By Mary O’Brien, M.D.
Another year is drawing to an end. All across the country, folks are stocking up on beer and bubbly for their New Year’s celebrations. Parties and parades, festivities and football will steal the limelight for a few short days. But before long, the frivolity will fade and people will settle into their dreary routines. New Year’s resolutions will be broken as quickly as they were born. Soon another year will slip silently into oblivion.
All of this can get downright depressing if you really stop to think about it. I mean — have you ever taken time at New Year’s to evaluate your life? Are you accomplishing your goals and living your dreams? Do you even remember what your goals and dreams are? What wonderful things did you accomplish this year? Are you a better person than you were 12 months ago?
I take these questions very seriously. But then, I’m not a party person. New Year’s has always been my time for taking a personal inventory, a self-assessment of growth and progress. Having worked with older patients for decades, I’m convinced this exercise is not in vain. People don’t stay in neutral long. They either move forward, or they slide into reverse. But the laws of physics hold fast. Going in reverse is no problem. It’s easy and requires no effort. Going forward requires thrust or energy. And each one of us must supply our own.
Conducting an annual self-assessment will not appeal to whiners and wimps. And it’s probably not for party people. It demands integrity, self-discipline, and drive. After all, the whole point of this exercise is propelling oneself toward some pretty lofty goals. Blaming others or the culture for one’s own faults and failures defeats the purpose.
Each of us has different challenges, circumstances, and goals. My self-assessment questions have served me well over the years. You may need to amend them, but see if they don’t get you thinking:
- How many books have I read this year? Did they really sharpen my thinking?
- What are the most important lessons I learned? Have I put them into practice?
- Did I take good care of my body and health?
- Did I give my family the time and attention it needed?
- Have I learned a new skill or expanded my fund of knowledge?
- Have I further developed a talent I already have?
- Did I devote enough time to my spiritual life?
- Did I try to make life better for others?
- What did I do to invest in my future?
- When I reap what I’ve sown, will I be happy with the results?
This New Year’s review may not be as scintillating as champagne or as fun as football. But its effects will last a lot longer, and you won’t wind up with a headache!