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.