- Posted by Terra Winston
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“Happy End of the Year!” – Said no one, ever.
We all love beginnings, which is why the New Year is such a magical time for most cultures. Beginnings are full of hope, potential, and redemption. They are clean slates that enable us to dream big with no risk. Beginnings still have that new car smell.
But before you pop the bubbly to usher in the New Year, please allow me to plead the case for that great unsung hero, The Ending.
Endings may be a bit crumpled and worn around the edges, but they can be so much more powerful than beginnings. The end of a painful experience gives us much needed relief while the end of a pleasant one leaves us with lifelong memories. No matter how promising a movie starts, the ending determines if it will be deemed a masterpiece or a disappointment. Victories are won, reputations are made, and legends are crafted out of endings. And even the saddest of endings, the ones that seem almost unbearable, serve to deepen our connection to humanity and reveal truths about ourselves.
Even if you don’t believe me (and you should) it doesn’t matter – endings are going to happen anyway, whether you like it or not. Instead of trying to rush to the next shiny beginning, why not pause briefly to squeeze every drop of learning before you move on?
Whether you are closing a project, quitting a job, or leaving a relationship, there are a few questions that you can use to reflect upon your experience:
1. What am I proud of?
We rarely take the time to celebrate all of the big and small things that go right. Go ahead, brag a bit. Did you stand up for yourself in a situation when you would normally give in? Did you keep your composure during a particularly stressful moment? Did you win a battle even if you didn’t win the war?
2. What values did I choose to honor?
To be an authentic leader in any arena, we must be sure to align our everyday actions with our core values. Sadly, this is easier said than done when we are under pressure. Take a moment to identify some of your values (freedom, creativity, collaboration, fairness, adventure, achievement, independence, etc.). Which ones did you best honor during this experience? Did you honor a value of fun by initiating team happy hours? Did your value of perseverance come in handy as you got into shape? Often the things that are most satisfying about an experience are those that are connected to our values.
3. What risk do I wish I had taken?
Endings bring clarity. The options that seemed so risky in the heat of the moment can look quite tame in retrospect. Could you have been more vulnerable? Should you have volunteered to take the lead? What might have happened if you left your comfort zone? Most of us can afford to take a few more risks and enjoy the deep rewards they could bring.
4. What did I enjoy the most?
Be very specific. You didn’t just love the gelato on vacation; you delighted in the salty-sweet taste of pralines suspended in ribbons of caramel. Remembering the details enables you to re-live the good stuff. More importantly, you now have a clue about how to recreate the happy feeling. You may not be able to run off to Italy on a whim, but a quest to find the yummiest praline in town could be an inexpensive way to find a little joy.
With this year quickly coming to a close, now is a perfect time for you to stick the landing. Make all of your blood, sweat, and tears count so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes. Get your mind ready to make this next year the best one ever. And 365 days from now, we’ll see how you did.
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