Looking Back On 2016, Looking Towards 2017: Goals, Resolutions, Progress, Reframing and the Bigger Picture

Every new year, I reflect on the previous one and not just how it went, but how I was in it. It’s been a long time since I’ve held onto the ridiculous notion that what happens is a direct reflection on me or that I have the power to have a great year no matter what. Sometimes shit just happens. It’s not your fault or preventable and sometimes big stuff (unemployment, a scary diagnosis, death) can totally taint a year. You could be at your best and still have a truly awful year. You could be slacking or be going through a total jerk phase and have a fabulous one.

I’ve already reflected on 2016 and what kind of year it was for me, and now it’s time to think back on me – how was I this year?

I think I was pretty okay. I hate saying good things about myself – it feels arrogant and icky, but to be honest I feel like in many ways this year I was at my best even though 2016 ranks among the suckiest and most difficult years in a long while. Usually I keep track of my progress in my beloved Excel (seriously, I love Excel; I live in that program). I was very ambitious for my 2016 goals and while it was ambitious, I never had a problem keeping track of my progress or lack of. So it’s funny to me that the year I seemed to really nail a lot of things – I didn’t keep track at all. I fully intended to, had the Excel documents set up in advance and yet even though I was hitting many of my daily goals – I just never recorded the data, not even in the first week. Without any data, I think back on how I did in 2016, and I feel that I did great.

From a professional standpoint, I both blew past some expectations and fumbled others. From a writing perspective, I saw even more growth as a writer and ventured into new territories. I was published six times (three times at The Huffington Post, once at a dream publication online, once in a literary journal – both in print and e-Book formats, and the last in a major newspaper both online and in their special commemorative 9/11 print edition). For someone who had never been published before this, because he refused to submit – that is fantastic. I wrote so many new pieces and I put myself out there professionally.

On the other hand, I kind of stepped back from my editing business and so my income was affected because there is only so much of me to go around. I am hoping to push this in 2017 – write more and hit some more publication goals but not slack in actual moneymaking.

As far as my health goals, I think I hit them all for the most part – pretty consistently. They aren’t huge things, but daily stuff to keep track of like water intake, daily steps etc. My water intake is the most important because the altitude really messes with a few medical conditions and water is one of the best medicines (aside from diet, blood treatments and surgery). Staying active is important to me, and walking helps me think and clear my head, which really needs that daily cleaning. But since I didn’t keep track of anything, I’m not sure how great I did. I hope I met my steps goal for the year, but if I didn’t I’m sure it was close. I know I went past my water goal (at least 100 ounces every day – yes, I actually need way more water than most, which is why I try to keep track).

Then with my personal goals, I definitely failed a few but nailed others, overall I’d say I didn’t stick with a third of them but the ones I met – I totally kicked butt.

All of this has made me wonder if keeping track or score is actually beneficial or not. I mean this year I didn’t keep track but for the most part did great. Other years I have kept score and while I’ve nailed some, usually one aspect of my life is lagging painfully behind. Like I might kill all of my health and personal goals, but the professional ones are neglected. Or I meet my professional ones, but half of my health and personal goals suffer. I’m all about balance (I even have an equal amount of goals in each “sphere” of my life) and try to be as balanced as possible. Some years I am and others not so much.

Personally, I like keeping track of how I’m doing. If one goal or area is suffering, it makes me aware and I try to step it up, or reevaluate if it needs to be modified or tweaked altogether. But at the same time, if one of my best years is one where I didn’t keep track at all is this “scorekeeping” just me getting in my own way? It’s definitely one thing I have found myself considering a lot lately. For now, I am mostly undecided on that, but I have decided to push forward anyway. I’m going to try to keep track this year, more than I did last year at least, but if at any point I feel it’s taking away from my actual goals, I’ll give it up. Because actual progress matters more to me, than keeping track of said progress.

So this year I have twelve goals I am keeping track of in each category of my life: health, personal, professional. That doesn’t mean I have 36 things I have to do every day. Some things are every day, and others once a week or once a month – they’re just things I want to keep track of. And a lot of things, like health stuff are things I do every day with or without the goals (because I know as soon as you hear 36 you think I am in a place of mania and will end up inadvertently killing myself, but I promise it really isn’t like that).

What I loved most about last year (2016) was how transformative it was. I’ve had to put in more than a decade of intense self-work to break free from the cycle of abuse I grew up in and change the ways I saw myself and the world. It started to come together for me when I was 24 but then I died on my 25th birthday (yeah, not a metaphor) and spent more than a year fighting to not die again so that was put on hold. But when I was 26 everything else fell into place. I was able to tap into what I had started to scratch the surface of before my illness. It an epiphany and more than that. I figured out the way to live my life to be my best self – my personal philosophy for finding happiness and acceptance and living the best life possible. Most of that is though truth, acceptance and letting go.

Since this important discovery, I feel I have lived my life mostly in accordance to my philosophy/approach. Still every year beginning in 2013, I feel I have drifted a little further away from this way of life, unintentionally. Like I was doing all the right things, going through all the right motions, but my heart or mind were falling back into old patterns. They never actually got there, like if my new way of life was a ten and my old way of life was a zero then I think my years would look something like this:

2011: 10

2012: 10

2013: 8.5-9

2014: 8-8.5

2015: 7-7.5

2016: 6-7

The last two months: 9.5-10

It was really the struggles of this year that accidentally kick started this mental reframing and tune up. But struggle, like failure and mistakes, is good for that. I’m grateful to get back to where I was six years ago in terms of my mindset and perspective. A lot of it has to do with letting go of things and embracing a lack of control – both things that that certainly do not come naturally to me – they’re hard.

But with this refocus, and my goals in order for 2017, along with the growth and progress I’ve seen this year – I expect great things from myself. I don’t know if I’ll have a great year, after 2016 I certainly hope so, but I know that I’m ready for another sucky one or to fully enjoy a wonderful one. My head is clear, my heart recently dusted and everything else sharp and in focus. Priorities.

It’s my priority to continue to learn and grow as a person. It’s my priority to be my best and most balanced self. It’s my priority to take control of the things I can and should, and just let go of everything else. Letting go doesn’t mean to stop trying or being present, but trying to control things you can’t is maddening. I’d rather focus on rolling with whatever I can’t control than focus on how to change it. That difference is important – it’s one of the ways I’ve slowly gotten off track with over the years, but now I’m back.

Here’s hoping 2017 is my best year yet! (And also that I can keep track of it this time, assuming it doesn’t hamper any actual progress.)

I hope everyone has a fabulous 2017! What are your goals or resolutions this year?

-DMW

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