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December 28th, 2018

As the year comes to a close, many eagerly or anxiously await the day when a potentially grueling list of new years resolutions comes into effect and we are obligated by plan to try a whole bunch of novel behaviors.


Perhaps such lists have not yet even been written.  Regardless of where in the perennial process we might find ourselves, and regardless if we even take practice in a ritual that often peters out in silently discarded failure, there’s an important preparatory ritual we can perform that has no risk of failure and can in fact bolster the thoughtfulness of preparing for a new year and the changes we’d like to enact.  We can spend a little time looking back on the year that’s coming to an end.


Just as we are instructed as drivers to check our mirrors before changing lanes, we can take a quick glance at what is behind us before heading in a new direction.


One tint of this metaphorical mirror is to view the year through a list of successes and difficulties.


A refreshing result of this sort of practice may for many be the strange realization that successes outnumber difficulties even though we probably anticipated by raw feeling that the opposite would be true.   For those who find this pattern, we might pause for a moment and ponder that perhaps we spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about those difficulties and so they feel bigger and more numerous than they actually are.


Such a rear-view perspective can also help us frame goals for the future: which difficulties are still giving us a hard time and need to be remedied?  Perhaps annoyances that have metastasized need to float higher on the priority list.  And perhaps the successes we’ve accrued imply that we need to aim higher and with more ambition.  Perhaps there is a pattern or trend that links our difficulties or successes, a pattern that can help solve our difficulties or capitalize on our successes.


At the very least, this exercise gives us an awareness, just as checking mirrors while driving gives us an idea of what is behind us, spending time thinking about the year past gives us a better idea of how we behave as a person and ultimately who we are. 


We might realize that some things that we hold as top priorities have not gotten any attention or effort whatsoever.  And this difficult possibility highlights something important: namely, the difference between what we think and say, and what we actually do.  Being honest about what we see looking back might be exactly what we need to look forward once more and change direction so that we live more in accordance with who we thought we were.


This episode references Episode 32: Rear-View.

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Podcast Ep. 257: Check Your Mirrors

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