For many, the new year is a time for reflecting on the past as well as looking toward the future. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sat down to take stock of his personal and work life in a tradition he calls an “end-of-year assessment.”
“Some people think it is corny, but I like the tradition,” writes Gates in a blog posted Saturday. For his 2018 reflection, Gates began by asking himself, “What was I excited about?” and “What could I have done better?”
Gates’ end-of-year assessment tradition dates back to his childhood. As a kid, his parents would send out Christmas cards with a rundown on what his family was up to. One card, for example, had updates such as, “Dad’s law firm is growing, Mom’s volunteer work is going strong, the girls are doing well in school, Bill is a handful,” recalls Gates.
This year, Gates shared his optimism for getting closer to eradicating polio and his delight at seeing solar and wind energy becoming cheaper, but he admitted that he’d “underestimated how hard it would be to vaccinate children” in war-torn areas and noted that he wants to “speak out more about how the U.S. needs to regain its leading role in nuclear power research.”
Science supports performing similar check-ins with yourself. One study shows that people who make time for self-reflection are happier, more productive and less burned out than people who don’t. Psychologists also highlight how self-reflection can help push you toward a purposeful change, help you reach your goals and trigger self-awareness.
Gates also notes how different his assessment looks today, at 63, than it was in his 20s, in his first days of building up Microsoft.
“Back then, an end-of-year assessment would amount to just one question: Is Microsoft software making the personal-computing dream come true?” writes Gates.
Today, with the inspiration of his wife Melinda and friend Warren Buffett, Gates now asks other questions about his life such as, “Did I devote enough time to my family?” “Did I learn enough new things?” and “Did I develop new friendships and deepen old ones?” he writes.
“These would have been laughable to me when I was 25, but as I get older, they are much more meaningful,” writes Gates.
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