enough to fill those cabinets.

Within six months, even the cabinets at the top near the 9 foot ceilings were full of ‘stuff.”

We will fill our environment to capacity – whether it’s cabinets in a kitchen or time in our day.

As I look back on this year I have determined to learn from my past mistakes and do my darndest not to repeat them again next year.

Of course, I’ll slip once in a while. But the trick, I believe, is to get up from those slips, wipe yourself off and do it all over again.  In the time between the fall and the rise is when character grows, making the next slip further down the road and the next rise a little easier.

An important piece of the puzzle is reflection. Being able to reflect back on the mistakes I made this last year, identify them, realize what triggered them, and put into place processes so those slips come further and further apart.

The way I use reflection is to ask questions. I find that sometimes it isn’t the answer that’s as important as the question itself. Sometimes there is more information to be learned from the question than the answer.

Here are 5 of the more important questions I ask myself at the end of the year, as I prepare my own New Year’s Resolutions.

  1. What is my life circumstances at Christmas this year as compared to Christmas last year? I use Christmas as my benchmark. You might use another date or time in the year. But pick a time, and ask yourself how “is life different now compared to then”? Our daily lives are filled with minutiae, lists of things to do and places to go. When we compare against something that is larger, it’s easier to see the bigger picture.
  1. What would I have done differently this past year? Identifying the mistakes or lack of success is as important as celebrating the successes in life. If you can identify what didn’t go so well, you can make a plan for it to go better.
  1. How many of last year’s goals were achieved or are in progress? If the percentage of your goals achieved is small compared to last year’s list, then maybe you made a list that was too long, or maybe you didn’t concentrate on achieving those goals. Or maybe, just maybe, there isn’t enough time in the day, no matter how hard you try.
  1. What can I give up or give away? The end of the year is a wonderful time to look forward to achieving more, but also a time to think about what you can purge from your life. What “things” can you leave behind and make your life lighter? Do you want to downsize your home? Can you give away some of your ‘stuff’? Do you need to put some of your goals on the shelf for the next year and concentrate fully on achieving one or two?
  1. What are the new goals or dreams you have for this year and do they fit into your life’s vision? When you put together goals for your life, do they fit into another overall vision for where you want to be in five or ten years? If your vision for your life is to be a millionaire then your goals this year should be pointed in the financial direction – and not just making money, but also learning about investments and growing money.

This concept of having a life vision is not common. More often we are like Queen Latifah in the movie The Last Holiday. In the movie, Georgia Byrd, played by Queen Latifah, works in a department store. She learns that she has a disease from which she is sure to die in several weeks.

In an effort to live all of life in just a few weeks she cashes in all her investments, takes all her money and flies to a luxury resort in Europe. In one scene she tells the people around the dinner table: “You know how it is. You keep your head down and you hustle and hustle. Then you look up one day and wonder, “How did I even get here?”

I’ve always thought that quote sums it all up quite nicely. Caught up in the everyday motions of going to work, taking care of children, being a friend, getting the groceries, making the dinner, cleaning the home, taking the children to their events and the myriad of other things that make up the day . . . most of us forget that when we get to a point when the children leave the nest, we will be alone.

We’ll be alone with our thoughts, dreams and goals – whether we have a spouse at that time or not. There will no longer be a long list of “things to do,” and suddenly we’ll wonder, “How did I even get here?”

That’s why, at the end of every year I also believe it’s necessary to look at the vision you have for your life. For your whole life; and then determine if the goals you’re making this year are taking you toward or away from that vision.

Even goals that run parallel with the vision aren’t going to intersect at any point, so it’s important that you fit your goals to your vision and not the other way around.

The vision you hold for your life is what will drive you when you think you can’t keep moving forward.  Your vision is what you want your life to look like in 5, 10 or 15 years. Your vision is yours and no one else’s, so take care to develop your vision and dream for your life because . . .

“You have this one life. How do you wanna spend it? Apologizing? Regretting? Questioning? Hating yourself? Dieting? Running after people who don’t see you? Be brave. Believe in yourself. Do what feels good. Take risks. You have this one life. Make yourself proud.”

— Beardsley Jones

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