Do you get reflective during the last few days of the year? As crazy and frenetic as our schedules get during December, it seems like small moments of quiet and unexpected patches of stillness magically appear. When those times comes, we often look back and discover what the year taught us and what we learned amidst the unexpected and surprising moments of the past year.
For me, I’ve been taking time off around the holidays for several years now. I use the time to recharge, spend time with family and look ahead to the new year. I was at home with 3 sick kids for most of last week, so those “unexpected patches of stillness” came at 11pm or 3am.
As I sat holding a coughing baby, I began thinking of my crazy year. I started listing the lessons I learned.
And while I could go on for a while, these five statements seemed to summarize my experience well. I hope they’re helpful to you – both in reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the new one.
1. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
Have you bought into the lie that you can do it all on your own? I did. I used to believe that asking for help was an admission of inadequacy (a bad thing, in case you were wondering). My 2014, when looking back, feels like one big scream of “Help!” For my wife and I, our pregnancy/bedrest/oh-my-gosh-we’re-having-twins-this-is-insane year overflowed with times when we had to ask for help. We needed help watching our children, cleaning our apartment, cooking dinner, doing laundry, etc. At times, it was very humbling, but it was hardest (for me) when I viewed having need as “weakness.”
I learned that it is not weakness, but instead a sign of strength, when you can publicly admit your need for help and accept it from another person.
2. Adjusting your expectations saves you from future disappointment.
Unmet expectations cause personal disappointment and interpersonal strife. I was in a relationship in college that was constantly in turmoil due to unmet, unstated expectations. If expectations can be adjusted in light of experience, disappointment can be transformed into celebration.
I had an idea of how 2014 would go…and then there is how 2014 actually went. During the last 12 months, it felt like a weekly occurrence that I was re-adjusting what I could “reasonably” expect from that time period. Daily, it felt like I was adjusting what was a reasonable expectation for my to-do list or meeting agenda.
When we adjust our expectations in light of our experiences, we can better manage the “uncontrollable forces” our lives encounter. If life is constantly changing, we should be constantly adjusting.
3. We need deep roots to weather future storms.
I am not an expert in trees, nor violent storms (I am from Las Vegas – a desert without tornadoes or hurricanes). But I do know that it is the roots of a tree that stabilize it and secure it from bowing to the wind.
As our “posse” (as we call them) rallied around us over the last 12 months of pregnancy, bed rest and the arrival of twins, we were overwhelmed with gratitude at the love and support we continually felt. I remember a comment my mom made about how long Dani and I had lived in Phoenix (9 and 12 years). My mom was so grateful for the roots we had in Phoenix, despite not having an immediate family living within the state. My tenure at my church (now in double-digit years) led to roots which became life-saving when our lives were rocked by the events of 2014.
Storms are coming in your future – job loss, the death of a loved one, a divorce, financial crisis, etc. When you encounter storms, your roots can ground and sustain you.
4. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
One of my former colleagues regularly reminded us of this quote as we daily worked with people.
Frankly, I’ve forgotten more of 2014 than any year I’ve lived up until now. Can you relate? So many things happened this year – I cannot even remember most of them. I’ve forgotten some really hurtful experiences, some really difficult moments, some hilarious conversations and some raw experiences.
My grandma passed away while my wife was on bed rest. I was unable to attend the service, but sent a note to be read by my mom. Six months, later, my grandpa also passed away (husband to my grandma who had been buried earlier in the year). Both celebrations of their lives included countless stories of what they did and how that made others feel. One of my distant cousins returned to the Grandma’s funeral after some really rough days and a time of estrangement from the family.
He spoke to my grandpa at the service for my grandma. My grandpa hugged him and told him how much he was loved by my grandma. He told my cousin how we were people of second chances. That man melted in my grandpa’s arms and wept.
A lot of people will forget the work my grandpa did for them or the cold eggs and bacon my grandma served every morning – but few of us will soon forget how they made us feel…loved.
One day, people will remember how you made them feel. What will that memory be?
5. We overestimate what we can do in the short-term and underestimate what we can do in the long term.
Craig Groeschel said something similar in a leadership talk he gave in 2008, when he said millennials over-estimate what they can do in two years but under-estimate what they can do in ten years.
I began the year with a goal – write a book by my 30th birthday in June. However, that goal had to endure a major change – my wife on bed rest and me taking care of everything for several months. The book didn’t get done by June. Just last week, though, I realized I had written 20,000 words for my manuscript this year. I even submitted my first book proposal. I did not exceed my goals but I’m shocked I got so much done amidst everything else.
I had another goal in 2014 – relaunch my website by mid-June and begin posting multiple times a week. My goal lost out to my desire for sleep through the fall. As a result, I relaunched my site just before Thanksgiving. I have been writing a post a week ever since then too. I have a long way to go but the progress I have made astounds and humbles me.
“We overestimate what we can do in the short-term and underestimate what we can do in the long term.” Craig Groeschel
When we begin dreaming bigger and being more patient and intentional, it is amazing what we can accomplish. Take a look back at your last 3 or 5 years. For many of you, you have accomplish some of your biggest goals and some of your lifelong dreams. They didn’t take ten years; they took three years.
I encourage you to set aside some time during the final moments of this year or the first moments of next year to process where you’ve been and where you’re headed. The lessons you can glean could encourage you and (if shared) could empower others.
What is one lesson you’ve learned this year? Encourage and teach us by sharing it in the comments below.