Tradition has it that the month of January was named for the Roman god Janus, a god of beginnings and transitions. Janus was classically depicted as having two faces or heads, one facing forward to the future, one looking backward at the past. According to Wikipedia, he was the god of "gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings." Whether the Romans actually associated him with this month or not (Roman almanacs indicate that the patron of the month may have been Juno), we've held onto this symbolism for the New Year for centuries.
Despite a hearty round of Auld Lang Syne, however, we're more likely to look forward than backward as we consider the year to come. We get caught up in making our resolutions, plans and goals -- and are equally likely to get caught up in the cycle of frustration that comes of adding the same resolutions and goals to our list that we've added in years past. So many things remain undone, so many projects are unfinished, or worse, have not even been begun. There's just so much to do!
And so, as the last champagne is drunk, we're very likely to look at the coming year as just one giant to-do list, a list that gets longer rather than shorter as time goes by. Resolutions and goals from previous years, still unfinished, get tacked onto the new projects and new goals of the coming year. Things keep piling on to the list, and very little seems to come off. If you're like me, you're probably looking at the months ahead and thinking, wow, I'm going to be busier than ever!
There may not be anything we can do about our to-do lists for the coming year. But there is one thing we can change, and that is "perspective." There's a reason why Janus is depicted with two faces. In our focus on moving forward, on planning, on making resolutions, on declaring that this is the year that we'll finally do this and finish that, we forget that there is also, in this time of new beginnings, the very important need to look backward as well.
In my household, we call it "looking back down the mountain." (I talked about this back in Climbing the Mountain - but it seems a good time to talk about it again.) During the year, we often feel as if we're climbing a mountain, struggling ever higher, focusing on this foothold and that achievement, always looking toward the next step and the next task. Periodically, my husband and I remind each other that it's time to stop, take a deep breath, and look back down the mountain. Look at how far we've come. Look at where we are. Look at the accomplishments that now lie behind us, rather than the never-ending list of tasks that always lies ahead.
That seems to me to be a good plan for the beginning of the year. Before diving into that year-long to-do list and those endless resolutions, take a moment to look back down your personal mountain. Take a look at how far you've come. Take a look at what you've done. Gaze upon your achievements, not your task list. Remind yourself of what you have accomplished -- and remind yourself that it matters.
How many blog posts did you write last year? How many articles? How many queries did you send out? Did you finally write that short story that you'd been thinking about for months? Was this the year you participated in NaNoWriMo? (Never mind whether you completed the novel -- rejoice that you signed up!) Even if you can't point to many completed projects, take a moment to acknowledge the many steps you have taken, in every area of life.
Whatever you did last year, I'm betting that you worked hard. You're probably going to work even harder next year. Hard work can be incredibly rewarding -- but only if you take the time to recognize the work that you've done, and recognize, as well, the rewards that you have reaped from it. Without that recognition, hard work becomes nothing more than drudgery -- with still more drudgery ahead of you.
So take a moment, as the year begins, to take a deep breath and look back down the mountain. Look how far you've come. Stop thinking, for just a moment, about how far you feel you still have to go. Think, instead, about all the steps and accomplishments that have brought you here, to the place where you are, right now, today. And then give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
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