As the year drew to a close a few weeks back, somebody sent a video on one of the far-too-many WhatsApp groups that I’m subscribed to.
The video (shown below) was, in the tradition of year-end posts, a celebration of the year to come. It showed a clock counting down an hour of 2017 and then counting in an hour of 2018. Across the clock face, instead of the hour numbers, were words like stress, anxiety, regrets, darkness, chaos, and a few more. As the clock counted down, each word disappeared in turn, and when the clock counted the next hour in 2018, new, uplifting words — like successful, prosperous, loving, healthy — appeared in each of the hour points.
It’s a wonderful notion; clear the crap and bring in the good stuff. What stood out was that this is the exact same routine every year ends and starts with. Year after year, I see posts on social media and messaging about how the year sucked and next year will be better. If you can relate to the clock above, ask yourself, did you relate to it at the end of 2016, too. How about 2015? 2014? 2005? However far back you want to go.
If you’re seeing a pattern, you’ve got to ask yourself if maybe there’s something more to having a great year than just wishing it in January.
So I can tell you that I didn’t relate to this clock. Because I don’t see my year in the negative context that the video starts with. Yes, it has been a challenging year. Yes, there were a fair number of hardships and heartaches. Yes, I did feel sad and despondent and failed and had my share of disappointment.
But each of those experiences did not define the entire year, nor were they the overriding experiences that I ended the year with. Because I also experienced happiness, and successes, and love, and camaraderie, and recognition, and a host of other positives. Those didn’t define the entire year either.
Because a year is a very long time and there is a lot that can happen in that time. It stands to reason that you will have ups and downs. The trick, of course, is to have more ups than downs. And that starts with a decision.
When you make a choice to have an overall good year, and act on that choice, you will most likely have a year worth remembering. And I’m sure that if you thought about it, and did a little bit of auditing, you’ll probably find that there were more good in your year than bad.
Let me throw another little spanner in there though. Even the bad stuff has its place.
This last year, I lost my best friend, my closest cousin died, I’ve struggled with my finances, was broken up with, and, while everything else was going on, still found the time to have had some very intense depression episodes. It was not a great year, and could very easily be considered one of my worst years simply from the angst I endured.
But I’m not somebody who takes the knocks lying down. You can ask anyone who knows me, I have a strong victim mentality despite my usually upbeat persona. But I’m also a survivor. I wallow for a period while also seeing the benefit in everything that happens too. Learning to exist without my best friend, for example, was huge. Figuring out ways to handle my depression so that I can still function was another giant step.
In short, becoming a better person because of the challenges is how I chose to define my year.
And there were also a healthy dose of good as well. I spent several months in the lovely city of Cape Town, made lots of new friends, dated some amazing ladies, had a few lovely outdoor adventures, roadtripped, and uncovered some of my previously hidden strengths.
Every challenge brings with it opportunity. This is the way of life. You only grow when you stretch yourself. Body builders always push more weight than their body can comfortably do. Cyclists will always ride further than their burning muscles would prefer. Climbers always test the limits of their strength and dexterity so they can continually move on to more advanced climbs.
This is the same with mentality. Scientists, mathematicians, physicists and the like who constantly challenge their brains are able to handle bigger problems, and create better solutions.
Your year is what you make of it, not because you’re in control of what happens to you, but because you’re in control of you. You decide whether it’s a good year or a bad year. You decide what criteria you can measure it by. You decide what defines your year.
For me, a good year means I’m at least twice the person I used to be. And I usually am. I am never the same person I was 6 months ago. Never. Anybody who knows me can attest to that. And, for me, if I’m growing in leaps and bounds, that’s a good thing. Regardless of the challenges. And often, because of those challenges.
You’ve got eleven and a half months until the next calendar. When the clock rolls over to 2019, I trust that you will be saying what an amazingly awesome year 2018 was. Bring it on! 😉
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