Is Your Life Playlist Set to Repeat?
How to check in on your year. If you dare.
“My old man shouts ‘Goddammit, you should listen to my 58 years of experience’; but what he had was one year of experience repeated 58 times.” — James A. Michener.
Did you grow or stagnate this year? I know, it’s a polarising question. It doesn’t allow for much in between.
But bear with me, I’m not trying to be mean. Because some years we roar; others bring us to our knees — tragedy or difficulty strikes and it’s all we can do to hang on.
But in the ordinary rush of life, it’s good to ask (and keep asking) if we’re doing enough with what we’ve got. Because life is just a series of flash-points and the older we get, the faster time seems to move, and the more the lights blur.
December offers up a great excuse for self-reflection. It’s a chance to explore the peaks and pits of the year, to bank all the Good Stuff and process (as much as possible) all the Bad. To make sure we haven’t got our life playlists set to repeat so that each passing year is just a slightly older version of the last.
But how to do it?
There are a many assessment tools you can use but they are mostly based on work achievement which is fine if you live and breathe work and like it that way (and the people you love don’t think you’re a crashing bore).
But if you’re about more than work and up for a broader assessment of your year, have a crack at these questions. Challenge yourself to stay in the chair until you’ve answered them.
Is Your Life Playlist Set to Repeat?
What do you feel when you read the quote at the start of this story? A surge of relief that it’s not you? Or a sinking feeling that it could be where you’re headed? Either way, here are three questions to help you unpack the year just flown.
What did you FINISH?
Beyond your lunch and your tax return (hopefully), what did you get across the line? So often we start things, launch enthusiastically into new projects, roll with THAT big idea, only to drop off half way through. We get distracted by the next bright shiny thing, or frustrated that whatever we’re doing isn’t good enough. But beware! The road to discontent is littered with unfinished projects. So if you completed something significant, no matter how dull and plodding it seems, well done. Achievement of any kind is a tick for your mental health. What will you finish next year?
What did you GIVE?
If you dropped money in a charity bucket or gave away items for a bigger cause, that’s great. Helping others who are struggling is commendable. But, beyond that, what’s your unique contribution? Did you share your time or knowledge freely with others? (It doesn’t count if you picked up a fat consultancy fee along the way). Do you have plans to share more of it? Giving is an evidence-based way of feeling good about yourself so take every opportunity you can.
What did you RISK?
Hopefully nothing outrageous or hurtful for your finances, your family and yourself. Risk-taking has its perils. But please tell me you were BOLD, or even slightly wicked. That, in your own way, you shook things up. Did you take a chance? Let go of something (or someone) that was holding you back? Did you front up to something scary, send your fear weeping to the naughty stool? Did you dip into something new or unexpected? The willingness to experiment, especially in areas we might have no talent for, or could even fail at, is the hallmark of growth. So if you pushed the boat out, well done.
But Playlists are a Personal Thing
True: we all have different tastes, interests and motivations. And there’s nothing wrong with playing the same old, same old songs — unless that’s all you do.
With age, the risk-of-repeat increases. We begin to hero-worship security. We play Safe Ball: we cling more tightly to what we already know and can rely on. Almost without knowing it, we begin to shut the door on fresh opportunities, or convince ourselves that other people are closing the doors for us. And that can lead us to shrink our lives instead of growing them.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a whole new year around the corner. Why not hit it with a new playlist? You don’t have to change everything but — for your life’s sake — add some new songs.
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