As I’ve said in this space before, I use my birthday really to not “do” much of anything. Well, actually today on a bright, sunny, Chicago day, after a terrific morning on the home front, we took the dogs to the dog beach in Belmont Harbor. Found out that one of the dogs, Lexington, is much more curious than the other, Dori, about getting into the water. I digress.
Usually, though, it’s a day of reflection about the previous year, and a day of setting goals for the following year. My wife and I set our goals as a team, or couple, or partnership, every October. But I always use some portion of my birthday to think about very specific, very action-oriented goals too. I got into this habit when I was a kid playing competitive tennis, and have tried to keep consistent on this every year since. It has seemed to always work, so why fix what isn’t broken.
Part of the deal is that I keep these specific goals to myself; only me and my laptop know about them (and my wife, of course, who collaborates on them next month). But I think in general I’d like to see more people adopt their birthdays as the day of setting and resetting their lives. A coworker of mine, who knows my yearly practice, sent me a note and termed it a great “power-up” time. I liked that phrase immensely, and hadn’t heard it put that way before she said that. But typically, most people have their birthdays and think about how they’re a year older or a year further along in life and how time may have slipped away for “xyz” or whatever.
I just don’t buy it. I’m not a motivational speaker and certainly never will be one. But, birthdays mark one’s real New Year not one based off what a calendar tells you. They are not only “your” unique day, but they (should) provide you with perspective. Or maybe, some time to think. The way I’ve thought of it is…how many times a year do you have loved ones, friends, associates, and everyone else in your circle reaching out wishing you well? Telling you to have a “happy” day? On a simple “mojo” scale, birthdays are off the charts!
It’s been one year since I didn’t work or think about work in some capacity. Today, like every year on September 29th, I did (or didn’t do, I guess) precisely that. Which usually works better when it falls on a Saturday. Phew. September 30th is a whole new day and a whole new year. My 38th. Is it 37 years down? Or is it hopefully many more years going forward starting with this next one? Depends on your outlook.
The reality is that birthdays make one remember the decisions they’ve made for better or worse over the course of time, over the course of the last year. They also help one realize that the next year starts tomorrow with a clean slate. New Year’s Resolutions made on December 31st each year? For suckers. On your next birthday, take some time to celebrate your journey to this point and figure out where YOU want YOUR journey to go for 364 days. Invite people into your process. Invite feedback where it makes sense.
If you’re down on this methodology or practice of setting goals, think of it this way: if all else fails, you get to do the same exercise again in another year. And you get to do it on a day when everyone is wishing you success and happiness, not while the rest of the world is making hollow resolutions and promises.