Some people do their best thinking in the shower, others in the car. Personally, I prefer the ski slopes. There’s something about rocking gently on the chair lift, snow falling around me, that allows my thoughts to flow freely. It helps that my cell phone is tucked away in my pocket and all my other electronic distractions are miles away.
Lately, these quiet moments have given me time to reflect on the past year and think about what I want to accomplish for the one ahead. You’ve probably done the same. After all, ‘tis the season to wrap up our 2023 loose ends and start planning our list of new year’s resolutions.
I’d like to share five questions that can help us cultivate gratitude and welcome 2024 with the groundwork set for success. Let me know if you give them a try. You can leave me a message or reach out in person – I’ll save you a seat on the lift.
1. Who have I helped?
Let’s start with the most important question and the ultimate indicator of a successful year. Who have you helped? More importantly, is there someone in your life who still needs your assistance?
I’ve found I sometimes avoid offering help because I’m worried it might make the person feel uncomfortable. One way to overcome this is by offering something specific. Think “Can I mow your lawn on Saturday morning while you get some extra rest,” rather than, “I’m sorry you’re sick, let me know if you need anything.” The recipient can accept or decline, but they’re not put in the awkward position of having to come up with a way for you to help them.
2. Who have I thanked?
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it all into words is all that is necessary.” — Margaret Cousins.
Don’t let the year end without thanking those who have played a role in your success and happiness. You can think big (a boss, mentor or spouse) or small (the crossing guard who gets your kids home safely from school.) I’m guilty of putting off this task until I have time to send an email or write a note, but the truth is that a text or quick call can be just as impactful. Our colleague Lisa recently shared this list of ways to express gratitude to coworkers if you’d like to spread a little office good cheer before the holiday break.
Of course, the thing about thanking others is that it’s also beneficial for ourselves. It helps us strengthen relationships and see the goodness that surrounds us. It can even change the chemistry of our brain. If that’s not a good reason to thank someone today, I don’t know what is.
3. What surprised me?
Now that we’ve got some of the serious stuff out of the way, it’s time to lighten up a bit. Let’s think about what surprised us in 2023. What made you laugh or see the world in a new light? Maybe your puppy grew twice as big as you’d expected or your favorite team won a nail-biter in overtime. Surprises keep us young and help us find joy in the day-to-day grind of life. My birthday got an unexpected happiness boost when my wife surprised me with tickets to the Packers vs. Chiefs game. I got to see my favorite player, Jordan Love, throw three touchdown passes to beat the Chiefs. What a memory to treasure as I look back on the adventures of the past year!
4. What did I learn?
Alma Woodsey Thomas didn’t make her debut on the art scene until she was 75. Irving Olson discovered a cutting-edge photography technique when he was 98. What’s my point? It’s never too late to start learning. It’s good for our brain, our social life and our bank account. In this spirit, let’s reflect on a few of the things we learned in 2023 and commit to keep the progress going in 2024. Here are a few things I learned this year:
- How to inspire your workforce by embedding purpose, meaning and contribution into their roles.
- You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Shoutout to our amazing team and their continual hard work and dedication.
- Last but not least, how to use “slay” as a compliment. (I have teenagers.)
5. Who do I want to be at this time next year?
We’ve reflected on what we learned and experienced in 2023. Now it’s time to look forward to the year ahead and decide what we’d like to accomplish. For this exercise, think beyond the typical new year’s goals. (It goes without saying that most of us would like to lose 10 pounds and spend less time on social media!) Picture “2024 you” sitting right where you are now. You’re another year older and a bit grayer, but what have you gained? Did you finally pull the trigger on that business you’ve been wanting to start? Did you carve out the time to take your family on the big vacation you’ve been putting off for years? It doesn’t need to be a flashy accomplishment. Maybe the person you’re visualizing is simply more patient, a better listener, an empathetic leader. Whatever it is, take a few moments now to “begin with the end in mind.” When we visualize who we want to become, we create the blueprint for achieving it.
It’s probably time to wrap up this message so we can get back to our shopping, decorating and of course, traditional holiday meals. Thank you for pausing your hustle and bustle to consider these questions with me. I hope they help prepare you for the year ahead and spark some happy reflections on 2023. I’m incredibly grateful for my family, friends, coworkers and associates for their kindness and support. See you in the new year!