This week is magical, the week between Christmas and New Year’s. You’re fresh off the high of seeing the wonder, the twinkle, the joy, and the appreciation of Christmas on the faces of everyone you come in contact with. Whether it is face-to-face, over a family Zoom call, or, best of all, on the faces of little children. You can’t help but feel a little lighter and a little warmer during Christmas and just after. I have come to find there are two camps of people during this week. The first camp takes this week as an extension of the holidays. They lounge, watch movies, play with, or otherwise enjoy, the gifts they had gotten and use the time to recharge. Some people do this at work too. They don’t take vacation days but they do treat it as a little work vacation where they spend more time socializing than completing actual work. There is an entirely separate camp who uses this week as a jump start, a launch pad for all of their resolutions. They make all the lists and set the intentions and search out a new and exciting goal setting method that they’ll try out on January 1st.
I will admit I have been in both camps. I have spent days at work sharing coffee breaks with teammates that lasted an hour or more. I’ve sat in meetings where the actual topic took 10 of the scheduled 90 minutes. I have also gotten so much done during this week. I have researched healthy meal plans, organized closets and kitchens, and completed whole projects at work when there were no distractions. I enjoyed both options and never regretted either, and yet, I would suggest there is a third choice that combines the two in a healthy way, allowing you to recharge and accomplish something worthy while also leaving margin enough to fit some of your preferred style.
So, before we race toward the new year, the celebrations and the goal setting, I implore you to reflect. Take some time to intentionally consider the year behind you and ready yourself for what is to come in the year ahead. The way I am going to recommend you do this is through a process I use on a weekly basis at work, but with one added step for the year. We call this OLSA.
Where were you this time last year? Right off the bat you get the extra step. Obviously if you’re doing this exercise regularly you don’t need to remind yourself where you were last Monday, but at the close of a year, I think we need a reminder. Where were you, physically and mentally? It helps to start with physically and if you can’t really remember, try using your camera roll as a prompt. Did you have an addition to the family? Were you gleefully making plans for what the year would bring? Were you frustrated with a stage in your marriage? Was work in a slump and you were looking for a way out? Or maybe you were killing it at the office. You could have been wedding planning for months at that point. Were you hoping to have a baby of your very own? What activities were you doing and how were you reacting to it?
Once you have that clearly in your mind, we’ll walk through the full year. We won’t walk through it chronologically but by using OLSA as our guide. What is OLSA you may ask (besides a very fun word to call out with a Spanish flare) it stands for obstacles, lessons, suggestions, and achievements.
What obstacles did you encounter? Now, I know this question seems obvious, especially this year. What obstacles didn’t we encounter? Truly think about it though, be specific. What challenges did you face? Was there illness for you or your family? Job loss? Loss of loved ones? Did you face obstacles in your relationships? With your mental health? What were they? What caused them?
What lessons did you learn? Sometimes these are concrete areas where you received education, I obtained my associates degree, but much more often they are tied to the obstacles. For example, maybe you learned not to take time with your grandparents for granted after losing one that was so special to you. Maybe you learned that you can save a lot of money by never getting your hair cut and dyed or that you’re a stress snacker which this year caused significant weight gain (This section isn’t called fixed it mind you, just recognition of the lesson learned). What sort of things did you learn about yourself, those around you, your house, your work, your team, anything?
What suggestions would you give yourself? Now that you’ve thought through all that you’ve faced and everything you’ve learned, would you give yourself any advice? Maybe you would go back and tell yourself that lunch with a friend matters so say yes more often and don’t squander it. Maybe you would suggest some grace and remind yourself that you’re doing well and your priorities are solid so be gentle, you will weather any storm. Maybe you’d tell last years’ January version of you that those last 15lbs don’t matter, buy the bathing suit and take the trip now, enjoy.
What did you accomplish? This is always the one to end with. It reminds you you are strong and you’re running your race passing mile markers all along the way. Maybe you taught your children, something you would have previously said you weren’t capable of. Maybe your marriage is stronger than ever or maybe you were finally shown just how toxic it was and made a decision to turn a new page. Maybe you’ve grown in your work and persevered through all of the obstacles. Maybe you made other’s feel loved and that they mattered. Maybe you just continued living, and in the face of everything, that is pretty dang good.
My recommendation in this is to take each of these one day at a time. Reflection is best done slowly and with margin. If you rush it you’re likely not getting the full benefit. Leaving your mind open all day long to the page allows for so many more opportunities to add to it. Now, I am a big proponent of you doing you and it’s not nice to should on people so I won’t. If you want take an hour a day and journal it all out, amazing, do that. If you want to muse about all 5 on your 20 minute commute, great, do that. Some reflection is better than no reflection. Even if you are really on board and want to take every evening to consider, journal, meditate on, pray about, and discuss in a small group setting, there is still margin of the other two days in the week to find your meal plans, organize your closet, watch your movies, and eat all the left over Christmas cookies. So enjoy, add your own flare, and consider how far you’ve come!