I’ve just finished a year-end assessment. Before anticipating what a new year will bring and considering outcomes for 2017, it’s useful to look back at 2016 aspirations, celebrate accomplishments, and consider major lessons learned.
As I grow older, I grow more determined to live life on my own terms. I spent the first part of my retirement unlearning many lessons of the past. Now, I focus on doing what’s important to me; I don’t have to do things to keep others happy, build a career, or keep a job that is sometimes unsatisfying.
Year end assessments often focus on finances. What was the relation between spending and income? How did investments perform? What might be anticipated in future? My husband and I do a financial assessment but this blog post will focus on questions of life. Readers can do a similar year-end assessment focusing on dreams and goals for retirement living.
Was there progress in achieving retirement dreams?
Most of us begin retirement with big dreams. We’ll travel. We’ll take adult education courses or, perhaps, pursue an academic degree. We’ll write that crime novel or write a memoir. We’ll exercise and get physically fit. We’ll learn a new skill. or start a business, or climb a mountain.
It’s human nature to assume that there will be years and years to accomplish our goals but we don’t have a guarantee. Things can change quickly so it’s important to take action on retirement plans. It would be sad not to make some progress toward achieving BIG dreams.
A couple of years ago I realized that I had over-committed my time volunteering on various boards and committees. I was committed to the goals of the various organizations but I was spending my precious retirement time sitting in board (bored?) rooms, reading meeting materials, and worrying about funding for these groups. This was similar to how I spent too many days of my career.
When I did a year-end assessment I realized that I felt like ‘been there, got the T-shirt, time to move on’. I resolved to make exit plans as I no longer felt the same passion nor the love for this type of work. This decision freed me and gave more time for personal aspirations.
Where there accomplishments?
Perhaps there’s little progress on the BIG goals and dreams. Perhaps you’ve had a setback or you’ve decided to change course. Nonetheless, it’s time to celebrate what you did accomplish. Oprah Winfrey famously said, “the more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
By listing the things you’re proud to have accomplished in the last year, you can start to celebrate success. The list should include both big and small achievements. You may have developed a new health habit; you may have lost weight; you may have helped a parent, a sibling or a friend; you may have learned a new skill. All accomplishments that meant something in your life count!
When I began to list achievements for 2016, I quickly had over a dozen items: we down-sized; we de-cluttered; we purged; we sold our too-big house; we found a lovely new home; we packed; we moved; we unpacked; and, we spent many happy weekends with our family at the cottage. Best of all, we celebrated 50 years of marriage! On the personal front, I managed to keep a good level of fitness through the year by staying with my exercise program even during the hectic weeks of moving.
Were there losses?
There’s always a flip side to achievement. Moving meant giving up a home we loved. De-cluttering and purging meant throwing away stacks of books we loved, giving away furniture and clothes, donating mementos, dishes, and household items. Many of these items represented precious memories that were re-lived as we eliminated excess.
Leaving a network of close friends was the most difficult part of moving. I miss my bridge friends, my gym friends, and my book club friends. Building a new social network takes time.
We grieved when a dear friend in New York died suddenly. Around the same time, our next door neighbour at our cottage died. These people were important in our lives. Losing them leaves a big hole in the heart.
We also faced the difficult decision of euthanasia when both of our 14-year-old cats developed hyperthyroidism. Their weight loss, drooling, vomiting, and discomfort made the decision inevitable, but we miss having furry friends to greet us when we come home.
What didn’t happen?
When looking back over the year, there are always be regrets. The ‘would have’, ‘should have’, and ‘could have’ thoughts give glimpses of where we can improve. The year-end assessment might provide lessons for future goals and aspirations when examining short-comings.
Like me, you may have had unrealistic ideas about what you would accomplish. Life has a nasty way of interfering with hopes and dreams. 2016 was a leap year but even an extra day did not provide enough time to accomplish all I hoped to do. My blog was sadly neglected as, too often, I had no energy left for writing, or, what I was experiencing was too painful to put out in the blogosphere.
My lesson as I look at what didn’t happen in 2016 is that I need to set only a few priorities in 2017. The old KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) applies. A short list with key priorities is the ideal.
Did you have a ‘word’ for the year?
My word for the year in 2016 was purpose. The year-end review shows this word extended to purposeful living. It was a reminder to face each day with intention. When de-cluttering and preparing our house for sale, the word ‘purpose’ kept me focused on what needed to be accomplished every day and every week to meet timelines set for a spring sale.
Another aspiration for the year was trying new strategies for time management. Regular readers know that I adopted the ‘Rule of 2’ which became a mantra. When challenged with over-commitments, the ‘Rule of 2’ meant that I would not commit to more than two activities in a day. I had good success with this strategy. When I augmented the ‘Rule of 2’ with disciplined scheduling of the week and the month I succeeded with better control of time.
A year-end assessment provides lessons that can shape the approach to a new year. I plan to build on my successes, keep good habits, and establish fewer priorities for 2017.
I’ll close with wishes for a happy and successful new year to all! Thanks to all readers of postworksavvy. Please leave your comments about your year-end assessment and your aspirations for 2017!