“We have to clean the lines first!” Those were the first words my father in law said to me the first time he took me fishing in his boat on Lake Lanier in Atlanta several summers ago. He continued, “If we don’t clean the lines first, they will get twisted and knot up keeping us from catching fish!” My father in law is a professional tracker and has fished that lake for years and caught thousands of fish. Being the amateur fisherman that I am, I did as I was told. Though reluctant, we spent the first hour that summer morning catching no fish, riding around with him letting all the lines out (no bait or tackle) to make sure they were properly cleaned. It was so boring. Looking back, it was one of the neatest lessons I have ever learned. We fished the entire day and only once did our line get messed up. It truly saved us a lot of wasted time and frustration. Isn’t it funny what something as simple as fishing can teach us about life?
We don’t think that way today however. Everyone is in a hurry. Schedules are packed. Calendars are full. Time is a precious commodity and no one has any to give. There is very little, if any, margin in our lives anymore. No one would ever consider slowing down to “clean their lines” before they start and make the day easier. The crazy thing about life is…it is getting faster. Technology is improving and speeding up our ability to function as humans. However, it doesn’t need or have to be this way. If you think about it, even nature has normal pauses where life slows down and gets quiet. Bears hibernate, trees lose their leaves for the winter, snakes shed their skin and molt, fields go into dormancy and need ground work after they are harvested and fish are caught much easier with clean lines.
As we enter into the New Year and everyone goes back into hustle mode, I want you to consider “cleaning your lines” or “pausing” before you start. What I mean by this is that we all need to intentionally schedule time out of our day to reflect and think through the past year. My good friend, Tim Elmore from Growing Leaders does this at start of every New Year. He gets away from work and home so he can focus, reflect, and evaluate the past year. Here are the questions Tim uses before he starts each year:
What are my fondest memories of 2016?
What were the “big projects” I completed during the year?
What were the defining moments during the last year?
What did I procrastinate on and fail to get done?
What books and mentors had the greatest impact on me? Why?
Am I closer to my friends and family from my activities this year?
What will be my biggest goals as I move forward into 2017?
Where did I neglect to live up to the standards I set for myself?
What am I committed to do this next year, to fulfill my “Life Sentence”?
As you read over these questions, pour a cup of coffee, grab some paper or your computer, take notes and really reflect over 2016. I understand you may not want to think about last year. It may have been a rough year for you. There may be some things you would rather not revisit. However, this is not the purpose of the exercise - to cause more grief. The purpose is to prepare you for success. I encourage you today, listen to my father in laws voice and “clean your lines” before you start 2017. Pause. Take a moment. Contemplate. Think. You may not catch more fish like I did that day, but by pausing and “cleaning your lines” out from 2016, 2017 will be your best year yet!