While I'm not a big advocate of living in the past, I do believe it is a healthy and useful endeavor to sit down and reflect on your achievements once in a while. After all, they are your achievements. You worked for them, and it's a good idea to occasionally tell yourself good job.
The problem comes when you only reflect on your past achievements while neglecting the present and your future. These are the people who love to talk about the glory days of high school, but seem to have fallen out of play in today's world. I use a simple solution to keep myself from falling into this same trap:
Look forward and take steps to better yourself as a thinking, living creature.
That being said, the end of the year is a good time to sit down and look at what you did or did not achieve in the year. Since we (US citizens) live in a highly competitive society, our choices are somewhat limited. What I mean: You may choose to judge yourself by this societies terms and rate your failure or success on how much money you made, how many fine ladies you bedded, or how many cars you bought. And if you want to judge yourself that way, that's fine. But, in my opinion, there's more to life than that.
This year I set two major goals for myself: Finish my Master Thesis in Technical Writing and finish an Ironman competition. I accomplished both. In this respect, my year was a good year.
However, I had numerous other, smaller goals on the agenda. I planned to:
- Be good to my loved ones.
- Have fun (because life is too short, and hard work is overrated).
- Learn something new every day.
- Teach something new to someone else (provided they want to learn).
- Create something new.
- Continue to grow and be amenable to change.
Now, I am an athlete, and I tend to rate my successes by or in athletics or athletic terms. Did I win the race? Did I give it my best? And there were days this year when the answer to both these questions was no. I'm not above giving it less than my all. But that's a bad habit that I am working very hard to change.
But I realize that seeing myself solely as an athlete isn't the best way for me to look at my life. I must also ask myself:
- Am I a good boyfriend to my girlfriend?
- Am I a good coach or mentor to those that seek guidance?
- Am I a good son and brother to my immediate family?
- Am I a valuable employee to those who pay me (so I can play in the sun with my toys)?
- Am I a good human being?
- Am I a good cognizant entity, on a cosmic scale?
- Am I worthy of the gift of life?
And I spend most of my year working on making sure that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding, "Yes."
The end of the year is also a good time to set your major and minor goals for the coming year. Your goal may be as simple as "live a good life," or as complex as "begin work on a novel." I can't tell you what your goals should be, but I would hope that they are actions or desires that will take you up the steps of self-discovery and self-actualization. In other words - goals that will help you become the best person you can be.
My goals this year are simple. Keep loving my loved ones. Keep teaching myself and others the things we wish to know. Work towards becoming a better person. Win a few more triathlons. Begin work on a novel. Make lots of money and buy lots of cars. ;-)
Marty Gaal - 21 December 2001