It’s December already. It’s unbelievable that just a year ago, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and many of us didn’t know where we were about to go as a country. A little over a year later, the chaos we thought would ensue has done so in epic fashion, but we are still here surviving, and, in a lot of cases, thriving through the instability of our country. As we come closer to the end of the year, it is important that we not get so caught up in what we didn’t accomplish over 2017, and set ourselves up for what we can and will accomplish in 2018. That starts with taking time out to invest in yourself.
1. Schedule your annual check-up
January is right around the corner, and that means it is time to see how much damage you have done to your body over the past year. But really, January is the perfect time to go in for your annual check-up to make sure that your body is in tip-top shape for the 2018 year. Many of us, especially in marginalized communities, go years without seeing the doctor which could spell harm for us who have conditions that we may not know about. HIV, other STIs, diabetes are all problems that often go unchecked because we aren’t getting yearly exams done. If you are having sex then you at a minimum should be getting tested once a year for everything STI related. Outside of STIs, you should also be getting checked for things like cholesterol, glucose, eyesight, weight, and other health issues that can arise.
2. Set goals
Not enough people set their goals and, even when they do so, they are so unrealistic that they become unachievable, setting one up for disappointment and failure. Goal-setting is an important part of being an adult, and a great way to create structure within one’s life. As simple as goal-setting may seem, many people get it wrong because they conflate goals that are short, medium, and long-term. The best practice I have always followed is to do the 1-year, 3-year, 5-year approach to goal-setting. The 1-year goals are those you want to accomplish in that next year—things that you know you can do, and short-term items you can work on to set you up for long-term goals. The 3-year goals are typically the extention of the short-term goals, but with more specifity to set you up for that 5-year goal.
An example of this would be buying a home or condo. The 1-year goal could be to pay off credit card debt. The 3-year goal would be to save 15k for a down payment. The 5-year goal would be buying the home or condo. The problem comes when people put all these goals on the same sheet. These goals will require different amounts of time and effort and should be broken down accordingly.
3. Let go of burdens
This is probably the hardest thing that most will have to deal with at the end of the year, but the most important part of entering 2018. You can’t grab new opportunities while holding on to things that have expired. You can’t continue to bring toxic relationships into 2018 and hope that things will get better. You can’t bring bad health into 2018 and not check into it in order to get better. Burdens may not just be physical. It is important that you let go of the mental burdens you may be carrying as well. Most jobs allow you to see a therapist for free at least once a year. Try it out. If you have been forgoing getting on medicine that you know could help you have a better quality of life, try it out. Invest in yourself for a change.
4. Handle financial business
It is important that one takes care of their financials at year’s end—old taxes, bills that aren’t or haven’t been paid, etc. Even when money might be tight, it is important that you don’t lose sight of what your goals for the future are. That means it is important to speak with bill collectors and folks from financial institutions to set up some type of payment agreement or determine what you can do to start working on a better financial situation. The saying goes that you eat an elephant a little bit at a time. So start chipping away at debts. You may surprise yourself by year’s end.
5. Take time to rest
You worked hard in 2017. Even if you didn’t accomplish all the things you set out to do, you deserve a moment to just rest and breathe. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen folk lose vacation days at the end of the year that they are rightfully owed for the work they have done. We all struggle with rest and often feel guilt when we do stop to relax, but only because society has not made it a priority. The body and mind are not invincible, and they require adequate rest for one to be able to accomplish goals and tasks. So at the end of the year, even if it is only a day, take some time out to do nothing or something you have been putting off. Read a book, start a garden, buy new curtains—do something for yourself and make sure that you are putting yourself first for a change.
George M. Johnson is a journalist and activist. He has written for Entertainment Tonight, Ebony, TheGrio, TeenVogue, NBC News, and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @iamgmjohnson.