Take stock of how you rocked 2011





It’s that time of year again, but before mov­ing on to New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions, be sure to give your­self credit for 2011.

Now, this may (at first glance) seem like a point­less exer­cise. Think­ing back on the past year, it can be easy to focus on all that you hoped to do that’s still undone: The jobs you applied for and failed to get, the book you didn’t write, the exer­cise pro­gram that you planned to make a reg­u­lar part of your life. (If you’re any­thing like me, you didn’t.)

That was cer­tainly the direc­tion my mind went when I first con­tem­plated this task—which was why I was so hap­pily sur­prised to see it was mis­lead­ing me.  (This was hardly the first time: I’ve long rec­og­nized that just because I think some­thing doesn’t mean it’s true.) Here’s a sam­pling of what I accom­plished over the past year:

  • Started writ­ing per­sonal essays and pub­lish­ing them in Huff­in­g­ton Post, Salon, and our local paper.
  • Launched this blog
  • Cleared out the packed stor­age unit that I’d been mean­ing to get rid of for a decade (and wrote an essay about it)
  • Com­pleted a grad­u­ate class in a social work (and no, I doubt that I’ll con­tinue with the pro­gram, but I’d been think­ing about it for a long time and am glad I tried it out.)
  • Ful­filled a long­stand­ing dream of work­ing with fos­ter kids, includ­ing plan­ning a writ­ing work­shop to be spon­sored by Friends of Chil­dren this spring
  • Got some really inter­est­ing free­lance writ­ing gigs that are likely to lead to more
  • Made lots of great friends in my great new com­mu­nity of Northamp­ton Mass­a­chu­setts, the first place I’ve lived in a long time that really feels like home.

There’s lots more, but you get the idea.

This was an espe­cially inter­est­ing exer­cise for me given my ini­tial assess­ment that this had been a long hard year pri­mar­ily defined by fail­ure. I felt like I’d spent most of the year try­ing, fail­ing, get­ting up, then try­ing again. Along with the suc­cesses listed above, I’d applied for (and been rejected for) a whole bunch of dif­fer­ent jobs. I wrote and cir­cu­lated a book pro­posal that failed to elicit any inter­est from the agents who perused it. The list goes on.

Hap­pily, I had this year’s daily log to con­tra­dict these thoughts.  As I recently wrote in Huff­in­g­ton Post, I started keep­ing daily logs more than a decade ago after trad­ing my struc­tured life as a law firm asso­ciate for the free-form exis­tence of an aspir­ing nov­el­ist. At the time, I was reach­ing the end of the week in a mild state of panic, think­ing “I’m not get­ting any­thing done! What is wrong with me?”

In an effort to take charge of my sched­ule, I started using a blank bound book — a so-called lawyer’s diary for which I had no fur­ther use — to track my activ­i­ties day by day. And lo and behold, I wasn’t such a slacker after all! It just felt that way. (Lest there be any doubt, I did indeed write and ulti­mately pub­lish two novels.)

Track­ing accom­plish­ments can be espe­cially impor­tant in Plan B Nation, where many of us are deal­ing with more fail­ures than we have in the past. (That’s cer­tainly the case for me.)  The fact is, these are chal­leng­ing times, and it’s not our fault. Mak­ing a con­certed effort to rec­og­nize our suc­cesses can help us to remem­ber that we do indeed have sig­nif­i­cant strengths.

So go ahead and make those New Year’s Resolutions—and do your best to stick to them. But before crack­ing the whip for 2012, cel­e­brate 2011.

© 2011, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “Take stock of how you rocked 2011

  1. Greet­ings from a fel­low trav­eler in Plan B Nation.
    I stum­bled across your blog and I am work­ing on read­ing every post. Thank you for your insights and I hope to see more in the com­ing year. (Dis­clo­sure: I have a job but am under­em­ployed, career derailed by lay­off in 2009.)
    Any­way, I wanted to quickly say that your track­ing activ­i­ties log book is very sim­i­lar to advice I read on another writer’s blog, that of David Gess­ner: http://billanddavescocktailhour.com/bad-advice-wednesday-keep-a-writing-chart/
    I fig­ure that when I get advice con­firmed from two sources, it is well worth considering.

    • So glad you found your way here. Wel­come! Great to hear that you’re find­ing the con­tent inter­est­ing and use­ful. I hope you’ll stay in touch–one of my goals in launch­ing the blog was to fos­ter a sense of com­mu­nity among Plan B Nation fel­low trav­el­ers. :-) In the mean­time, thanks for the link–I will check it out.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Wel­come to Plan B NationMy Profile

  2. Amy, I’m so glad you’re happy in Northamp­ton, and I love the list of accom­plish­ments. I am going to try that, too.

  3. Kudos, Amy, for your accom­plish­ments and for tak­ing stock of them! This is an excel­lent post.….will share as a role-model for others :-)

  4. Yes! This is one of the unsung advan­tages of keep­ing to-do lists — I get to check things off — and then on those days when I won­der what I have done all day — or week — or month … it’s right there,

  5. This is such a great idea! I’m going to do this! I tend to focus on the neg­a­tive, so this will be a great exerise in pos­i­tiv­ity. Thank you for the inspiration.

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