State of the (You)nion

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Every year I enjoy watching the State of the Union. The rhetoric and platitudes are comical (on both sides of the aisle). I can see why Saturday Night Live loves this time of year. On the flip side, the speech gives a synopsis of the accomplishments and challenges of the past year, key issues and opportunities for the upcoming year and potential risks. Then, it always ends with the classic inspirational moment that says, “no matter what we’ve been through, we can make it better if we work together.” It’s fairly cliché but I think it gives everyone an opportunity to reflect and is a good rallying cry for the country.

As I watched this year’s speech, I started thinking, “what if you created your own State of the Union”. What would you put in it? What were the accomplishments and challenges of the past year? What are the opportunities, issues and risks of the upcoming year? Everyone would have different content but I believe the chapters and key questions would be similar:

The Economy (aka Your Financial World):

  • What were the financial ups and downs of the past year? Did you accumulate more debt? Did you save more? What did you decide regarding your house? Are you in a more or less stable financial situation?
  • What do you believe is achievable? Can you build an emergency fund and reduce your debt? Can you save more for retirement? Will you start a business? Are you in a position to take on more risk?
  • What are some potential risks? Are you effectively insured (coverage and amounts)? Do you have your estate documents in order (e.g., a will)? Are there potentially new expenses that you haven’t accounted for (e.g., kid moving back in)? Does the risk in your portfolio match your risk tolerance?

International Relations (aka Your Relationships):

  • How have your relationships changed in the past year? Have you become closer, more connected, to the people you love? Have you limited contact with people that bring you down? Were there new relationships that had a major impact on your life?
  • How would you like your relationships to evolve in the coming year? Which relationships do you want to improve? Which do you want to limit? Do you want to start new relationships and, if so, with whom? Where do you want to invest your relationship capital?  

Health Care Policy (aka Your Health):

  • How has your health changed in the past year? Are you more or less fit? How have your weight, BMI and cholesterol changed? Are you more or less stressed? How are your eating habit (quantity and quality)?
  • What do you believe is achievable next year? Can you improve your fitness level? How much can you reduce your weight, BMI or cholesterol? How can you change your eating habits? Will you compete in an event that helps you get in shape (e.g., Team in Training)

Education Policy (aka Your Skills):

  • How have your skills changed over the past year? What new things have you learned and applied professionally? What skills have you improved in your personal life and hobbies? Have any of your skills diminished or you’ve finally realized you never had them (think American Idol)?
  • What skills do you want to build in 2012? What do you want to learn both personally and professionally? What are the key knowledge gaps that you need to fill (whether you like it or not)? Which skills will you stop trying to improve (which is absolutely OK – it’s a tradeoff)?

National Security (aka Your Self):

  • How have you changed as a person in the past year? Have you spent more or less time on spirituality? Were there times when you felt like you were not being true to yourself and what caused that? What have you learned about you that you didn’t know? Have you become more or less mature (both are OK!)?
  • How do you want to improve yourself? Do you want to spend more time finding your spiritual side? How will you challenge yourself to learn more about you? Where will you be bold and where will you be content? What parts of you do you want to grow or purge?

All of these questions go beyond New Year’s Resolutions and give you a chance to reflect on you. You don’t need to write it down or share it with anyone but, committing time to go through your State of the Union will give you much more clarity as you approach the new year. And, similar to our State of the Union, I believe the perfect time to do it is now… after the enthusiasm of the New Year has faded but before the day to day consumes you.

What else? What questions and/or topics would you include as part of your State of the Union?

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