It’s New Year’s Eve. At last! The dawn of 2021. The swan song of 2020.
Make that the much-maligned, despised, and sorrowful 2020. I don’t know what you’ll be up to today. But, as for me? I’ll be locked away in my little abode cleaning and organizing — and getting ... ready. For whatever. I’ll particularly focus on my desk. It’s become a personal tradition, like year three of it, to completely clear off my desk, except for the lamp and a maybe a candle, and to pray over it as the New Year rings in.
I imagine that there will be some years when I won’t be home for such ceremony. But, I hope that, wherever I am in the world, I’ve first cleaned off my desk so that the New Year will catch it as a blank slate, ready to be filled with hopeful, joyful, meaningful, plentiful, exciting, encouraging and illuminating work. And so that there is room for me to properly address any problems and challenges I might have. One thing I have learned is that physical space often correlates with brain space — the physical environment affects the cerebral one.
To be honest, I don’t calibrate the two of them enough. But I get an immediate dopamine reward as well as a brain reboot the minute I clean off that desk. Unfortunately I have a tendency to immediately busy up such spaces again. My computer desktop is actually no different. For folks who are the opposite in comportment, my computer desktop would probably break them out in hives just looking at it.
Methodically cleaning off my desk right now is about personal ceremony and personal hope. It’s about generating and maintaining enthusiasm and excitement now more than ever in leaving behind one year and heading into another.
If the departing hard year — the year of COVID-19, a very nasty presidential election and economic chaos – has reinforced nothing else, it’s that the only constant is change. That there is always the need to be fleet of foot and to pivot because life, circumstances, authorities, nature – SOME force – will pull the rug out from under you basically when you least expect it. We often live our lives in flinch mode waiting for such times. Cruelly, they tend to happen not when we might be ready but rather when we’re relaxed.
Nevertheless, I’m ready to relax again. Hopefully, I will be ready to relax but pivot at any given moment.
So, I’m getting ready as best I can. 2021 is a blank slate. None of us is promised anything, certainly not life itself. But whatever time resources we have, there’s so much we can do with them.
Here are my Top 5 strategies for kicking off the New Year with creative energy:
Clear some space physically and mentally. You can do it ceremoniously before the New Year dawns, as I am. But if you don’t do it then, the year will be brand new for all of January — and even some of February. So you have time. Cleaning up some of the clutter is better than cleaning none of it!
Take stock of the departing year. Look for the silver linings. The tragedies and disappointments are usually the squeakiest wheels. They’re obnoxious, truth be told. So do some work and look for the glimmers of hope and the outright beacons. They’re there! I’ve been tracking mine all year as a lifeline. Look for the strides you may have made in spite of the challenges.
We’ve all no doubt heard this song before, but it bears replay: Try not to be so hard on yourself. If there were EVER time for grace, it’s now. We say it to each other often, but then we can turn around and still be really hard on ourselves. There’s a balance in there that must be struck. You don’t want to be punishing, but you do want to be realistic, reflective and revising toward better.
No matter how ugly and disjointed it may look on the page, jot down some sort of plan that you can come back to at the end of the year. People, of course, set resolutions at this time of year. I’m thinking of something more overarching, like a mini-business plan for your life. I find old to-do lists of things that seemed so dramatically pressing and sometimes or even impossible at the time, tasks that I thought would leave teeth marks in my ass. But most of them look so tame and docile in hindsight. I got through them. Set a plan and gauge it along the way, including at next year's end. It'll give you needed info!
Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
So as you plan, you can do so using what’s in your rearview mirror as you specify projections for what you want. It’s reinforcement. It gives you someplace to aim. It’s like a prayer. It’s worth it to ask for things out loud as an exercise. To commit them to paper. Have the audacity to ask yourself first for permission to do these things. Ask yourself for the guts and courage. And then you can, in turn, have the guts and courage to ask others as needed. Sometimes you won’t need help, but sometimes you certainly will. Asking strategically is very empowering. Have an end game for each ask. Don’t waste them — even when it’s yourself. You count!
A Chicago radio station general manager I was interviewing once for a newspaper feature article, gave me $20 out of her own pocket and told me to go and buy a book she gifted regularly to her sales staff, “The Aladdin Factor,” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. It’s all about having the courage to ask for what you want. I think I may revisit it again as an exercise. In some ways it’s a remedial tool and can take you back to basics when you lose parts of the art of asking. Yes, there is an art to it!
Just as you’re planning all of these goal-oriented things in your career and personal life, dare to plan out some good times. Sheer fun! A trip you want to take. A museum you want to visit. Something you want to do with your siblings. A fun surprise you want to plan for your Mama just so you can see the light in her eyes. A hobby you want to start. Or buying some new toy for yourself, like that guitar you’ve been long wanting to play.
I put this step here for balance. Sometimes we forget to balance all the hardcore work stuff with plain old fun for fun's sake. I think now more than ever, we’ll need this step because of the year we’ve all had, where we’ve been ground to a standstill essentially due to the pandemic — most of us at least.
This is the perfect place to stop, then, and bid you the most exciting, accomplished and fun-filled 2021 allowed by law! Try not to get arrested! Unless, of course, doing so might change the world for the better. It’s about the long game and the end game!