My social media feed has been filled with lists and photos of personal decades in review, commemorating the start of 2020. While it may strike some as an exercise in braggadocio, taking time to think about and list out your personal decade in review is an extremely useful exercise. Not only does it help frame and celebrate your past, but it can also shape the future and ensure that your time and energy are aligned with your values and goals.
In reviewing a decade, we get the chance to examine how we spent our most valuable resource: time. Time once spent is gone forever, so we must be intentional with it. What did we spend time doing that was memorable and valuable? What things do we not remember, because they didn’t actually matter? For me, the time most profitably spent was time traveling with my husband, investing in new friendships that continue to inspire and sustain me, working long hours as a resident to build my invaluable knowledge base, going to therapy after suffering a major head trauma, and grieving during my struggle with infertility. That time was not always fun, but it was time that I needed. Time that I wasted was spent worrying about my superiors’ perceptions of something I said or did or whether I was liked, or questioning whether I was qualified to apply for a promotion or ask for a raise. Reflecting on how I spent my time allows me to figure out how best to invest my time in 2020, and which tasks and distractions I can let go of.
Reviewing the past decade allows us to bask in our accomplishments. It is so hard to see the progress we have made, and the goals we have achieved when we look through the daily lens because all of it is so incremental. With the decade lens the achievements are monumental. In the last ten years, I got married and built a foundation for an unbreakable partnership through hard work and counseling, through that space my husband and I built a loving family with two children. Professionally, I finished residency, then fellowship and took a significant leadership role in my department, and then with the arrival of my twins, took a step away (and specifically not down) from leadership, and invested some of that energy into leading my family. Now with my children starting school, I am slowly reinvesting not only into leadership in my work, but also in my community. We spend so much of our time thinking about what we haven’t done yet and where we fall short that we don’t cherish all that we have accomplished. Celebrating our successes can fuel us to be excited about our future and remind us that our consistency and the incremental steps we take each day will lead us to the monumental.
We can also remember all the hardship and fears we faced. 2010 was the worst year of my life. The day after my wedding I suffered a devastating head trauma that left my new husband and family fearing for my life. I lived in a state of constant fear and wanted to throw in the towel with my marriage before it had even really started. As I faced those challenges with my fearless husband head on, we moved into the world of infertility with its grief and long nights of tears. We finally had our twins after five years and then coped with the challenges of our infant son having five visits to the operating room in his first year, in the midst of us negotiating how to be parents to two brand new humans. Knowing I weathered these storms reminds me I am resilient, and I have grit, and not to get stuck in my fears, but move forward in faith in myself and the future. As I plan to embark on new professional ventures, I know that fear is just part of the process.
We can also reflect on our relationships. The Harvard Study of Adult Development tells us that the quality of our relationships is the single most important predictor of our happiness. In the past decade, I have had amazing mentors and colleagues who have become some of my closest friends. Two of the three most important relationships in my life didn’t even exist in 2010; now I cannot imagine my life without them. I have also lost friends, some just to time and place, others because those friendships no longer fit, and others to neglect. This experience with the dynamic quality of relationships reminds me to not feel guilty about taking time to maintain and invest in relationships, both professional and personal.
As I sit to reflect, I also try to remember who I was at the beginning of the decade and what I would have predicted for myself. In 2010, I could never have imagined the richness and joy of my life now: being a mother, having an incredibly fulfilling career, owning our beautiful first home in the city we love, having travelled all over the world (including a 5-day backpacking trek), and being able to hold a plank for two minutes. Some of these things I didn’t even know I was physically capable of. This last part of the decade in review is the most fun because it reminds us that we don’t know what our futures hold, and that we must allow ourselves to dream and create. I encourage you to review your past decade, to reflect on how you spent your time, on your accomplishments, on the challenges you overcame, and on your relationships. And then, when you are done with that, start to dream. What will you do with your next decade?