Measuring 2016.

Regardless of my attempts to normalize New Year’s Eve and make it just like any other day, I still find myself reflecting on 2016, trying to figure out if it was a good year.

Despite Jonathan Larson’s wise words of how to really measure a year, we tend to measure our years in rather tangible ways. Marriage. Children. Home ownership. Promotions. Brushes with fame. Deaths. And if none of these more tangible markers of growth, loss, and happiness occur, we think to ourselves, “Heck, nothing really happened this year.”

I caught myself thinking that last night as I drove out to pick up a friend for a party. I took my favorite back-country road, just as the sun was setting. The sky was beautiful–pink and orange swirled clouds blended perfectly into a sky-blue backdrop. I listened to the “La La Land” soundtrack as I drove, and the words to “Someone in the Crowd” made me think about last year and the expectations I had for 2016.

I’m pretty much in the same place. Same career, same apartment, same friends, same family. On the surface, it might look like nothing changed in 2016. As the road curved and the sunset shifted from in front of me, I realized I was smiling, that I felt happy. By most metrics, I shouldn’t have felt such a surge of happiness, reflecting on 2016. But I did.

I won’t make you read a full laundry list of how I’m measuring 2016, but I will include the highlights:

I wrote.

I sang.

I made music.

I laughed.

I created.

I laughed more.

I cried.

I learned.

I traveled.

I loved.

And then I laughed even more.

I hope I can say the same for 2017.

New Year’s Thoughts: Some Free Advice.

Today in the Sunday School class I teach, we talked about New Year’s Resolutions. I am a sucker for a perceived clean slate. When the first day of a month begins on a Sunday or Monday, I feel an overwhelming need to “start over” in some realm of my life.

And every January 1, I feel that same “start over” need nipping at my heels. Start over with finances. Start over with diet and exercise. Start over with writing. Start over with prayer. Start over, start over, start over.

It’s overwhelming. And, some research suggests there’s not much success in making New Year’s Resolutions.

So if you, like me, can’t resist the promise of a clean slate that Friday will bring, here’s a couple of suggestions:

  1. Set a theme for the year that will govern your behaviors. I did this over the summer with the theme “discipline,” and it ended up being incredibly helpful. The theme should be one word–easy enough to recall when faced with a choice that might return you to habits you wanted to reduce.
  2. Set check-in times to assess how you’re doing. For me, I refocus in April, August, September, October, and December. Each month has special meaning for why I check in. Each month allows me time to figure out if I’m making progress in being a better person, and what course corrections might be necessary.
  3. Use the language: “I resolve to…” I stole this language from this post, because it’s so much stronger than the typical format used in making resolutions.

In the next five days, consider an alternative approach to New Year’s Resolutions. Goals are great, and I’m not minimizing their importance. But a paradigm shift in how to begin the clean slate of 2016 just might yield a happy new year after all.