Thank You Note by Woodley WonderworksYou’ve probably seen multiple blog posts this past week focusing on how to improve your business and lifestyle in 2012. We’re either proudly not making resolutions or we’re telling each other the top 6, 10, or 15 things we need to accomplish to make this year better than 2011.

This phenomenon is pretty typical for end/beginning of year events. But this time around, it’s a little different. News sources are pointing out how hard 2011 was for so many. Polls tell us it was a rough year for millions of people worldwide, and everyone’s hoping against hope that 2012 will restore our faith in the idea that all is not lost.

Well, I’m not going to do that. No, not because I think all is lost. But I can selfishly say that it was 2010 that almost done me in, and 2011 was the year I needed to rise from the muck. Of course, I want my 2012 to be “amazeballs.” I hope every year of my life is an improvement on the year before, but I can’t bemoan the trials and heartaches of 2011 because, for me, those valleys were outshined by the mountaintops.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions on the beginning of the calendar year, but prefer to save them for the Lunar New Year celebration instead. And even as that date rolls closer (January 23), I find myself not lamenting about all the things I didn’t accomplish in the Year of the Rabbit. Instead, I feel grateful for the things that I did achieve. I can’t look ahead to the future until I can take a moment to appreciate the past.

Freelancing in today’s economic climate can waffle drastically from feeling enthusiastically content to full-blown panic hysteria in a matter of weeks, let alone months. Last year, on two occasions I found myself struggling with the culture and daily routine of a product team, but I also returned to a full-time position with a standard 8-to-5 schedule and 401K option. Not what I expected on both counts, but without those experiences, I might not have continued to re-define my business and adapt.

I also learned that my website does indeed attract clients, and referrals, albeit appreciated, aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be. I networked a little less, but I lived little more. I expanded my horizons, and I traveled to places within my own state I had never seen before.

Appreciative by David GoehringI fell off my blog goal of posting at least 4 times per month all year long when I disappeared in the month of September. But when I returned, I produced some fairly engaging posts that generating some wonderful feedback on and offline.

I continued to support the arts, even though I didn’t write my reviews of The 39 Steps at IRT, The Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble at Madame Walker Theatre, or the fascinating discussions about cultural expression at The Village Experience. I enjoyed poetry jams at MidTown Arts Cafe, shared my thoughts with guest lecturer and 2011 MacArthur Fellowship recipient Dr. Tiya Miles at the Eiteljorg Museum, and snagged an autograph from the one and only John Waters during the Spirit and Place Festival.

Having experienced all that in a year where I tackled numerous personal and professional hurdles doesn’t leave me lamenting the fact that my business didn’t grow in the direction I hoped it would. If anything, I appreciate how I’ve managed to succeed in ways that I had not anticipated, but wish to maintain.

As I take the time to review the ups and downs of the previous year, I feel grateful that I escaped those rocky waters as well as I did. With an eye on the avoidable mistakes I made and a promise to learn and grow from them, I can only move forward.

Did you use the previous year’s valleys to aim for the new year’s mountaintops?
How do you shake off the dust of yesteryear?