Musings on a year gone by
I suppose it is inevitable that as a new year approaches, we would undertake a retrospective of the one gone by. However, in reality the difference between January 1st and any other day of the year is insignificant. Yet, we are attracted to that which would provide an accounting of our lives. We love to keep score.
Part of the ledger deals with the liabilities that remind us of the travails we have endured. Some occur to us directly, an injury perhaps or the loss of a job. Others we experience vicariously, like the loss of a loved one. The sensitivity we have for the people we care for leaves us vulnerable to sharing in their grief. These events accumulate to weigh us down and sometimes overwhelm us.
As in business, we would hope to optimize the positive, our assets. We relish the small victories and rejoice in the significant triumphs, a promotion or raise gives worth to the hours of toil. Sadly, given the predominance of work hours, often there is inadequate substantive positive reinforcement, merely the slow plodding of time spent earning enough to do the other things we wish to engage in.
Sometimes we work for an organization that provides meaning, a “tribe” in which we feel our efforts are fundamental to the success of the whole. I found that feeling in troop assignments in the Army. I am also lucky enough to find fulfilment in running my own business. I only hope that those that work for me feel that they are integral parts of a team. My company mission statement includes an objective that everyone would see “a future with the company in which both corporate and personal goals are fulfilled.”
Life is too short to spend time trapped when other possibilities are available. I have never begrudged anyone who has chosen to move on if they feel a better opportunity presents itself. We should always seek to improve ourselves and families.
We hope for the assets to outweigh the liabilities in our annual static measurement, that the net worth of our life is positive. But there is another accounting that reflects the actions we take rather than merely the net result. An income statement compares the annual revenues to the costs of doing business, the expenditure of our time and effort to achieve the things we want. Regardless of the timeframe we choose, our exertions mean something. When we languish, the expenses of life can put us in the red.
One purpose of the annual assessment is to seek a means to enhance our lives. Our New Year’s resolutions are simply an attempt to improve ourselves. Regardless of our inadequacies, we want to be “better.” Yet, all too often we fall back into our old ways and give in to the same bad habits that limit our potential. In the words of F Scott Fitzgerald, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
But, do we really have to be captive to who we have been? Can we not become something more?
I believe there is a depth to the human spirit, a breath of life blown into us by the Divine, that frees us from the mundane plodding our lives can become. God has given us each a unique set of gifts. When we use them to the best of our abilities, regardless of the magnitude of the challenge or apparent insignificance of the accomplishment, we begin to become who we were meant to be. And in doing so, we garner the meaning we desire.
This does not imply a key to a happy life. We will probably not find the pot of gold, but we will realize an internal satisfaction in knowing we are finding our place in the world.
Herein lies the real utility of the annual ritual of taking stock of our lives. We get the opportunity for rebirth. While we cannot undo the things we have done, nor magically remove the impediments in our lives, we can change how we approach the challenges that face us. It is not an easy task, but we get to choose our path. Will we simply accept our fate, or do we have the courage to chose to become something better?
This year I will try again.