Every year around this time, Stacia and I carve out some space to reflect back on the past 12 months and look forward to what is to come. Though we didn’t begin this tradition with any specific formula or read any self-help articles on how to do an end-of-year review, we’ve found our process to be really encouraging and helpful in a surprising way. As great as setting goals and having New Year’s resolutions is, looking back on the past year proves to be the most beneficial for us.

As important as looking forward may be, remembering matters just as much.

Being self-employed is both fun and challenging. It’s hard at times to keep perspective on what we do. Since there is not a clear map of where we are going and how to get there, it’s easy to feel like we’re barely moving, if we’re even moving at all. It’s like running on a very long straight stretch—you know there’s some point a long way ahead that you want to get to, but there is not much nearby to orient you to the fact that you are making progress toward that point.
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I saw an interview with a base jumper who wears one of those squirrel suits. Besides being insane and searching for close encounters with death, the guy talked about why they fly so close to the rock face when they jump. He said even though you’re flying incredibly fast, you need a point of orientation in order to feel your speed. If you were to fly straight out into the expanse away from the cliff you jumped from, you wouldn’t feel like you’re moving as fast.

Sometimes life can feel like jumping into the expanse. I’m working hard. I’m doing a lot of things. I think I might be moving, but I don’t have a point by which to orient myself. Putting all of myself into something and feeling as if there is little, if any, feedback or result can be very disheartening.

It is because of the disheartening experience that our New Year routine is so valuable. As we reflect back, we remember the highlights from this year.

We look back and can orient ourselves, even if just for a moment, in a way that helps us see how far and how fast we really are moving.

Here’s our review process: we begin by reflecting on the past year and talk about moments, achievements, and experiences that stand out. We reminisce and talk about each item we list, and we write it down. It’s a process of celebrating and marking what has taken place. As the list grows, we find ourselves encouraged as we look back on all the items and see how much has actually happened.

Some of the items on our list feel like they happened years ago. We launched this new website this year. That’s crazy. That feels like ages ago. We had a photo mixer. We had a full wedding season, which took us all over the country. Dan launched The Meaning Movement. Stacia started Tiny Tones. We celebrated turning 30, 7 years of marriage, and finishing grad-school (all of those happened in 2012), with a trip to Europe this spring — a trip we’d been talking about taking for about 5 years.

We also had some things not go well and some goals that we did not meet. It felt important to feel sadness and remorse for those.

It feels really good to look at this list—like we’re actually doing something and like our work is taking us somewhere. Though we don’t know what lies ahead and I’m sure we will still feel discouraged by how far we have to go, it has been a gift to see how far we have come.
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Here’s to 2013. It was a good year.