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Pause, Reflect and Get Ready for the Year to Come

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

This is the one time of year we collectively pause, take a breath and get ready for the year to come. It's when we can set next year's tenor, tone and pace. It's up to each of us to make the most of our pause.

I love this time of year. Christmas is over and the new year has not yet begun. Families are still together and friends are making plans to catch up while school is still out and many businesses are closed or are operating with smaller staffs. The Christmas decorations are still in place, and the traffic is light enough to slow down and enjoy them.

Those who are working are doing so at a different pace, with different expectations regarding response and turnaround times. We have time to catch up with friends, family and co-workers, to grab coffee, a drink or to simply stop and chat. The soon-to-be old year is wrapping up, and the new year is not quite here.

This is a time to pause to reflect on what went well this year, what did not go well, and what the new year might have in store; a time to think, reflect, dream and possibly plan for the future.

When thinking through the past year, spend time reviewing successes as well as failures, and focus on the why of the failures and the lessons learned along the way. We all fail many times along the way. The question is: do we learn from our failures or do we let them weigh us down?

Years ago, during a discussion with violinist Luis Haza, I learned what makes him world-class. He told me that all violinists make mistakes, but the best ones hear them and fix them faster than the others. The key is to recognize and fix mistakes more rapidly than you did before, and more quickly than others.

This acceptance of failure seems particularly hard in our ever-connected world where social media may not represent reality. The difference is that, on social media, we don't see entire, full messy lives, but instead are shown lives that have been curated for distribution. And while someone's life might appear to be perfect from our vantage point, everyone has challenges, disappointments and failures. Only you can see and feel all of yours every minute of the day.

Here are a few questions to think about as the old year wraps up and the new one begins.

What did I succeed at last year?

Where did I fail, and what did I learn from these failures?

How can I incorporate what I learned into the future?

More importantly, who did I help?

Which activities excite me and which ones do I dread?

How can I redesign my life to do more of what excites me and less of what I dread?

What would I like to accomplish next year?

What daily habits would make a difference going forward and how can I set myself up for success?

New York Times best-selling author Michael Hyatt has a new book coming out in January titled "Your Best Year Ever," in which he lays out a five-step plan to living your best year. The steps he includes are: Believe the Possibility, Complete the Past, Design Your Future, Find Your Way and Make it Happen.

In the book, Hyatt provides the plan and templates and conveys stories that illustrate and illuminate how to move forward in the new year. He begins by challenging our thoughts regarding what's possible before moving toward the planning process itself. Rather than simply focusing on financial or career accomplishments, Hyatt addresses 10 life domains (Spiritual, Intellectual, Emotional, Physical, Martial, Parental, Social, Vocational, Avocational, and Financial).

Hyatt's approach is not about accomplishing for accomplishment's sake, but about how to be the best version of yourself. He recounts the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a sermon he gave during the 1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. "Lord help me to accept my tools, however dull they are, help me to accept them. And then Lord, after I have accepted my tools, then help me set out and do what I can do with my tools."

We all have tools given to us by God. The question becomes: will we accept them and use them the best that we are able to, and for what purpose? There is no better time than now for us to think about that. Happy new year.

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