The New Year is here. Moving into January 2022, we acutely feel the many changes of the last 24 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much and tested us: as individuals, as organizations, as a society, as a nation, and as a world. We’re still here. We still get up every day, get dressed, and roll into our day with many of the same demands, hopes, dreams, barriers, and possibilities. Yes, much has changed, but much remains the same.
Some of the macro difficulties of the pandemic are starting to fade as we realize that some variant of COVID is here to stay and that life goes on. Life must go on. The drama of it all is losing its punch as we go about the work of living our lives amid the normal struggles of an existence that makes no promises. We can only sustain our heightened sense of danger for so long and, pandemic or not, we must eventually find some kind of equilibrium with the world’s dangers, imperfections, and opportunities.
Amid all of this, we step into another calendar year, uncertainty and all, to take another shot at living our best life. The new year is such a natural break, here we take a breath to reflect on the previous 12 months, consider our victories and our losses, then work to recalibrate ourselves with a new attitude and new energy for the year to come. Was it a good year? What did I do well? Where do I need improvement?
This period of self-reflection and our corresponding vision for improvement is traditionally captured in a collection of resolutions that many start and then abandon when the energy departs, barriers re-emerge, or priorities change in the coming weeks. We often center our efforts on diet and exercise, two major areas of struggle for a wealthy society that can have anything at anytime.
Sometimes our resolutions focus on achievement. Perhaps we want to make changes in our career, go back to school, or get a promotion. Maybe we have financial goals such as earning more money, reducing debt, or saving more of income. Some of us set goals for specific experiences we want to have: vacations, exotic trips, mission trips, hunting excursions, or sky-diving for our special birthday.
These are all good things to contemplate. Now is a great time to consider them all. Today is a perfect day to take stock and look forward with a mind toward change.
Looking back over my 2021, I see a bit of it all. There was loss. There were wins. There was success and a bit of failure. There were opportunities taken and opportunities missed. There were goals achieved, goals abandoned, and goals unmet. There were good decisions and bad decisions. There were many good moments, a few bad moments, a few sad moments, and numerous lost moments. There were things I did and things I failed to do. I was predictably imperfect, mostly happy, generally fulfilled, sometimes sad, and frequently grateful.
However, as I consider what I want for 2022, my mind wanders to my lesser moments in 2021. Not the moments when I didn’t reach a business goal, close a deal, develop a brilliant idea, say something insightful, write something meaningful, or take the trip of a lifetime. My heart isn’t troubled by missing some workouts, eating one too many desserts, or not getting 8 hours of sleep every night. Though, those are all opportunities for improvement and worthy for refocused goal setting.
No, my biggest failures in 2021 weren’t about achievement, health, or loss, even though my record was not perfect in any of them. When I consider where I failed, it was more subtle, didn’t show up on a dashboard or scale, and possibly went (mostly) unnoticed. My biggest shortcomings were not about business decisions, showing up, making a difference, or even effort. However, they were about self.
What was it? Pride. I’m not talking about the kind of pride that shows up in obvious arrogance, though there may have been some of that too. I’m referring to the pride of needing to be right. The pride of it needing to be about me. The pride of desire for my own ends. The pride of treating some relationships as transactional. The pride of talking more than listening. The pride of judgment.
Our greatest strengths always have the capacity to become our greatest weaknesses and they are a terribly demanding responsibility. We are called to be good stewards of all of our gifts, and yet, we are also called to restrain them when they take us toward the edge of our worst self. That grasping, impatient, place where we want what we want when we want it and how we want it. That place where others become a means to our end or a barrier to our desires so we demonize, ignore, or bully them.
Pride grips us all. Pride holds us back. Pride impedes our best self. Pride isn’t always obvious, gets rationalized through a thousand different disguises, and insidiously inserts itself into the fabric of everything we do if we aren’t alert. Pride whispers to us constantly.
For this year’s resolutions, how about a bit more humility? How about seeking first to understand, then to be understood? How about approaching every conversation as if the other person knows something I don’t? How about seeing the dignity and value in every human being? How about approaching potential transactions with the intention to give value first? How about looking for win/win opportunities? How about not being afraid to admit a mistake or to forgive those of others?
We can do better. I can do better.
Want to make 2022 an amazing year? Then make resolutions that matter. Yes, eat better, exercise, and read more. Stop smoking, drink less, and sleep more. Please take care of yourself. However, don’t forget church, prayer, or honest self-reflection. Then, focus outward. Love more. Give more. Show up more. Start at home and then take it to the office, hospital, school, or factory. Be better for other people. Treat then as you want to be treated. Don’t use, manipulate, ignore, belittle, bully, or slander anyone. Resolve to be better. Resolve to be good.
Also, resolve to forgive yourself, and others, when you fail, stumble, slide, or disappoint. Own it. If it was the other, own your part in it. Offer restitution for your failings. Offer mercy to those who fail you. Then, move forward.
2022 is here. Let’s do it differently. Let’s do it better. Let’s start with ourselves, let’s start today. And when the inevitable happens, let’s pick ourselves, or those we love, up and start again. We can do this. We need to do this.
Thank you for another year of walking with me. Thank you for the chance to share. Thank you for forgiving the oversights, misspellings, flaws in logic, missed opportunities, and the pride when it’s reared its ugly head. Most of all, thanks for caring enough to show up anyway.
May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace! May the Lord protect and guide you through 2022.