I love the start of a new year. Everything about it (except staying up late on New Year’s Eve) aligns with my personality. I’m turned on by goal setting. I thrive on change and second chances. Completing financial spreadsheets to evaluate the year? Love it. But my favorite ritual is carving out quiet time to reflect on three things: accomplishments, new opportunities and most importantly: What have I learned?
Knowing what I’ve achieved is easy. I look at the list of goals I set for the year and check one of three boxes: yep, no, close enough. There are rarely any surprises because my yearly goals are chunked into quarterly goals, then monthly, weekly, and daily. Most years, circumstances shift one or two of my goals but for the most part, I stay true to my North Star. Yes, I’m that person: focused, disciplined, excited by possibilities and overjoyed when checking something off a list (even a grocery list, and, yes, I realize there are other words for this behavior besides focused and disciplined!).
But knowing what I’ve learned and seeing what opportunities lie ahead? That transforms black and white into gray.
Throughout the year, I pay attention to the feeling of gray. When shifts in the familiar occur – meeting someone new or when something tangible in the environment changes or something someone does or says stays with you, but you’re not yet aware of what impact it will have or how it will change the course of your path – I make note, because these experiences are almost always where the learnings and opportunities lie.
Sometimes it’s obvious change. For example, I had my basement finished last winter and now it’s basically a 2,000 sq. ft. gym. Change? Obviously. Opportunities? Certainly, but what are they and which ones should I act on? Then there are the far less obvious occurrences that act like a sixth sense; you experience an event or change but you don’t yet know the effects it will have. Because life unfolds. Opportunity emerges. Viewpoints evolve. The circumstances we started the year with are rarely the ones we end the year with. But seeing the forest for the trees is hard when it’s your forest and you grew so many of the trees.
So this year, I’m going to ask three people I respect the following question: When you look at my learnings, opportunities and 2020 goals, what do you see?
I’m curious what my forest looks like to someone else. What picture do the new trees and the changes to the existing ones paint? How might my point of view shift in a direction I simply didn’t see without the perspective of someone else’s eyes? So often, we simply cannot see what is right in front of us even though we can feel it.
Afterwards, I’ll set my North Star for 2020. I’ll act, learn, pivot, twist, bend and always pay attention to the gray, the space that tickles the back of my neck and whispers: something is speaking to you.
Natalie Merchant says it so beautifully in “These are the Days”, one of my favorite songs and the cool-down song I use for the first ride of each year:
These days you might feel a shaft of light
make its way across your face
And when you do, you’ll know how it was meant to be
See the signs and know their meaning
You’ll know how it was meant to be
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking to you, to you
– 10,000 Maniacs
Cheers to you, your dreams, your plans and all the actions, learnings and dances in the gray space that will call your name in this New Year!