New Year's Reflections: What we're actually accomplishing when we're not meeting our expectations.
I recently read another blog by a friend, colleague, and brilliant business coach, Jo Muirhead. In it, she talks about reflecting on the past year. As I read it, my most immediate thought was that I had accomplished nothing over the year. I had big goals that went unmet.
And then one of the questions jumped out at me and honestly, brought tears to my eyes: “What were you doing?”
Last January, I had big goals. I planned to launch an online course, start some new workshops, and hire another clinician in my private practice.
However, life had other plans. Less than a week into the new year, I received a devastating phone call about the tragic passing of my dear friend’s husband. That unexpected news was such an overwhelming punch to my gut. And I remember feeling such disbelief, like how is this happening? IS this really happening? I remember scrambling to do my best to support her, her family, her business.
My thought was: What would I need or want from someone else if this happened to me? It became the only question that mattered.
So, 2016--my year of productivity--became something totally different.
My year instead became more about connection, people, being human. Watching someone you care about go through such devastation is...well, it’s hard to describe. It’s heartbreaking, for sure, but it also makes you also suddenly feel unstable, off-kilter, helpless, small.
It makes you think, this could happen to any one of us at any time. And it also makes you question whether the things on your plate even matter anymore.
So you are probably wondering what this has to do with parenting and kids, but I do have a point.
These expectations we have for what we want to do….
The type of birth plan, the type of parent we want to be, what we want to provide for our kids...
All these aspirations we have for our lives, the New Year’s resolutions, career goals, home improvement projects we need to get done, the trips we haven’t yet taken….
How quick are you to you beat yourself up when you didn’t do X, Y, or Z and therefore must be failing your child(ren)? How often do you think, “Other parents are so much more creative, loving, patient, giving, [insert your go-to failing here] than I am” or “Why can’t I get it together like all these other parents I see?”
But what ARE you doing for your children? Probably so much that you are irreplaceable.
What are the gifts you given to them this year? And no, I do not mean how many toys you picked up on trips to Target or Toys R Us, but what have they learned from you? What have they experienced? Probably so many amazing things that no one could do your job quite like you do.
Now you might have had a rough year this past year. I’m not sure I remember a time where I heard more people tell me how rough 2016 has been. It was a rough one for me too.
And I’d like to say that January was the hardest month for me, but if you read my other blog, you know that’s not true. Like you, my first impulse is to think of all they ways I didn’t do the right things or was too emotional in a given situation. I think of all the things I didn’t accomplish, all the goals I didn’t meet, all the fun I didn’t have. It’s easy to play the comparison game and feel a little bit of life envy, especially when we’re skimming our social media newsfeeds.
But, I think it’s important to make a point to pause, especially when I’m getting down about everything I didn’t do. I like to think of things I do not-quite-right as opportunities to learn and grow. And I think it’s also important to make a list of all the things I actually did do.
2016 was this an emotional year for many. For me, it absolutely was. My kids have probably witnessed more tears from me than in all previous years combined (which is kind of saying a lot since I tend to be a more sensitive soul).
But what I do know is that when we have emotions whether it be happiness, sadness, anger, excitement or whatever, we create an opportunity to teach our children how to manage their own emotions. And maybe I’m not always proud of my initial response to things, but I do my best to make them right. And this I know they learn from this too.
So, sure, I didn’t launch that course (yet!), or start all the workshops I wanted to do (yet!), or find that new hire (yet!). But, after careful consideration, I’ve realized that 2016 wasn’t all bad because I was busy with some really important stuff:
I learned some valuable lessons about myself.
I set boundaries that aren’t easy, but necessary.
I upheld others’ boundaries.
I laughed hard.
I worked out when it felt good to.
I didn’t work out when it didn’t.
I rode a bike.
I went sledding.
I played with my kids.
I got angry.
I had my feelings hurt.
I hurt someone’s feelings.
I said I’m sorry (more times than I can count).
I asked tough questions.
I had to sit with difficult responses.
My daughter started preschool.
My son stopped needing me to walk him into his school.
I conquered fears.
I let myself be vulnerable.
I lost a friend.
I made new friends.
I learned new things.
I taught things to others.
I was inspired.
I was grateful.
I loved deeply.
I was loved.
I was me.
So what have you done this year? Maybe it wasn’t what you thought it would be when you were planning, dreaming up, and waiting for 2016 to begin. But my guess is even if your expectations were not met, there are valuable lessons, successes, and memories you can take away from 2016. And when you reflect on it, I bet you’ll see that in actuality you’ve done a lot.
Here’s hoping you allow yourself to be moved by how much you’ve grown in 2016 and that the new year brings health and happiness to you and those you love.
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