Well, here we are, the final blog for this year. I hope that if you celebrated the Christmas holiday, it was merry and bright. I also hope you got the greatest Christmas gift in the world: something you liked.

Why is that the greatest Christmas gift? Because if you like it, it means you don’t have to return it!

Americans return a lot of gifts. According to the New York Times, they returned almost $260 billion dollars of gifts in 2014 alone.

If you’re a business owner, returns can be a bad thing – or a good thing. If someone comes into your shop to return a gift, that’s money you’re losing. But if that person then heads back into the store to find something better, that’s money you’re making.

The value of a return depends on your perspective.

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared with you about the need for reflection. We’ve paused to examine both relationships and responsibilities, because who you spend time with and what you spend time doing are the primary factors in determining the return you see for your efforts.

So today, in the final blog of 2016, I want to help you take a look at those returns, so you can figure out where you have room to grow in 2017.

What did I accomplish this year?

The starting place for reflecting on your returns is figuring out just what you achieved over the past twelve months. If you’re like me, you begin each year with a list of goals that are meant to keep you accountable. Sit down with that list and make a note of which of those goals you accomplished. Then add any other accomplishments that weren’t on your goal list, but happened nonetheless.

If you’re not like me and don’t have a complete list from the beginning of the year to work from, then take a few minutes to sit down and create a complete accomplishment list now. It might be helpful to divide it into three sections – home, work, and dreams. Don’t shortchange any accomplishment, even if you feel like it’s too small to make the list. Write each one down as it comes to you, no matter how big or small it may seem.

Which of those accomplishments mattered most to me?

This question may seem out of place, but it’s essential for your next step of growth. Knowing what energizes you is good, but knowing what gives you fulfillment is even better. Go back over your list of accomplishments and ask yourself which ones mattered the most to you. Not necessarily which ones were the most successful or even which ones mattered the most to other people; which ones connected with you in a way that was highly satisfying?

The results may surprise you. Sometimes things catch us by surprise because they reveal our growth in key areas. And some things are just so much fun for us that we want to do them more! When your growth areas begin to line up with those areas where you’re having fun, then you’re on your way to finding your sweet spot.

How can I build on those accomplishments next year?

The final question to consider is how you might do more of what satisfies you next year. This requires more than a few minutes of reflection; for me it takes several days of just mulling over those accomplishments that mattered most to me and looking for patterns and clues within them.

For example, if the accomplishments that mattered most to you were related to being a better parent, you know to continue to prioritize spending time with your children and family. As you prepare for 2017, you can plan special events, family outings, or even quiet days at home, in order to spend more time with the people who matter most to you.

By spending a few days at the end of 2016 on this exercise, you will begin developing a plan to do more that matters in 2017. The key to building on what you accomplished this year is intentionality.

I hope that as 2016 comes to a close, you’ve been encouraged to spend time reflecting on your year. Whether your goal for 2017 is growth in your relationships, your responsibilities, or your returns, the key is all about setting yourself up for success with a thorough look back. After all, experience is not necessarily the best teacher – evaluated experience is.

Here’s wishing you a very happy new year.

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