But there is one tradition I observe which has been very meaningful and healthy for me. It started when I was in college, I took a summer study course at Biola University called "Writing for Personal Enrichment," taught by Dr. Lowell Saunders. One of the things he taught us how to do in that course was to write an "annual report" about our lives.
So, usually each January since then, I take a day off and write an annual report. I look at my previous year's goals to evaluate progress that was made toward their accomplishment. I evaluate areas of health, areas that need improvement, and set new goals for the coming year.
In this report I focus not only on what's good for me and my family, but on how my attitudes and actions this year affected others ... my neighbors, my church, my country, the poor, etc.
A lot of people make New Year's "resolutions." Although my goals are very similar to resolutions, I do not consider them "resolutions" in the traditional sense. I celebrate any progress made toward a goal, even if the goal itself has not been entirely "achieved." I do not beat myself up over where I fall short. I just adjust and move forward. The past is behind us and we cannot change it. We can learn from it, celebrate it, but ultimately the only territory we "own" (have control over) lies in the present and how it shapes the future.
Though my annual reports follow kind of a corporate template, they are very private and I do not generally share them with anyone else. However, I thought this year I would just share selected portions of my annual report (which I completed on January 1) to give you a flavor, and perhaps encourage you to start writing your own annual report (if you don't already).
As 2006 closes, I am pleased to report that thanks to the goodness and blessing of the Lord, the Larry Short partnership is in most ways in a far stronger position than it was when 2006 began … or perhaps has ever been.
We are living comfortably, giving generously, and saving significant amounts of resources against future needs. (In this section I then give a detailed financial report of our assets and liabilities, net worth, current earnings potential, and make recommendations about ways we should adjust each area if possible in order to gain strength throughout the coming year. For instance, currently we give more than 10% of our net earnings away to charity, but my goal has been to slowly increase this amount so that ultimately we are giving well over 10% of our gross earnings to charity. In this case, net=gross income minus taxes paid. We don't have much further to go so one of my goals this year will be to increase our giving to put us over that goal, and I included some specific ways we intend to invest intelligently these additional funds.)
Our philanthropy takes two forms, our volunteer involvement and leadership in church and other ministries; and our financial giving. (In this section I go into each area of involvement in detail, then draw conclusions about ways we should adjust our involvement to be more effective. In terms of volunteer ministry we tend to go through a cycle where we take on more and more things, until we are less effective in each area and are forced to scale back. It is a challenge to maintain margin in our lives. This annual report recognizes that we are approaching that point of over-fulness and discusses some possible ways we could add margin.)
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR
A key personal and professional highlight of the year was the trip to four countries in Southern Africa which Mandy and I took for nearly 2 months this summer. (You can read more about that below and on http://blog.worldvision.org/.)
Traveling to Africa gives you a greater sense of humility, compassion, and appreciation for God and the diversity which He created on this planet.
For me personally, I know that God is using this experience to break my heart and ignite within me a passion to be more involved in the battle to help people overcome the stronghold of AIDS, particularly in the Congo. Therefore this year I have been active on a planning team on our church which is working toward a vision trip to the Congo in summer of 2007.
REVIEW OF 2006 GOALS
(In this section I review progress made toward specific 2006 goals set in an earlier annual report.)
Darlene and I both continue in a strong position with our companies, even though we both took a step “down” (in terms of grade level) last year. She went back to regular school nursing (from management) and I went back to manager level (from director). I think this has been a positive move for both of us. It has had no financial impact on me and very little on her. Her stress is less, and mine is probably about the same; but I am utilizing my gifts and skills more effectively. Despite some conflict at work my department is growing and prospects for success are good.
Darlene would like to decrease her time commitment at work to spend more time at home. (At this point I discuss in detail the anticipated financial impact of such a move ...)
If we continue in our currently strong position I will be supportive of this move effective the beginning of the next school year (in September).
(I then discuss in greater detail my own feelings about what I am experiencing in my job, how things might change during the coming year, and how I would hope to react to these changes.)
I resumed a leadership position at our church (on the elder board) and Darlene and I have continued with the college ministry. We also both remain involved in worship. We enjoy the college ministry but have not experienced much growth. There is potential though. Our involvement in worship has been growing the past few months and we have enjoyed that. My experience on the elder board has also so far been positive.
In what I feel is one of my most meaningful involvements, I have also been actively involved on a team which is preparing to send four members to the Congo. I feel that potential for success of this mission is high.
(I then assess various possibilities for how our involvement might change throughout 2007.)
FAMILY / RELATIONSHIPS
One area of concern this year is what is happening with my dad and his Alzheimer’s. (I discuss changes in his health during the past year and things we might do to try and mitigate the impact.)
