It’s the end of December and it’s time to close the book on the past year. Some of us will have experienced great joy through events such as a wedding, the birth of a child or the start of a new career. Others will have experienced great sorrow and perhaps loss, such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, sorrow from having to leave home and relocate or being faced with an illness that interrupts our life. Finally, we may be ambivalent; nothing really great or terrible seemed to happen to us in the past year.
Whichever category you find yourself in, it is time to close the book and look ahead. The truth is that we cannot change the past; we can only learn from it and seek the treasures that the past leaves. As much as we dislike loss and it brings great sadness, gratefulness can grow from the loss. Our perspective changes drastically as we learn to appreciate things that we used to take for granted. While I have never had cancer, my friends who are cancer survivors appreciate every day of life that they have. I need to learn from them to better appreciate my health and each day that I have been given. The loss of my mother a few years ago made me wish I had let her know how much I appreciated all she did for me; her passing changed my attitude about taking the time that I still have with my dad, husband, children and grandchildren and treasuring each moment. I have observed people having to leave a job finding a better and more suitable one for them, a blessing that they would have never known if they had not lost their job initially. Sorrow is much like a pruning of the soul. In the gardening world, renewal pruning stimulates new growth – the same is true for us as an individual - from sorrow comes change and growth.
The key to closing the book and beginning the next book or phase of your life is to find the treasures in the losses and to recognize and cherish the victories as they come. I believe that we must constantly look for the positives that can come from any situation. Have you ever noticed that when someone is asked how his/her day was, often it is the problems or trials of the day that are shared. It is a mindset change to stop when asked to choose to share the good parts about your day before or instead of your problems. On Facebook yesterday, I saw this quote:
“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.”
Often our talk influences how we feel. On my most difficult workdays, I could be heard saying out loud, “I have a great job!” The truth is that at that moment, I needed to remind myself that I did have a great job – my job was just difficult or stressful at that particular moment. Sometimes at the end of the year, it is important to go back and look at the good parts of the year to remind yourself that amidst the problems and sorrows, there was good. Recently I decided to go back through my photos and find at least one picture from each month that was a good memory. I put them into a collage to remind me of the good parts of this year. Have there been bad or difficult times during the year? Absolutely! I choose not to dwell on those and instead look for the enjoyable. My Facebook friends believe that I have a great life and I do! The truth be told, however, I choose to post things that are positive and make me happy.
Good leaders learn from the past, they don’t dwell on the past. They also don’t rest on their success. They close the book on one year and begin to write the next. How will you choose to write your story for this next year? What can you do with your personal attitude to embrace the things that life throws in your direction next year? There are a couple of excerpts from songs that I think speak to the attitude of positively embracing what is yet unwritten. The first is from the song Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield :
“Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten.”
An unwritten story means that you get to choose. Find some joy in each day. Create a good things jar and fill it during the year. Next year at the end of the year, take the time to remember the good.
As a product of the seventies, the other song that speaks toward our attitude, comes from my favorite album “Tapestry” by Carole King and is from the song Beautiful. It says,
“You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel"
How often are we waiting for people to show us love instead of becoming the positive person in the lives of others? When my children were young and having problems with other children, I repeatedly encouraged them to “kill them with kindness”. While we cannot change the behavior of others, often a change in our own behavior over time will change how others are toward us.
It is time to close the book on this year and begin writing our story again. Isn’t it great that we have an opportunity to rewrite our story? Take advantage of that opportunity – you are the author of your story and a new one is about to begin. Make it a great year – the choice is up to you.