The SOTU address provides a terrific opportunity for reflection and brainstorming. We can examine the health of our state, see where there has been improvement, where problems continue to plague us, and to think about strategies that will bring progress. One of the things I find fascinating about the SOTU is that it combines big ideas with specific facts and concrete plans for the future. As the President speaks, half of the screen is devoted to presenting data in the form of charts and graphs that illustrate the point he is addressing. The statistics refer to what has happened over the past year, but the Commander-in-Chief goes beyond highlighting (or rehashing) what has taken place, and offers ideas for how to make things better over the course of the next year. We can learn from this tradition and help ourselves to gain perspective and to look ahead to the future with optimism.
I see the SOTU as a "big ideas" speech, so likewise, our own self-examination should be high-minded. This is a time to examine your core values, your relationships, your vocation, your finances, and your health from a broad perspective. (It's not the time to worry about why you don't take your vitamins daily or do your laundry often enough.) Here are my ideas:
- Are you living your truth? What matters most to you--can you articulate it? Are you compromising your values, and if so, why?
- How are your relationships faring? If you are in a partnership, how is it going? Do you feel connected? Are you satisfied physically and emotionally? Is there another relationship that needs attention? Someone from who you are estranged? How would you feel if that person were gone and you'd never be able to repair your friendship?
- Are you fulfilled in your work? What are you accomplishing? Is it worth it?
- How are your finances? Are you paying off debt? Saving for retirement? Spending money on the things that matter to you?
- What is the state of your health? Do you generally feel good? Have you had a check-up? Necessary tests? Are you doing the things you're supposed to be doing to maintain/improve your health?
- What do you do to feed your soul? What hobbies, entertainment, and spirtual practices, are you getting enough 'play time'?
After you've compiled your list, add data where it will illuminate. For example, "last year I invested $5000 toward retirement." Then make an action plan to continue that practice or improve upon it. "By adding an extra $50 a month my savings will jump to $5600." Or, "I've attended to my health but still need to schedule a mammogram"--write down the number to move you closer to action.
Resolutions too often focus on what you are doing wrong, where you've fallen down. I like this notion of the Personal SOTU because it seems to me that most Presidential State of the Unions try to bolster the national morale and provide hope for the upcoming year. Thus, instead of viewing your past year as one filled with failures, negligence or missed opportunites, you can see it as a chance to celebrate what went right and to look ahead to the future with anticipation and excitement.
Get to work on your address and get to work on your future--