Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
This is the time of year when I like to reflect on the last year, notice what’s working (and what isn’t) right now, and start dreaming about the next year.
But this year, that kind of planning feels a little bit… fraught?
At this time last year, I had just launched a new book (afflink) into the world, my husband went to work in an office every day, and our oldest kid was away at college. (The younger five were all still at home, of course!)
As I was planning for the new year, I was thinking about next steps and big dreams and family goals.
My ideas for 2020 and the reality of 2020… did not line up neatly, let us say.
Obviously, so many things have been hard. And also some things have been good, like getting to have bonus time with our college kid (who is now doing college from home via zoom!).
But none of it is what we expected.
The truth is, we never really know what’s going to happen next in the world. That’s always been true. We’re not in control of the universe and we never were. And since 2020 has reminded us of this over and over again, it’s been a little tricky to figure out how to think about the future.
We all understand that our plans and priorities can change in an instant. But we still get to decide how to handle the stuff that is ours to be in charge of right now, today.
These are the questions I’m asking as I think about the year ahead.
How We’re Planning for the New Year:
What happened each month last year?
We’re going to remind ourselves that while this year has been A LOT, it hasn’t ONLY been a dumpster fire.
I’m asking myself questions like: What happened each month last year? How do I remember feeling? What good things do I remember?
(If you do this too, don’t skip over the little things, like how your youngest kid learned to put on their own shoes, or how someone started reading chapter books, or how you found an amazing new flavor of breakfast tea.)
When I think about the whole year at once, it’s tempting to label it all one way. But when I think about each month separately, I remember that this year (like every year) was a mosaic of a whole bunch of things.
I don’t know about you, but that helps me feel more confident about the year ahead. It’s going to be a whole bunch of things, too. I can’t control it all, but I can choose how I show up for it.
What do I want to be true at the end of THIS year?
The end of NEXT year is a long way off, but the end of this year is coming up fast. On New Year’s Eve, what do I want to be able to say about this last stretch of the year?
And once I know that… what do I need to do now to make that possible?
Personally, I’m thinking about how I want to be present over the holidays.
I’m stocking up on hot chocolate and cookies, since we won’t be going out. I’m planning extra nighttime drives to look at the neighbors’ Christmas lights. I want to be able to say we found ways to celebrate even in the middle of everything else, so I have to plan for that to be true.
What do I want to be true at the end of January?
January always feels like a fresh start, but this year, nothing much will change in our family’s routine. We’ll still be working from home, our oldest kiddo will still be doing college from home, and we won’t be starting up any new outside activities.
So this year I’m thinking more about how I want January to FEEL, and how to move in that direction.
If I want to end January feeling like things are more predictable, I can tighten up our morning and evening routines. If I want to feel full of possibility, I can start something new. If I want to feel more connected, I can make a habit of texting or calling friends for no particular reason.
And if I find that I need something else in January, I can plan to check in with my mind, body, and spirit to see what I need next.
What do I want to be true at the end of the school year?
Usually I would ask myself what I want the end of next year to look like, but you know what? This year, thinking ahead to June is far enough for me.
So what do I want to be true by then? What books do I want to have read aloud to my kids? What skills do I want them to have learned? What activities do I want us to have done together? What projects do I want to have worked on?
And what do I need to do to make that happen?
Do we need new habits? New morning routines? Less clutter? Do we need to schedule things on the calendar? Or to set reminders on our phones? Do we need to reorganize our space?
What will help move us in the direction we want to go in the year ahead?
That’s what I’m going to plan for right now.
These are the questions I’m asking as we embark on planning for the new year.
I’m holding the answers loosely, because I know how much I don’t control.
But I can still keep moving in the direction I want to go in the meantime, knowing that will lead us to a lovely destination, even if it’s by a surprising route.
What about you? How are you thinking about the year ahead? I’d love to hear.
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