“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Moses penned this prayer several thousand years ago, but it’s as true today as it was then. Our time is finite, and we need to live wisely with the time that we’ve been given if we’re going to live it well.
The end of the year is a natural time to step into this prayer – to do the work of reflection and planning, the work of letting God teach us to number our days. The holidays themselves are both backward and forward looking, and the entire culture seems to be in this rhythm.
But as Moses knew, we must be wise about how we view and spend our days. We must be intentional.
Several years ago, I adopted a practice of setting aside some time to reflect on the year that was and look ahead to the year that will be. In my experience it’s been one of the most helpful practices for getting perspective and gaining a heart of wisdom.
There are so many different resources for doing this, and it’s looked different for me over the years. I’ve utilized resources and frameworks from Steve Graves, Michael Hyatt, and the One Word folks, and there are many more good ones available.
What I’d like to share today is a bit of what I’ve learned over the past 13 years in setting up a good experience.
Time and Place Matter.
Place matters. If at all possible, go to a space where you can best be in a position to have the right perspective and be reflective. Except for one or two years when we had small children and couldn’t work out the logistics, mine has always involved a walk in the woods, and if it’s too cold to journal in the woods, then I’ll split up the time between a walk and a coffeeshop. But I can’t emphasize place enough – consider that even Jesus would intentionally withdraw to lonely places to pray and reconnect with the Father.
Time matters. It takes some time to really work through a year. It takes some time to get past the discomfort of silence and solitude, to move past the urge to check your phone and get to a place of truly being with your thoughts. But you need this time to be honest and get at the root of some things. I never budget less than two or three hours.
Start with time in silence and prayer. Again, your mind will be distracted, so pick a verse or truth, read it and repeat it over and over in your head for a few minutes. Start with Psalm 139. After a few minutes of silence and listening, ask God to help you through this process.
Then journal. I like to capture whatever I’ve been drawn to in that time of prayer, and then I’ll shift to taking an inventory of key parts of my life. I’ve divided this into eight different “accounts:”
My relationship with God.
My health (spiritual, emotional, physical, etc.)
My close community (family and friendships).
My church / civic engagement.
First I’ll revisit my “finish line” for each of these categories, a summary statement I’ve written that I want to be true one day (this is the “number your days” part). Does this still capture the essence of what you want to be true?
Then for each I’ll capture: where am I? What am I proud of from last year? What do I feel drawn to next year?
At this point you’ll probably have a growing list of the beginnings of goals. Some of you will be excited and ready to refine them, make them all SMART, and then start achieving. Others will be overwhelmed and ready to quit. Wherever you are, it’s time to pause and invite God back into the process. And let him direct you as to what to do next.
Sometimes I’m ready and sometimes my list needs another cut, but regardless there are three things to do to finish:
- Write down a refined list of goals or focus areas for the year ahead (and keep it short).
- Write down a specific next action (this will help you build momentum).
- Socialize them with someone close to you.
Whether you adopt this process or whether it inspires you to take action with something else, my hope is that you spend some time getting clarity from the Father as we near the yearend.
Because you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, that he has prepared in advance for you to do! So spend some time with him and let him direct you toward those good works for the year ahead.