It’s that time of year again. Time for us to look back at what we’ve accomplished this year. Time for us to look forward to what we want to accomplish next year. So today I want to talk about growth years and achievement years.
Achievement years are pretty self-explanatory. Those are the years that you’re kicking ass and taking names, crossing those big goals off your to-do list, and generally seeing things shake out as a result of your planning and hard work. Achievement years are the years when you have no difficulty listing what you’ve accomplished.
2016 was an achievement year for me. My husband and I bought our first house; we started rescuing and fostering animals for adoption; I started “going steady” with one client, because that client always had plenty of interesting, fulfilling work for me.
2017 kind of sucked, to be honest.
On every scale, from worldwide concerns to intensely personal ones, it was a year of trials and tribulations. We were blindsided by tragedies and worn down by inanities.
Business-wise, I’ll be brutally honest: I only made a thousand dollars this year. (Yep, you read that right.) That client who was giving me all the work I could handle in 2016 is no longer in the picture. And when things changed, I didn’t have potential clients waiting to work with me because in four years of working for myself, I’ve never done any marketing. (Don’t do this.)
Add in all the personal stuff that ate up so much of my time and energy, and…
Like I said, 2017 kinda sucked.
But there’s another way to think about it:
2017 was a growth year.
On the surface, it doesn’t look like I accomplished much at all. But when I look closer, I can see all the areas where I grew.
I flexed my writing muscles more than I have in years, by contacting my representatives on a regular basis and writing in-depth commentary on current events. I honed my research skills even further (because there was no shortage of things that needed to be researched). I learned so much about how our system of governance works (and doesn’t work) in Texas and in the US. I got involved in my community for the first time. I became a volunteer deputy voter registrar, and helped people all over my area register to vote. I (finally!) got around to all that dreadful marketing and networking stuff.
I sorted through and packed up more than three decades’ worth of stuff after my childhood home flooded during Hurricane Harvey. I provided emotional, logistical, technical, and administrative support for my parents, who have been displaced – in every sense of the word – by the storm. I saw my city, my state, and my country come together (at least for a little while) in the most beautiful, remarkable way.
I did a lot of (mostly unintentional) experimentation, and gained some valuable insights through trial and error. I learned more about my limits – often by exceeding them and paying the price for it. I repeatedly fought overwhelm, exhaustion, and depression…and I won every damned time.
I gained so much clarity on my priorities and my core values. I learned which of my habits and coping mechanisms are good for me and which ones are not. I figured out what works for me and what I need to change.
The way we frame things – even (or especially) in our own heads – is incredibly important. It’s easy to look at a year like the one I had and say “This year was awful and worthless. I got nothing but grief.” I’ve said exactly that…and you may have, too.
But take a closer, deeper look.
Where did you grow?
What new skills did you learn? What existing skills did you build on?
What did you learn about yourself, your loved ones, your city/state/country, your world?
The answers to these questions might just change your perspective.
Not every year is going to be an achievement year. And maybe not every year should be an achievement year. For most people, most years are a mixture of both. But having had a year that was pretty much all growth and no achievement, I think I’ve gained some insight on the subject. And this is what I’ve learned:
We have to look beyond the things that we easily recognize as achievements, and consider what helps drive those achievements – learning new things, building on what we know, making mistakes, overcoming adversity.
In a word, growth.
Growth makes achievement possible. And it does not always come in a form we expect (or enjoy). But we grow nevertheless.
So here’s to 2017. Thank you for helping me grow (often against my will). Now I’m ready for some achievements in 2018.