Taking Stock as we Begin a New Year

Yesterday was the beginning of 2012. Although many of us engage in a daily examen, many look upon the beginning of the new year as a time to reflect on the past. A time to take stock of where we’ve been and to reflect on what changes we might like to see in ourselves.

This can be a superficial exercise. We can vow to lose those extra pounds…a vow we’re sure to forget before January if half over. We can vow to go to the gym more frequently. And certainly eating better and getting more exercise are valuable things.

But we can also reflect on a much deeper level. I shared once before some questions someone gave me that had been prepared for Elul, the time in the Jewish calendar that is a time of preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I share them here again because they offer a valuable tool for both reflecting back over the past year and thinking about what we want the new year to look like.

What have been the happiest and most gratifying parts of this past year? In what areas have I acted as my best self? Which of my current habits or behaviors to I want to bring with me into the coming year?

What have been the most painful or difficult moments of the past year? When have been the times that I have not acted as I would have hoped? Which of my current habits or behaviors would I like to modify or leave behind in the years to come?

What are the relationships in my life of which I am most proud? The ones that feel most painful? What would it take to create change in these relationships in the coming year? Who are the people that I most need to ask for forgiveness?

You can think of many other questions to add, but hopefully this gives you a good start. Whatever particular questions you use, spend some time reflecting on particular things that did or did not go as well with respect to your relationship with others, with God and with yourself. And out of that reflection will doubtless come one or two concrete directions for change that you might want to ask God’s grace in effectuating during the coming year.

Happy New Year!