One minute, two minutes, three minutes…. five hundred and twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. By the end of the year, that is how many minutes we would have spent – living, working, sleeping, and doing whatever else we have been up to. So, what have you been up to this year? It is good to take stock at the end of the year. To look back and to review how things went. To be grateful for the victories, to put into perspective the lessons, and to move forward with renewed strength. Whilst I do not believe there is anything inherent in the 1st of January that makes a person “new”, I believe a new year gives you the opportunity for a fresh start. A new year can start on the first of March for you or on your birthday. A new year will only be new if you do the work. Otherwise, like a mentor of mine says, “In life, if you don’t learn the lessons, you repeat the class”.

When we carry out assessments of this nature, we quickly begin to think about achievements in terms of job milestones, awards, academic certifications, promotions, etc. These are all great indicators of progress, but how about we look at progress from a different perspective? Looking at it from a personal more internal viewpoint? Becoming rather than “be-doing”?

In a very competitive world, it is so common and dare I say, natural for most of us to focus on what we have achieved that can be shared with others and in most cases, “in comparison” to others. But by focusing on “becoming” rather than “be-doing”, you turn the spotlight on yourself. For instance, you “bagged” an additional degree. Wonderful! Going to school as an adult is hard work and takes a lot of blood, sweat, and toil. Instead of just seeing it as “bagged” and celebrating the fact that now you can roll with the “masters”, you can view it more inwardly as an achievement in becoming more knowledgeable, more disciplined, and more focused on your personal development and growth. That realization however starts with your “why”. Why did you start in the first place? If the focus was not on becoming a better version of yourself but rather on getting the degree because everyone else has one, then of course the celebration will be based on aesthetics. But there is more to academic laurels than the lovely pictures.

You can also look back on the year and assess the progress you have made with your personality. What traits have you built? Again, who have you become? What have you achieved about your well-being? Have you been able to pay more attention to your mental health for instance? Have you been able to develop a more healthy lifestyle rather than constantly jumping on fad diets and thirty-day fitness challenges? Who are you becoming? What version of yourself have you become?

In January this year, in the company of a wonderful group of women, I worked on my first vision board. Before this year, I had always written down my goals. I have been doing that since I was eighteen. I would write my thoughts, and my ambitions, and journal about my observations on life and the world around me. But creating a vision board, the build-up to it, the thinking process, finding the right images, the right words, etc. made the process more introspective and impactful for me.

One of the things I put on my vision board for 2023 was to be more “present”. Being an ambitious high achiever means I am constantly in the middle of one project or the other and I work hard. I can work all day. I recently casually told a consultant working with me on a project, “You can send me the file later tonight, I will look at it at dawn and get back to you. You don’t have to wait until morning”. A colleague of mine was present, and he laughed. “Why, what’s funny?”, I asked. His response made me realize that even though I have worked hard to ensure I am not unduly engaging my team members outside of working hours, this is not the reality. So, anyone who has worked closely with me would have received a message from me at an odd hour. He laughed because he had recently been in a conversation with a former colleague of mine who had told him about me emailing in the wee hours of the morning. They were comparing notes and evidently, not much had changed. Maybe I will do better in the new year. Possibly keep the emails in drafts and then shoot them off when I get to the office. There is just something about the silence of dawn that is so energizing for me. Fresh ideas flow seamlessly. But that is no reason to send someone a WhatsApp message about work at 2 am! (note to self).

This trait also means that my mind is constantly working on multiple things. I could be at home with my family but working through an emergency at work over text or email, trying to unravel a situation, or thinking about the best way to execute a project. So, I put “BE PRESENT” as a goal for this year. Not present in body but absent in mind but present in both mind and body. Whilst I cannot say I am one hundred percent on track, I have moved significantly towards the goal of being less busy, more productive, and more present. In focusing on this aspect of my life, I have become a better, calmer, more grounded, productive person.

“Travel & See” was also featured on my vision board. I travel a lot for work and have done so for most of my career. However, I realized I have been to places but didn’t know those places because those visits were always done in a quick dash. So this year, I determined to “see” the place I went to. To experience them not just as a target on a dashboard but to really experience the cities and explore even if for a brief moment from the perspective of a tourist. I made progress in this regard also!

A good place to start is to ask yourself, who have I become this year? What have I focused on? Because you are more than the laurels society ascribes to you. I would like to suggest that you take some time off to reflect on this and plan toward who you want to become in the new year and the years after that. By all means, enroll in a course if that helps you become a better professional but try focusing on being a better version of yourself rather than setting out to be better than someone else. Are you a better parent? A better more empathetic leader, a more grounded friend who makes time to be a shoulder, an ear, and a fresh pair of eyes. Who are you becoming?

This is a life hack that has helped me over the years, you can try it too. Turn the spotlight on you…the person in the mirror.

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