We enjoyed being able to have my dad visit here for a week this summer.
Darlene’s parents’ health is also fairly tenuous, but they are in their 80s. We enjoyed spending time with them for a week after Christmas, and also seeing the rest of their family.
FRIENDS / RELATIONSHIPS
I feel like we have strong friendships with many people, primarily at church but also at work.
(Here I discuss relationships with various friends and things we might be able to do to strengthen these relationships.)
I have been convicted that if I am going to continue to be involved in college ministry I need to invest more time mentoring the college guys.
We continue to feel blessed with close and dear friends and family.
PHYSICAL HEALTH / GOALS
With the exception of a biking accident I had in May (unfortunately, while in training for a ride in Africa, I suffered a concussion which rendered me unable to recall the exact details of the accident ... but I am grateful it was not more serious) and it’s residual effects in terms of neck pain and stiffness, my health this year was excellent.
We do see some impact of being in the northwest, in terms of allergies with congestion (and the tendency for headaches that they bring), and also me in terms of my dry skin problems, especially in winter. Also, after winter subsides a bit I need to get back into a regular exercise routine, to shake the 10 pounds I have added since summer.
SPIRITUAL HEALTH / GOALS
We have benefited this year from the growth that comes from teaching the college group, and also being involved in other forms of ministry. Also from keeping up a personal worship and study routine. Although there are certainly areas for improvement (in some respects I feel I have grown complacent since returning from Africa), and in general I feel like I need more time for rest and reflection, and to regain my consistency in daily devotion, I am pleased overall with the progress that we have made.
The great windstorm of 2006 left us without power for 4.5 days. We did okay, although it went from being fun (about day 2) to being annoying (about day 3). As a result of this experience and thinking through disaster preparedness issues we have identified a couple of enhancements we can make to our disaster preparedness plan:
We should acquire a power generator source, and a way to safely stockpile gasoline to run it for at least a week, as soon as we can do so at a reasonable price. We should be prepared to treat and store 50 gallons of gas.
During 2006 we treated the roof of our home, and also had our septic pumped. Both should last another 5 years. We had some problems with critters; I took steps to defend the Jacuzzi and the house against their invasion.
In the spring we will probably need to have the fireplace/chimney cleaned. We will eventually need some Jacuzzi maintenance (a new lid, repair of the pump, light, etc.). We will need to reseal deckwork, particularly in the back. The yard will also need some basic maintenance – grass dethatched and replanted in some places, surrounding brush trimmed back, beauty bark, gravel in the driveway.
Due to our earlier expansion of the home, and the kids moving out, we now have three bedrooms empty. We are open to renting the studio above the garage and waiting for the right tenant. We could also possibly rent space in the house, although Darlene prefers to save space for visitors. We also need to think in terms of other profitable uses that could be made of this space.
Throughout the real estate boom the home continued to grow in value. It is now worth something close to twice what we paid for it. As it is currently showing signs of doing, I’m sure the boom will slow to a crawl, and possibly reverse. We should continue along the fast track (and possibly accelerate the process of) paying off our mortgage by 2018.
CONCLUSIONS / SUMMARY
In many ways we “stayed the course” this year and benefited from doing so. More of the same is in order for 2007. As usual I need to “knuckle down” and apply discipline in several areas in order to continue to improve:
- Organize the office and household issues for more efficiency.
- Establish goals at work and focus on achieving them.
- Thoughtfully grow investments. Also review specified investments to make sure they are optimal for our age.
- Consider consolidating some retirement funds.
- Consider a possible real estate investment related to getting my dad out here and focus on managing his issues well.
- Figure out ways to build more “margin” into my life as I get older. Start making some more creative investments in things like writing and learning to play the mandolin.
- Continue regular biking and work to get my weight back under 200 lbs. Keep on top of cholesterol and other health-related issues.
- Make wise investments in the home front to ensure things keep running and are maintained well.
- Also keep on top of strategic philanthropic investments, and set goals for those.
- Work specific spiritual goals in terms of writing/journaling and spending time in worship, study and prayer. Schedule regular retreats for these purposes.
- In a few years we will probably need to replace a vehicle, so start thinking about that.
- See the doctors to get the neck pain figured out.
2006 was a great year and we are confident about what the future will bring! We are so grateful for all those who have been a blessing in our lives. We pray for you all and appreciate you deeply.
Hopefully this "annual report" has been encouraging to you. For me personally, there is nothing like writing (even if no one else is reading!) to help me sort through my thoughts and arrive at rational conclusions that will improve my life and the lives of those around me.