If we as a people had to collectively select a single word to sum up the year 2016, it seems safe to say that we would eventually all land unanimously on the same simple phrase: trashfire. There would be little debate over the matter. Sure, for a while we would discuss whether "trashfire" was technically one word or two, but once we rightly concluded that it is indeed two words, every citizen of the world would shrug their shoulders at precisely the same moment and say, "Meh, whatever. It works."
I have been relieved to notice this same resounding opinion ringing out from nearly every corner of the internet: 2016 has been...not great. On a global scale, that is. I mean, certainly you've seen the memes --
(ME AT THE START OF 2016: [picture of Justin Bieber]. ME AT THE END OF 2016: [picture of a potato].)
It seems that, for an impressive multitude of reasons, this last year has left much of the world feeling totally overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and concerned for the state of the future. It goes without saying that I consider myself a part of that group.
Recently, I was ruminating over the madness of 2016 (as I am wont to do these days), and in doing so, I was reminded of a yearly tradition I have with my husband. At the start of every year, he and I make a date to sit down together to process the year we are leaving behind and look forward to the year ahead. A few years back, we developed a series of questions that we felt like working through at the time, and we documented our conversation in a notebook. Ever since, we've made it a yearly chat. We look back on our answers from the previous year, and come up with new ones for the year ahead.
I won't lie to you: it gets pretty intense. We dig deep, and by the end of it, I'm usually exhausted. And sweaty. (I can't help it. That's how my body responds to contemplation.)
This year, I imagine I might be particularly drained after this conversation. As we have established, 2016 has been a real doozy. Regardless, I can easily say I have never looked forward to our yearly tradition more. I'm ready to process through what it is that made 2016 so trashfire-y, yes, but I'm also anxious to find some individual perspective. While this year has pretty much been an active volcano for humanity, on a personal level, I have learned a hell of a lot.
Not only that, but when I really reflect on all that I have experienced this year, I have to admit that I have got an insane amount to be grateful for. Sometimes I forget just how much. That is due to the fact that, like most, I spend a lot of energy obsessing about the future and the past but rarely about the present moment.
At this time of year, of course, it's inevitable (and even healthy) to want to look back and look ahead. However, I would argue that it's essentially useless to do either of these things without also doing something monumentally important: looking within.
That's what our yearly chats give me the opportunity to do -- to not only think about where I fell short last year and how I'm going to finally figure it all out this year -- but to also look inside of myself and put names to all of the elusive feelings I have. (And guys, I have a lot of feelings.)
And this the same opportunity I want to give to you.
I've created an expanded version of the conversation me and the hubs have every year in the form of a workbook. It digs into topics like personal and professional goals, yes, but it also gets down into some nitty gritty emotions like shame, regret, pride, and joy. You can complete it alone or with a partner, but either way, I recommend giving it your undivided attention. I'll admit: it's a bear of a workbook (10 pages eeeek!), but it's so very much worth it.
For the record, this workbook is way less about recounting all of the global anguish from the last year and more about taking a narrow view of your personal experience.
Perhaps more than ever, it is essential to do this. It is essential get a clear understanding of ourselves in the scope of this last year so that we can figure out where we stand for the future. It's important to take a moment to say, "Yes, 2016 was a trash fire for much of the world. But I came out the other side. So now what?"
So whether you download this big, fat workbook or you find another way, take some time to process what just happened. It has been a weird year. Perhaps for you, though, despite all of the insanity of the world, there was great joy in it. (That certainly was the case for me.) Or perhaps there wasn't. Either way, let's together look within and then let's look forward.