Looking Back and Filling Forward

“When I look back on resolutions of improvement and amendment which have year after year been made and broken, either by negligence, forgetfulness, vicious idleness, casual interruption, or morbid infirmity; when I find that so much of my life has been stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retrospection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously employed, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal.” — Samuel Johnson, via Daily Stoic

It’s that time of year again. We hustle through the year and arrive at the end forever changed. We’ve gained insight, lost people from our lives, picked up habits, and either raised or lowered our expectations for what’s next. We aren’t just what we repeatedly do, we’re also what the world does to us and how we react to these things. We are, each of us, works in progress. We ought to take a moment to take stock of where we are, and what we might do with ourselves in this next chapter.

What went exceedingly well this year? What fell apart despite our best intentions? What’s missing? What is overly present? What can we do to influence a better result in the New Year? These are the usual questions, worthy of our consideration, that generally lead to resolutions and writer’s cramp.

“Decide what to be and go be it.” — Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise, The Avett Brothers

The biggest moments tend to be scheduled. We book events and trips and seek our milestone moments. Occasionally we participate in a wonderful moment of serendipity, but the big stuff in life generally happens when we put it on the calendar. Knowing this, we ought to schedule a few big moments for ourselves in 2023. Just as we must make a reservation at a great restaurant if we hope to have an epic meal there on a Saturday night, so it follows that we must book our bucket list moments when, and while, we can.

The thing is, we don’t just live one epic moment to the next. Our lives are the things that happen in between such highlight moments. So it follows that the quality of our life is directly related to how we fill in the rest of the calendar around those milestone moments. Each day is our lifetime. So we ought to fill each with people and habits that sustain and energize us. We ought to do work that does more than pay the bills. Careers and lives are built on purpose.

“There’s always a sunrise and always a sunset and it’s up to you to choose to be there for it,’ said my mother. ‘Put yourself in the way of beauty.” — Cheryl Strayed

Life is more than paying bills and making it to the meeting on time. If the world is filled with beautiful moments, why aren’t we seeking them out more? One of the best habits I ever established was using a one line per day journal and make it a mission to write down something amazing each day. Not every day is amazing, of course, but when we work towards it that stack of days can be a string of magic.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ― Jim Rohn

Our best intentions can be derailed by that which surrounds us. Does our circle of friends and family lift us up or hold us down? How about our habits? For these are related, aren’t they? Our circle of influencers and our daily habits will either make us better people or they eventually pull us over the cliff. If we’re surrounded by people with bad habits and a horrible outlook on life, we tend to pick these things up ourselves. Conversely, when we’re around creative people with productive habits, we tend to lift ourselves up to meet them. So what will it be for you and me?

No matter how old or experienced we are, we each must reconcile our time in our own way, each day. If we want a better life filled with nuggets of joy and moments of adventure we’ve got to put ourselves out there and try many things to find our thing. This all begins with looking back at what our days were filled with and deciding what was fulfilling and what we’ve had our fill of. Taking stock in such a way, we can now gaze ahead deliberately and fill that blank calendar with purpose and hope.

We are indeed works in progress. Reformation is necessary. But we can find joy in the creative process. What better project is there to work on than our own life?

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