The last week of the year is my favorite week of the year. Between Christmas and New Year, I hit the reset button and recalibrate my life. During this time, I leverage eight practices that help me wrap up one year and start the new year right.
The first practice is to slow my pace. The holidays can be hectic, not to mention the pace of life itself. Once Christmas is over, Karen and I intentionally slow the pace of our lives. We rest. We don’t load up the calendar with lots of activities. It’s a time to mentally, emotionally and physically slow down. This week offers flex and spontaneity. This slowed pace creates a greater sense of peace, and it clears my mind to better leverage the other seven practices.
The second practice is to recharge relationally. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are always spent with our families. We protect this time, and we consider it a relational tradition. The day after Christmas, we don’t go anywhere. It’s unrushed, unplanned, un-everything. In general, the week after Christmas is relationally refreshing. A couple of years ago we went to Disneyland, but most years we just enjoy time together at home and around the city.
It’s easy for leaders to get so focused on where they’re going that they never stop to express thanks for where they’ve been. I like to create a “gratitude list” during the last week of the year. It’s an opportunity to celebrate wins and to rejoice in God’s goodness for what He has done throughout the year. My gratitude list this year includes 25 expressions of thanks. Number one on the list is that I survived my heart and pulmonary failure.
Next, I like to set aside time for spiritual and mental renewal. I’ll spend extra time in Scripture and prayer, and let my soul be refreshed. This week I’ve spent time unpacking Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” To “seek first” is to make a single-minded priority—a first and foremost habit—to pursue a life fully submitted to Christ’s rule and authority, and to conform to Christ’s standard of character and holiness. When this happens, God provides the things that He knows we need.
I also use the “renew” practice to read a book or two that challenges my thinking and refreshes my soul. A couple of years ago I read Replenish: Leading From a Healthy Soul by Lance Witt. This year I read Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro and Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. These books offer wisdom to stay in the game, remain spiritually and emotionally fit, and focus on the most important issues.
The fifth practice is to reflect over the past year, mine for lessons and glean key insights that will help me make the next year better. This is a great time to ask yourself questions like:
a.What observations have I made from the last 12 months?
b. What changes do I need to make in the new year?
c. What do I need to stop or delegate?
d. What do I need to start?
e. Where do I need to invest time?
f. What needs my attention?
g. Where do I need to grow?
h. What will give me the greatest return on my investment?
Reflective thinking is a valuable practice that yields dynamic insight for the future. Without reflection, we live in a constant state of reactionary panic.