Year-End Rituals


One of my favorite year-end rituals is to take stock of the last 12 months.

How did I do on my goals? What am I proud of? What am I grateful for?

It’s something I write free form and by hand, as a numbered list. It’s roughly chronological, but several items inevitably creep in out of order. That’s okay. It could be a metaphor for how life plays out.

My camera roll, calendar and to-do lists all provide digital breadcrumbs to capture the highlights of the last year.

When I started to reflect on this year’s goals, I didn’t feel I’d achieved as much as I set out to do. The year started with a few big question marks.

What was going to happen when the company I work for was acquired by another company? Where was my son going to go to high school? Where was my daughter going to apply to college?

For the last 5 years, I’ve chosen a theme for each year. It’s a personal rallying cry, and all of my goals for the year fit in with it in some way. This will be the subject of another year-end blog post.

Then comes my life vision statement, as a reminder of why I’m on the planet and how my theme keeps me focused on that reason for being.

And then there are goals in the categories of health, family, career, finances, spirituality and social/community.

Health. Everything starts with good health – for me and my family. I did pretty well with near-daily exercise. And it was fun trying new activities, like standup paddle boarding, yoga and cardio barre.

My green day challenge with Fitbit is ramping it up to a daily action. And the new exercise shoes I break out every Jan. 1 are in my closet, ready to go for my 2016 workouts.

This reflection makes me thankful for good health. It always makes me think about what I could do better next year. My biggest opportunity is sleep. That is, getting more of it. My goal was at least 7 hours a night.

It was frustrating to see minutes subtracted for restlessness on my Fitbit, so I stopped tracking sleep. I wanted credit for every last minute in bed.

It’s time to try Sleep Cycle over the holiday break. I’m eager to see what it feels like to be awakened during the lightest phase of sleep, within a 30 minute period of my choosing.

Family. This has been a year of transitions. Our son finished 8th grade and needed to choose where to attend high school. He decided to continue at his same K-12 school and increase his academic commitment. Happily, heading into winter break he’s on a better path, scholastically speaking.

Our daughter started her senior year in high school. She made her list of colleges, finished most of the apps over Thanksgiving weekend and is wrapping up the few due in January. Much to our surprise, she already received a letter of admission. But for the most part, it’s a waiting game until March.

It’s like anything in life. You do your best. You focus on what you can control. And then you do your best not to worry about what you can’t control.

It’s time for her to finish her first semester strong, enjoy experiences with her friends and keep up with her job and other activities.

Also in the family arena was doing fun activities with my spouse. We worked through the NY Times-inspired 36 Hours book with weekends ranging from Malibu to Hollywood to Dallas.

We visited colleges in Seattle over spring break, went to our nephew’s graduation from college in San Francisco and returned to our alma mater for a UCLA football game at the Rose Bowl.

On New Year’s Day 2015 while I watched the Rose Parade, I decided I wanted to go the following year. That’s where we’ll be on Jan. 1, 2016.

For this, thanks go to author Laura Vanderkam and her advice to create a list of 100 dreams – or activities within a few hours of your home that you can do on weekends to make them more special.

Career. On New Year’s Day of this year, I launched this blog. My purpose was to explore the field, the function and the future of corporate communications, against the backdrop of our rapidly changing world.

Part of that change was a pending acquisition of the company I worked for. The deal closed in July. The goal I set at the beginning of the year was to contribute to the success of the merger of the two companies. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure exactly how the rest of the year would take shape.

But I’ve been surprised and delighted to find myself in a new role this fall, doing new things and working with new people. What a tribute to the company I’ve joined and the focus on developing people.

Finances. While I did save the max for retirement, I now need to focus on diversifying my investments for better performance. I’m looking forward to a financial planning day over the holiday break.

Refinance our house before interest rates rise? Check. And my goal to buy a new car? Well, let’s just say that some goals come to fruition, but not in the way that was initially intended. We got my daughter a car this summer, so she can drive to school and work. It makes all of our lives better.

Spirituality, social and community. A few highlights here are that I enjoyed my involvement with a mother-daughter charitable organization, a city committee on traffic safety and leadership of the women’s employee resource group at my company.

There were a few other community and civic involvement activities I pursued but that didn’t come to fruition. They became learning experiences in what I’d do differently next time.

Looking ahead. This year-end wrap up had many benefits. It made me smile to remember good times with family, friends and colleagues. It made me proud of several accomplishments. It reminded me that I can bounce back from adversity. And it highlighted how much there is to be grateful for.

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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