December traditions of the nerdy kind
Updated: May 14, 2020
Like many of us, I love the countdown to Christmas and the New Year.
The reasons are manifold—the celebration of Jesus' birth, an inexplicable joie de vivre, spiced beverages galore, sparkling lights and tinsel, cozy conversations with friends, the promise of new things to come.
One of my favorite December traditions is to take stock of what is past and lay the groundwork for what is ahead. I've been doing this since I was about 12—way before I had much to contemplate. But it's always been a clarifying exercise; a clearing of the mental slate.
Was it Socrates who said that 'the unexamined life is not worth living'? We look back on the past; not to revive the dead, but to learn from it. We live in a noisy age and accumulate psychological clutter daily. Unless we're intentional about making time for a 'review and release', it's pretty easy to carry an internal backlog of outdated thought patterns, gripes and unhealthy behaviors from year to year.
So, without further ado, here are a few ways to take stock and plan ahead this December:
Year in Review: Look back upon photos, journals, important dates and key events in 2019. What battles did you fight this year? What victories did you win? What adventures did you go on? What new friendships did you nurture? How have your relationships evolved—with people and with God? What milestones have you reached? What have you learned? What will you leave behind?
Decade in Review: It's a great feeling to be on the cusp of a new decade. Ten years is a solid chunk of time. Enough for most of us to go through pretty significant changes—in education, career, travel, marriage, children, health and well-being, spirituality, life and death. Why not examine the same questions above, through the lens of the past 10 years?
Habit Tracker: In December, I like to look back on my habit trackers and see how I've fared and I also prep a new one for the year ahead. Here's a simple example of a tracker you can create in your journal or 'go-to' book. I think the key thing is to keep it light and manageable at first —start with only the most essential behaviors that you want to reinforce and only branch out when you're ready. For example, I only tracked 2 habits in 2019: Exercise and Bible Reading.
Mood Tracker: I first came across the concept of mood tracking in the bullet journaling community. The idea is to develop a colour code for predominant moods or states of being and colour it in daily/weekly. Here's a good example. What you get at year-end is a fantastic visualization of some pretty personal 'big data'. How often are you sick? How often are you angry or stressed? What explains those patterns? What is your predominant mood/state of being? I've found it a great way of paying attention to warning signals in your mind and body while also rectifying any streaks of superficial grouchiness. If you haven't started this, now's the time to prep a mood tracker for 2020.
Prayer & Gratitude Diary: For those of faith, I've found great value in chronicling the prayers and petitions I've made of God, as well as all His answers to my prayers. So often, it feels like God is silent when we need Him the most or we're liable to forget all that He's done for us. That's why it's amazing to look back on prayers answered and express our gratitude afresh. This is also a good time to examine our hearts for new desires and petitions we want to bring before God.
10-year Goal Setter: This is a forward-looking exercise that I'll be implementing for the first time this year. It's largely inspired by that assertion that 'most people overestimate what can be done in one year and underestimate what can be done in ten years'. The statement was made in relation to technological change and I've heard it attributed to everyone from Arthur C. Clarke to Bill Gates—but it makes good sense in a personal context.
So there you have it—December traditions. Nerd level: 5000. Enjoy!