At the end of every year, I do something a little bit different than the typical writing out of goals or year-end reflection. Instead, I think about all the FIRSTS that were encountered throughout the year. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea initially. I rather think it was a God-idea as I was struggling to find something good in my life at the time. All I know is I decided to think back on the previous twelve months and make a list of everything I had tried or done for the first time. When I was finished, there was a proud sense of satisfaction as I could tangibly see growth in my life.
That was nearly five years ago and it remains one of my favorite end-of-year/beginning-of-year activities. There’s something about seeing progress. If someone were to ask us how we have changed since the last year, most of the time we’d shrug and secretly wonder if we had made any progress at all. But as I’ve developed the habit of recording my FIRSTS, it has also developed the habit of remembering the growth in my life.
Confidence is built when we see progress. Even if it’s something really little like reading a different genre of book. The fact that we made an effort to expand our experiences, perceptions, relationships, or skills opens the door to more opportunities, healing, increased knowledge, and emotional maturation.
What We Remember, We Focus On
This last Thanksgiving, I traveled 12 hours to spend the week with family. One evening my mother gathered us around the television as we watched old videos of me dancing the Salsa and Merengue with my uncle, sister, and grandparents. There were lots of laughs in the video and presently in the room as we all had completely forgotten the moment; mainly because it was so out of character for our reserved family. While I enjoyed the video, I was embarrassed I had no memory of it at all. Even watching it did not jog any recollection of the moment.
As I pondered this, I had to admit that for many of us, including myself, we have a tendency to remember the negative. We brood on it and carry it forward into our present; and in the process, we inadvertently erase some of the good. But what if we’re more deliberate regarding the focus of our thoughts? Could it be that instead of rehashing arguments or annoyances in our mind, we mull over the blessings and, in the process, change our memories?
That’s exactly what making a list of FIRSTS does for me. This exercise keeps me focused on the growth and progress in my life. That doesn’t mean anything negative doesn’t make the list. In fact, in 2021, I lost two family members. Those losses made my list this year but so did a lot of great experiences. Overall, I can see that good or bad, joy or pain, there was progress. I look back and think, “Wow. I’ve come so far and did so much.”
MAKING YOUR LIST OF FIRSTS
Making a list of firsts is exactly that: thinking about anything you did for the first time during a specific time period. In my case, the previous year. No matter how little it is, write it down. Start with the most obvious and with each item you record you’ll think of something else. Even if you remember something in a few days or weeks, come back to this list and write it down. Then keep it in a notebook or journal. Come back to it regularly. Reflect on it. Thank God for all that He’s done in your life. Focus on remembering the growth in your life.
Once you write your list of FIRSTS, then you’re ready to think about setting goals. Consider this list as preparing the soil for the seed of goals you’ll be planting for the year. You’ll have better seed to work with and better soil. Soon, you’ll notice that your goals are much more specific and relevant – and you’ll start to accomplish more of them.
AN EXAMPLE OF FIRSTS
I know sometimes I need a little help in thinking of ideas, so below I’ve listed a few of my “firsts” from over the years to help you get started:
- Attended a large women’s conference
- Enrolled in a tap dance class
- Was a guest on a live interview
- Bought a kayak
- Paid coaching client
- Took a Hebrew class
- Served on a Board of Directors
- Moved into a lake house
- Met someone I admired (public figure)
- Became an empty-nester
- Ordered my first custom couch
- Someone bought me a new computer
- Wrote a book (unpublished)
- Had a baptism in our hot tub
- Christmas at Silver Dollar City
- Vacationed in a log cabin with the entire family
- Visited Gaitlanburg
- First employee
- Met a new friend on social media
- Went to a writing seminar
These are just a few ideas of items that made their way on my FIRSTS lists over the years. Others are far more personal or wouldn’t make sense without explanation so I haven’t shared them here. Again, think of as much as possible. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ve accomplished this year. What will be on your list?