A Year In Review
I used to be a gym-goer. January was the worst. I could never find a parking spot. All I wanted to do was get on the elliptical machine and read my book. Come in a little too late, and I’d be stuck with the treadmill. Ever tried to read and walk at the same time? Very tricky.
I could appreciate that all of these people had made a new commitment to get fit, but I was looking forward to the inevitable fall off come mid-February. That’s right around Super Bowl when Americans will fall off their diet wagon and annually consume the second largest number of calories in one day. Yet another reason to skip it if you ask me.
You might be sensing right now that I’m not a fan of the New Year’s resolution.
As human beings we need to feel like we have a fresh start. Whether it’s the start of a new week, a birthday or the big one that happens every twelve months, we wait for those moments to get things started. We wait to take action until we psychologically perceive a new beginning. Thinking about it makes me want to rebel and start a new eating plan at like 2pm on a Thursday afternoon or something.
Every year around Thanksgiving, my husband, Adam, goes through the Darren Hardy Living Your Best Year Ever workbook. He spends hours poring over last year’s achievements and experiences. He then moves on to ask deep questions about what he wants to achieve in the next 12 months. After brainstorming all of the possible accomplishments he might achieve, he will narrow it down to three primary goals. He’ll keep a list of backups should he blow through them before the year runs out.
Adam works at being “success minded.” I used to smile and nod like “sure honey, good job thinking happy thoughts.” Except in the time we’ve been married he’s gone from being success minded to actually being successful. By successful I don’t mean some societally defined standard, but that he decided what success looked like for him and went after it.
Adam and I are very different. But what we have in common is this positive outlook and desire to push for bigger and better. We definitely share a “can-do” attitude, but the way we do the “do” is not at all the same.
Going through a visioning workbook sounds like way too much work. No thank you. Not interested. But I think it’s very cool that he enjoys that activity.
Adam often sets aspirational goals. As in, he has no idea how he will accomplish them.
I am not much of a dreamer. When I am not a pastor and not pursuing a career as a writer, I earn my living as a project manager. As soon as I decide something needs to happen my brain goes to work on how to get it done. Sure, I call them goals. But really, I don’t set goals. I make plans. Setting aspirational goals with no set pathway to completion would make me a little nuts. I’m either working on the logistics or feeling overwhelmed to the point of giving up.
Adam asked if I had a goal to run a half marathon in 2023. “Nah,” I said, “that’s not a goal. That’s a plan.” I haven’t picked the specific race, but it’s going to be in the fall. You can call it a goal, but unless I (knock on wood) break my leg or something, it’s happening.
All that to say, I’m no fan of New Year’s resolutions. However, I think there’s a lot of value in marking time. The turning of The New Year is really what you make of it. There’s nothing magical about the ticking of the clock from 11:59pm on 12/31 to 12:00am on 1/01. But like any moment of the day, it can be significant. What makes this moment something special is you, deciding to start something new.
You can call it a resolution, vision casting, goal setting or making plans. This process is one of the most important components for moving from who you are now to who you want to become.
Unlike Adam, I’m sort of a newbie at all this ambitious reflection and forecasting. I have joked that I’m going through a midlife crisis. My 20s and 30s felt like such a struggle. I was in school until I was 27. I worked two jobs, sometimes with a 3rd side gig.
During the pandemic I had a little mini breakdown. My job was very stressful and I didn’t always get along well with my boss. I realized I’d never really thought about my career. I had just happened into every job I had. I started working part time at my first church job because I ran into a friend in the hall at seminary. I spent most of my adult life busy trying to make ends meet, lonely and hoping to find a husband and ministering to the needs of the church. There wasn’t any space for dreams. What good would ambition do me if I had zero energy left at the end of the day?
I have met a handful of folks around my age with a similar feeling. Some of them are women who have spent the last twenty years raising kids. Now their children are grown and they are thinking, ok, what now? Some are men whose marriage didn’t make it and they aren’t sure who they are anymore.
After three years of supporting our family while my husband started a new career, it was my turn. For a time I thought I would stay with Home Depot and promote. I had my sights set on Regional General Manager for the install business. But the pandemic and a new direction in the business were enough to make me stop and think, what if I could do more?
You should probably know that I default to action. Apparently, that’s because I’m an Enneagram 8. When the Facebook algorithm flashed an ad for an IT Project Management certification program, it took a 10 minute salary search for me to get on board with the idea.
The thing is, making the leap from construction to IT isn’t exactly a straight forward path. Everyone in the industry I talked with said you don’t need to know programing or IT to be an IT project manager. Unfortunately, this philosophy was not shared by any of the recruiters or HR managers that I interacted with.
I feel like my many years of online dating experience prepared me well for this chapter in my life. I had already been rejected more times than I could count. I learned early on not to overthink it. It’s not because I’m fat, ugly or have a bad personality. I’m just not for everyone. There are many good looking and attractive men that I wouldn’t have wanted to date. I couldn’t think of any off hand, but it was definitely true in theory.
There were a lot of discouraging days when I wondered if I would be stuck forever. I thought about a lot of options. I prayed that God would help me find the right fit. I wanted to find a place where I could represent God’s grace to the people around me. I was still a minister at heart, after all.
I started 2022 with one goal in mind: get a new job. It didn’t even have to be a better job. Anything less stressful with growth opportunity would have worked.
I spent the last half of 2021 working on certifications, submitting applications and soliciting career advice from anyone who would give it. I read a couple of books. One said that everyone in your network should know that you are looking for a job because that’s the best way to get hired.
