Over drinks the other night, it broke my heart to see a friend and colleague tear up--especially after we were just laughing about how ridiculous our shared client assignment had become. She's so upbeat and positive normally that it was jarring to see her sad. I felt her frustration and could see the disappointment in her face. She told me that she'd just had her annual review and wasn't getting promoted. She was understandably upset.

With just days to go until the end of the year, there is often much to celebrate. It's also a time when many of us reflect on our accomplishments and hold them up to our most personal measuring sticks. Was it a good year? That is often one of the toughest question to answer.

On paper, the facts might appear simple and straightforward. In reality, these self-assessments are more nuanced. You're so eager but are feeling stuck. You're so smart but are feeling unsure. You're so capable but are shutting down without clarity about what to do next. An internal debate might have started a long time ago, and these competing thoughts are sapping your focus.

I totally get the frustration that results from being in one life stage for longer than you'd ever imagined you would be. Your dreams are taking their sweet time, and now you're wondering if they will ever be more than dreams. What were those dreams were to begin with? What was a hurdle at work now seems to be rippling out into challenges with friends, getting a better home, and finding love.

And the funny thing (definitely not the ha-ha kind) is that everything is fine. Actually, you'd say it's good in the scheme of life. You're healthy, and you have a job, and you're grateful for those. You just know that things could be better. Something is missing, and you aren't quite sure what or how to get it.

I "get" this internal debate because I've had it myself. Just like you, I don't have it all figured out and am not past having points of confusion or self-doubt. In fact, I regularly share those same feelings. Yet I see something in this moment that maybe you aren't seeing. It's how truly amazing you are and how much you have to offer. Listen to a few of the truisms about realizing our potential:

  • You're limited by your own personal experience. We all are. Hearing someone else's experiences provides perspective. Perspective is life and sanity-saving. It's the drive behind important societal movements like the It Gets Better Project and Stars- They're Just Like Us!
  • Other people's views of your strengths and weaknesses are a data point--not a "be all, end all" description of reality. Internalizing positive or negative input from someone else is dangerous. It is a feral pet you can keep, but it must stay in its crate. Peek in now and then to see how it's doing, but don't let it run loose.
  • Goals give you the gift of focus. You have to have goals. Not 45 of them, but a few big, important ones.
  • Every one of your goals can be made real with a plan. And planning doesn't have to be hard or time consuming. Yet, without a plan, you will wander an ultimately unsatisfying path back to exactly where you are right now.
  • Procrastination, disorganization, and distraction aren't unchangeable personality traits. They're behavioral traps you fall into when you're uncertain about what to do next. These traps can be avoided with simple, repeatable strategies that you customize according to what works best for you.

Given these truisms, I've made one of my goals real with a plan: to focus my writing in the coming year on the inspiration and encouragement needed to make sure that your next year is your best year yet.