Soon it will be time to say good-bye to the old year and ring in the new. As we prepare to begin the New Year, people are thinking up “New Year’s Resolutions.” You know the drill: You resolve that in the coming year you will – fill in the blank – exercise more…eat less..quit smoking…undertake some difficult task you’ve been putting off, etc., etc..
And you also know what comes next. You start the year with great intent and maybe make some progress on one resolution of another in the early day sof January. Then the days of the new year start to go by and it is not long before the resolution is forgotten.
Our failure to meet our usually-not-very-well-thought-out New Year’s Resolutions does not mean there is not value in using this transition to take stock. The end of the year is a good time to reflect a bit on where we’ve been and where we are going.
I once shared some questions for reflection that had been prepared for Elul, the period in the Jewish calendar devoted to preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I thought it worth sharing again some of those questions because they provide a valuable tool for reflection as we prepare to usher in the new year.
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 doubtless think of variations on these questions. The point is that, unlike tossing off a New Year’s resolution, there is real value in spending some real time reflecting on the last year, particular regarding things that did or did not go as well as they might have with respect to our relationship with others, with God and with ourselves. Out of such sober reflection might come one or two concrete directions for change that we might seek God’s help in effectuating during the coming year.
Happy New Year!