It is the holiday season once again and our thoughts are turned to goodwill and presents for the special people in our lives. Too often, though, we neglect ourselves at this time of year. Now, I am not suggesting you go out and by that new Macbook Pro you’ve always wanted and get your wife a bowling ball. Rather, there is a very special gift you can give yourself that costs absolutely nothing. The greatest gift you can give yourself at this time of year is the gift of self-knowledge. Taking time to reflect now, at this usually happy time of year can bring great benefits in the year to come.
Here’s the plan — between Christmas and New Year’s Day, take some time for yourself. I know you might think I am crazy since this time can also be very hectic, but consider this a “time out” from all the hustle and bustle. Sometimes I just like to sit around the living room with nothing but the Christmas tree lights on when everyone else is asleep. Find a quiet place, bring a small notepad and pen and just think. Think about all the good things that have happened this year in your career.Think about all the great things you would like to happen next year. Think about what you might like to change…remain the same. Jot down whatever comes to you then think about it a little more.
Let me be very clear that I am not talking about New Year’s Resolutions. For me, resolutions always feel like a reprimand, rather than a plan for the future. I think this is one reason so many of them are quickly abandoned — some even before January 1st is even over. Keep your notes upbeat, supportive and clear. Don’t berate yourself for missed opportunities. Instead, make a note to attack one small part of an issue, then the next, then the next.
While I do recommend you sit down with pen and paper and make notes of your thoughts, it is just as important and just as useful to simply think. Too often we don’t make the time to think about our lives, our families, our wants, needs and desires. If we don’t take the time to think about these important aspects of our lives, is it any surprise we don’t take time to think about our careers? Notes will help you to act on your thoughts once you go back to work, but if the note-taking interferes with your thinking, let it go. The truth is, the most important thoughts will stick with you Again, the point of this exercise is contemplation, not adding more stress.
So, what might you note during your thinking time? I find myself thinking of projects I would like to accomplish, articles I would like to write, people I need to call and even mundane items like groceries, laundry and paying the bills. Once I have most of these out of my head, though, deeper thoughts start to arise. One item that keeps me constantly occupied is what I want to say on these pages over the course of the next 52 weeks. What effect do I want to have on readers? What action do I want to encourage you to take in your own careers and lives? How do I want to encourage you to grow?
You can and should also find yourself contemplating deeper issues. Are you in the right job? The right company? The right career? The right town? Only you can answer these questions and only after some very deep thinking. I know sometimes thinking about important issues like these can be frightening. This is why we often avoid dealing with them. Don’t be afraid, though. It is by addressing these issues that you can defuse the fear and take the next step forward. Improving your life and career should never be something to dread, rather it should be something to pursue and embrace.
Where will you find the time and place to do some deep thinking? It matters little when or where, but it is very important that you do it. Without regular engagement with your thoughts, your hopes and your dreams, you run the risk of plodding along through life, simply taking whatever is offered instead of directing your life in a way that makes the most sense for you. Give yourself a gift that will prevent that from happening.
Best wishes for this holiday season, whichever holiday you may celebrate. May the coming year bring the best that you can possibly imagine.