This time of year is often when we reflect on the things we had hoped to accomplish during the year. Having a decade end has extended that reflection to the past 10 years. I don’t know about you, but the idea of looking back over the past year, much less the past 10 years, to second guess all my choices and actions doesn’t sound very appealing. It sounds like the perfect recipe for feeling bad and ending up in the fetal position in a dark corner of the closet. Not how I want to spend my day.
We all make decisions continuously. Some we barely even think about and others we may agonize over for days or more. Everyone looks at the choices they have differently. Everyone makes their own decisions in their own way and in their own time. The danger is in second guessing yourself. If you start from a place that believes you’re doing the very best you can in every moment, then second guessing isn’t necessary. You may have made a different decision based on who you are now, but that wasn’t who you were then. Trust that you made the best choice that you could given all the information you had and who you were at that moment. And would you change it if you could?
Changing even one decision would set your life on a different trajectory. Maybe something you look back on as negative would have been avoided, but what would you miss? What if changing that altered your life enough so that you didn’t meet a friend you have today? What if deciding to leave a job sooner than you did set you on a path that didn’t lead to the dream job you have today – or the one that is on the way? It’s easy to believe that by changing something that made us feel uncomfortable would instantly make our lives today better, but that isn’t how life works. All your decisions build upon one another to make the life you have. Change one thing and you could be changing everything.
It’s great to have a plan for your life. A plan will help you live intentionally and give you a lens to make decisions through. Will going this way help me toward my goals or move me further away? A plan can give you that perspective. Looking back is also healthy when you do it with the intention of understanding how your life is unfolding. There is no need to judge, be ashamed or feel bad about what has already happened. It’s done, but if you look closely enough you will find a gift in nearly every situation that you feel was a disaster for you. Often something must be torn down so that something new can be built up. It may not be fun in the moment, but it is what’s true. The best things that have ever happened to me have made me uncomfortable when they were happening, but I wouldn’t change a single one.
Let’s make this year different. If you want to look back at the last year or the last decade, look for all the moments that helped you get to where you are and be grateful for them. Where you are today may not be where you want to be, but you’re here. The foundation of an authentic life is being grateful for what you have. Be grateful for those perceived mistakes or embarrassing moments. Those disappointments where things didn’t turn out like you thought they would. The jobs you didn’t get or had to let go of. The relationships that didn’t work out or materialize at all. They are all gifts that helped get you here.
As you turn your attention to what’s next, be gentle with yourself and remember that you’re doing the very best you can in this moment too. Just like you have in every moment before this one. Everything will work out, every time, no exceptions. It may not work out as you predict it will, but your life will unfold in the direction you send it. If you want to make changes, make a plan and ask for support if you need it. If there are things in your life that you don’t have time for and are important to you, put them first on your priority list and let go of the things that no longer serve you. Focus on right now, because now is the only time that matters.
Most of all, give yourself the gift of trust. Trust in yourself and in the process of life. Life is going to move on no matter what we do, so let’s make the decision to enjoy the ride.