You all know that I’m no fan of new year’s resolutions that are hastily made, require huge changes and set you up for failure. Nonetheless, there’s something about the inevitable post-Christmas downtime that lends itself to quiet reflection about what is or isn’t working in your life.
I took an informal poll of friends and colleagues, and here are some of the things that stand out for them as the year draws to a close:
- The inability to say “no.” There’s nothing like the holidays, packed with obligations, lists and last-minute anxieties, to make you realize the power of “no.” Do you really need to go to that party? Do your gifts need to look like they were wrapped by Martha Stewart? Do you need 14 dozen cookies to share with the office? No. You know that the answer is no. Just say it. And for goodness sake, don’t apologize for it.
- Apologizing. I was shocked by how many people mentioned this one, because it was on my list, too. I was in Germany, not able to speak a bit of German, and realizing how ridiculous it was that I was saying, “I’m sorry,” to people who didn’t understand what I was saying, nor what I was sorry for. Then I came home and saw Dyana Valentine’s “I’m not sorry” presentation from TEDxWomenOjai. Don’t be sorry.
- Doing it for the money. Look, let’s face it: we all need money. But there’s a big difference between chasing the payday and doing it because it means something to you. I’ve said it before at the Creative Freelancer Conference, and I’ll say it again: there’s no amount of money that’s worth working for an asshole.
- Find your meaning. Luke Mysse is in a period of transition. As he tells the audience at TEDxIrvine, his goal is to change the world. Maybe your goal isn’t as ambitious. Maybe you just want to help one person. Maybe the person you want to help is… you. Figure it out. Find what matters and pursue it relentlessly.
When I graduated from high school, my favorite teacher gave me this quote, and it’s stuck with me ever since. (You can find a longer version here.)
“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”
– John Gardner
What are the big themes for you as you look ahead to the new year?