By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

Well Be Wisdom

The holiday season is here, and the New Year will arrive before you know it. This is a time when many of us will connect with family and friends and talk about the year that has gone by. Even without such gatherings, it is natural as the calendar year comes to an end to look back on what has happened. It is a time that invites reflection.

For me, this annual exercise of reflection has usually been confined to conversations around the dinner table or discussions with my wife as we travel to visit family. Those conversations typically lead to planning the next gathering. The concept of reflecting on the past as a starting point in planning for the future seems self-evident. Probably most of us have been engaged in strategic planning sessions in our work, but I confess that most of my personal life planning has been much less organized and focused. I have set broad goals and have inconsistently written down strategies to attain them. Even on those occasions when I undertook more careful planning it was usually confined to the work-connected aspects of life.

This week, an enlightened colleague handed me a printed copy of an outline for life-planning. When the freshly printed and neatly folded booklet was thrust into my hands, my initial thought was that a 20-page booklet with blocks to fill in is the last thing I need at this frenetic time of year! But as I flipped through the pages, I was struck by how the domains of life that it addressed involved a much broader type of annual reflection than what I have done previously. I realized that my prior efforts at planning were heavily skewed toward one aspect of life.

This structured program, called YearCompass, can be downloaded from their website and is free. I decided I would give it a try over my holiday break. But this week, I went ahead and began with the first task. The starting point involves going through your calendar for the past year and noting important events, with an emphasis on family and social activities. As I walked through my 2022 calendar, I was delighted by recalling the dinners out with friends and the major life events (e.g., weddings, births) among friends and family. That joy stirred up by remembering those events heightened my awareness of the need to work a little bit harder next year to make more time for those activities that evoke delight.

There is really nothing dramatically new about this idea of using a structured reflection to drive planning for future action. Admittedly, it does take some time, but focusing on the positive aspects of the past and planning ways to spend more time and energy on those soul-restoring activities is a recipe for success and well-being.

I am looking forward to the time I have now set aside during my holiday break for continuing the process of review of 2022 and planning for a 2023 that I hope will include an even a larger portion of joy-filled activities. Perhaps you will also carve out a bit of time to plan for more joy in the year ahead.

December 16, 2022