“And in the end, its not the years in you life that count. It’s the life in your years.” –Abraham Lincoln
As I grow older, I realize how quickly the years come and go and how easy it is to coast along without reflecting on what is important. The beginning of another year provides an opportunity to take stock of your life. While I no longer set rigid goals for a new year, I do like to reflect on what worked for me in the past year and what things might be changed. It’s a bit like a business corporation ‘taking stock’ or doing an inventory.
Year end is a good time to ‘take stock’ of life aspirations in terms of what has given satisfaction, what has disappointed, and where you are in terms of living the dreams/values that are important. The clock can’t be turned back — but evaluating your progress and making small adjustments may help in realizing dreams and finding happiness.
Categorizing your dreams
About 20 years ago, I heard a presentation on setting goals that advised beginning with developing a list of dreams for your life. From that presentation I developed some personal dreams and categorized the list. In years past, I used to set goals in each of these categories. Although I no longer set goals, I periodically think about my life in terms of these dream categories — it’s my own version of ‘taking stock’ or inventory control.
My personal categories have included the following
- career — sometimes included job targets or leadership aspirations
- family/children — often included emotional and/or relationship hopes and dreams
- financial — used to monitor investment/tax/retirement strategy
- mental — articulation of targets for education, attitude, creativity
- physical — to assess health, appearance, fitness, weight
- social — considerations of friendships, travel, vacations, r&r
- spiritual — strategies for inner peace, sense of purpose, religion,etc
In different phases of my life some of these categories of dreams have been more useful than others. When our son was an adolescent, there were more reflections on children and family than there are now that he is an adult and living away from home. When I was building my career, I often had specific goals and targets for successes that I deemed important as a young professional. I have always been focused on learning goals (mental), maintaining a healthy weight through good nutrition and moderate exercise (physical), and social relationships — thus these categories were always important considerations.
‘Taking Stock’ — Evaluating Progress
In assessing progress, I simply use the same categories to evaluate my current situation when I ‘take stock’. Having kept up a fairly regular routine of journal writing, I often journaled about my dreams so it was easy to go back to see what was achieved and how I assessed my progress. After completing business school, there was a phase of life when I was enchanted with spread sheets and measurable goals where I did fairly rigid assessments on a pre-determined schedule. These are fun to review now — and I laugh at my ernest attempts to measure progress on immeasurables such as spiritual dimensions. For about 10 years I used a report card format and actually graded my progress! Over time the process of taking stock has changed as I have relaxed the rigid standards of measurement. Currently, I just do a periodic review and consider my life situation in terms of changing circumstances and changing priorities.
As I review these categories and how I have evaluated progress, I realize that many of the dreams that were first identified more than 20 years ago have shaped my life — perhaps consciously — more likely, at an unconscious level. In different ways, the career aspirations were met — as were the aspirations for retirement, for graduate education and for lifestyle. There are areas of shortfall and regret especially when I think of missed opportunities to strengthen family ties with extended family or to deepen friendships. It is also humbling to realize that clearing out the clutter in my home/office/life has appeared regularly in my journal entries and on spreadsheets and I have not progressed as far as I hoped with de-cluttering.
Changing/re-stating your dreams
An important aspect of taking stock of your life aspirations is the periodic review of your dreams. Priorities will change — especially if there is a major lifestyle change such as marriage, the birth of a child, a new job, or a career change such as retirement. Some people find that taking stock at year-end is a valuable tactic and use it as a method of setting resolutions and goals.
This year I am in the process of doing a full review of my personal dream categories. With retirement many of these categories, for example, career — have become less relevant while social and health are much more important. As I ‘take stock’ and re-design the dream categories I realize that a postworksavvy approach to life changes will influence my future dream inventory. Learning to have fun, developing new social relationships, exploring creativity through new hobbies — and working on that de-cluttering will appear on my revised list of aspirations and dreams.
Have you ‘taken stock’ of your life aspirations ? What are your successes? What will you do more of? Do less of? What changes make sense in terms of your personal dreams? What has worked well in your life ? Do dream categories make sense as a means of identifying dreams and assessing progress? I’m interested in your thoughts and ideas. Send me your comments about the process of ‘taking stock’ and what it means for you.
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