I use my birthday, and what I’ve come to call my Birthday Check-In, as a way to make sure I never go more than a year without attending to my life on the deepest level. It’s an annual regret-prevention measure.
The Birthday Check-In is like an executive meeting with yourself. As your own CEO, you look at the present state of you, plan ahead for your future, and cast a vision for who you want to be and where you want to go.
Your Check-In is a filter. It’s asking yourself what you dealt with in your many years that you’re not going to deal with in your next birthday.
Sometimes, your own behavior is what needs to go. One year, I said I would act with self-respect because I realized I hadn’t been. That word became my continual check-in throughout the year, and I no longer have to think about self-respect. It became a habit.
Sometimes the Birthday Check-Ins are just me saying, “Yeah, life is hard right now,” but those can be the most important ones.
At my 28th Birthday Check-In, being in the business of me was not good. Me, Inc., was a broke and sinking enterprise. I promised myself that my finances and my career would be better by year 30, and they were. You have to face where you are now before you can shift toward where you want to be.
Sometimes life is fantastic at the time of my Birthday Check-In, and I’ll just take myself out to a chocolate celebration and plan my next adventure that year.
There are many ways to measure how it’s going. Some coaches use a wheel model, where the spokes are career, finances, health, relationships, growth, fun, and lifestyle. You can rank each from 1 to 10. If you’re doing well in all areas but a few, those few are where your wheel is flat and where you may want to focus over the next 12 months.
The Birthday Check-In is not a New Year’s resolution. You don’t even have to make a plan to change anything if you don’t want to. The Check-In is just a time to zoom your view out from what you’re doing this morning or this week to how your life is going in general. If you don’t like what you see, then a change plan might be in order.
One rule of the Birthday Check-In is that you don’t spend it feeling sad about your age. Do not apologize that time has passed since you were born. We think in America that we’re X years old. We take it as a label on ourselves. But I like how age is expressed in Spanish. It’s not “Yo soy 25” (I’m am 25). It’s “Yo Tengo 25 años” (I have 25 years).
All the years you’ve lived are experiences you own, experiences you can build on, and your Birthday Check-In is about what you’re going to give yourself during your next loop around the sun.
Schedule some time with yourself and look at where your life is. Things you like about your life right now; things you don’t like about it; something you’re thankful for.
On birthdays ending in a 5 or 0, you may want to think about a loose plan for the next 5 or 10 years. It can seem scary, but the thing is that those years will pass anyway. If you take control of them, you can feel more like you’re building a life you want and less like life is just happening to you.
The Birthday Check-In is about giving yourself something: a life you can look back on with a golden smile.