That’s actually how I found FiA. Adam and I were at dinner with his friend, Trish, and her husband. She invited me to a 5:15am exercise group. “It’s peer led and always outdoors,” she told me. “I’m leading the workout this Friday because it’s my birthday.”
Oh darn, I was going to be out of town. No problem, she would message me when I got back. I gave her the polite smile and nod of a person making a half assed commitment they didn’t intend to follow through on.
The day after I got back into town I had a text from Trish. It was the first week of January, very cold, and I’m not exactly a morning person. “Nancy is going to be there,” she messages me, “she works in IT. Maybe she can help you get a job.”
That was it. I was going. If all I had to do was get up early and freeze my butt off to get a job, I was going to do it.
Trish had a headache and didn’t even make it to the workout. Nancy did send my resume to her HR person. I received a very polite “You have no experience, why are you applying for this job?” email before lunch time. But I found a group of ladies that were committed to encouraging and supporting each other. I needed that more than I needed a job.
One of the side effects of working out before dawn in freezing temperatures is that you start your day feeling like a badass. Seriously, if I can do this really hard workout in twenty degree weather before most people have even gotten out of bed, I can pretty much do anything. Plus, I gained this whole group of cheerleaders that were rooting for me every time I went into a job interview. I was unstoppable.
In March of 2022, it finally happened. I accepted a position with better pay, better benefits and better growth opportunity. It wasn’t exactly a tech job but it seemed like IT adjacent. Is my new job all I had hoped for and more? Definitely not. But I really enjoy the people that I work with and it has many positives.
As I reflect on this year, I’m realizing the effect lower stress has had on my life. I didn’t have the bandwidth to imagine myself as a writer in 2021. My tank was running on empty. All my energy was committed to supporting the team that worked for me, calming angry customers and trying not to piss off my boss. There was no room for creativity or learning new skills.
When I realized I wanted to be a writer I started with one simple thing: develop a daily writing habit. I started taking my laptop to work and writing for a few minutes on my lunch break. Sometimes it was something like, “I feel so blah. I have nothing to say.” Really riveting stuff, I know.
Some days I am frustrated with my life for what, at this moment, seem like very silly reasons. I could not have imagined last December that I would be where I am now. I got out of a very stressful job, joined a wonderful group of women and rediscovered a love for words. Did I mention that this year I became a runner? Yeah, that just happened. Did not see that coming at all.
Hopefully this holiday like me you have a little time and space. This year we did all the things we couldn’t do during the pandemic and I think a lot of us are a little worn out. We need a break! Take advantage of the moment—this space between the busy Christmas season and the start of the New Year. Find a few minutes of calm and take some time to reflect.
How was 2022 for you? Wonderful? Terrible? Unremarkable? Some of us have a tendency to ruminate on what we wish we had done differently. Ok, it’s me. I do that. I wish I would have, blah blah blah. Looking at choices and realizing a right might have been better than a left can be helpful. Reliving those moments over and over until you make yourself sick, not helpful. Let’s stop doing that.
What do you have to celebrate? I ran my first 5k this year. I learned how to publish a podcast and edit videos for social media. I convinced my husband to edit my blog. That was huge. Go ahead, make a list. Toot your own horn.
If your list consists of “I made it one more year without dying,” well, let’s work on that. How about: This year I loved my children, partner or pets. This year I showed up for someone in need. This year I volunteered in the church nursery. This year I got hurt, but I am recovering. Whether you knocked it out of the park in 2022 or feel like you just barely made it through, there’s value in celebrating the small things.
I think it’s also helpful to ask: How did I experience God’s grace this year? Were there moments of undeserved kindness along the way? For me, I have been working through some tough faith questions. I am really grateful for the healing I’ve found through that process. Take some time. Make a list.
Now it’s time to use our imaginations. Where do you want to be this time next year?
For most of my life, I started The New Year wanting a smaller number on the scale. I achieved that goal one out of approximately 29 times, or a 3.4% success rate.
Setting health goals is a great idea, but instead of chasing a number, what if I imagined something different? What if I imagined eating fresh vegetables more often and the way I might feel when I make those decisions? What if I imagined a new routine that includes an extra 10 minutes of mindfulness every day, so I feel less stressed? What if I imagined myself running a half marathon, like the whole time without stopping? Those are the kinds of thoughts that lead to success. These goals are tied to actions that I can take to achieve a desired result.
What kind of dreams do you have for this year? Maybe you have a health goal. You might want to improve a relationship, advance your career or build a new habit. Now is the time to do it. It doesn’t have to be because of the New Year. It can be because you just decided it’s a good time. Now is always a good time to start making better choices.
I also want to make time for prayerful meditation—resting in thoughts of who God is and who I want to be in response. I want to make sure my plans are centered in God’s love. Most of my thoughts are centered on me. I need this reminder to look outward to the needs of others. Along with my personal goals, could I also have a service goal? What could I do to encourage and support the people around me?
Vision is what moves us forward. With your goal or goals in mind, what is the next step forward? Or like me, maybe you prefer to make plans and take action.
Here’s what I got for 2023: Attend a writers conference. Go on a writing retreat. Self-publish my first book.
I am thankful that I’m not the same person I was this time last year. I like to think I’ve grown and matured even in the last twelve months. I want to keep learning and growing. I still have plenty of things to work on. I want to keep pushing forward to be my best self. I know I can do it because I continue to experience God’s grace in my life. I know you can too. God is at work in you.