The First Thing You Should Do In 2012

Ants in my pants... c'mon, I was cute!

When I was growing up my mother always told me I had “ants in my pants“. I was always excited or agitated about something, and couldn’t sit still for a second.

Not much has changed.

Even now I struggle to simply “be still”. My mind always active – always looking ahead to the “next” thing – I have to force myself to live in the present, and find quiet reflection really difficult.

And yet, in a world where things are moving so fast, I realise that sometimes in life, you have to stop before you can truly begin, and that pressing pause to be still and reflect is often the best way to start. Of course, you don’t want to live life looking behind you, but taking time out to intentionally slow down and consider the year gone past can be an extremely beneficial, rewarding, and productive thing to do. Trevor Hudson says,

“We don’t learn simply from experiences; we learn when we reflect on those experiences.”

Travis Gale, leadership coach and a good friend of mine, believes strongly in taking time out to reflect, and says that the key to healthy reflection is all about asking the right questions. He says, “Many of us look for answers, but few sit down and think about the right questions to ask. Questions have the uncanny knack to open up possibilities, to get us thinking out the box, and perhaps break down the limitations we put on ourselves.”

And so, before you start 2012, why not  STOP and ask the right questions? Questions like:

  • What energised me most in 2011?
  • Which relationships brought me the most joy? Why?
  • Which relationships put me under the most pressure? Why?
  • What were the “defining moments” of 2011?
  • What strengths did I see in myself during 2011?
  • Under which conditions did I see myself thrive?
  • What did I avoid doing that I know I most needed to do?
  • What books and mentors had the greatest impact on me? Why?
  • Am I closer to my friends and family from my activities last year?

Answering these kind of questions allows you to accomplish two objectives. First, it forces you to focus on the important things in your life and not get lost in the trivial. Second, it provides an excellent platform to set goals for the new year.

On Thursday, I’ll post the second thing I think you should do in 2012…

191 Comments on “The First Thing You Should Do In 2012

  1. morning and happy new year
    just sending you a sillly video I made for kids called ‘ants in my pants’ which you might like…it’s funny. I suffered from the same syndrome as a child…loving the blog…gitika

  2. Happy New Year, Tom. I like a lot of these questions. On a quest for the best Darlene I can be, I am going to borrow a few and do some reflective journaling.

    My Gram always told me I had ants in my pants. 🙂 And yes… you were adorable!

  3. I am AMAZED at how much you look like my nephew at that age…. I had to do a second look!! And true, you were both cute!!

    Enjoyed your posting… what great questions to ask as we pack for our journey through 2012! I’m going to be spending some time with those…….

    Wishing you the BEST … that is to say, God’s perfect ‘daily bread portion’ for you and yours in every area you need TODAY and every day!

  4. Wonderful post. We all have experiences aplenty, but if we don’t ask the right questions about them, then we learn nothing .

    (What i just learned yesterday is to check the settings in my dashboard every so often; the frequency to receive posts from your blog had somehow gotten set to “Never” , so I missed a lot of good stuff!)

  5. This is such an important topic, taking to to reflect and ask the right questions. I have made it a point to learn through reflection from any situation. Taking time to be still and think about what works and does not work is so important. Great post.

  6. Great post!! I especially love the part when you said:…I realise that sometimes in life, you have to stop before you can truly begin, and that pressing pause to be still and reflect is often the best way to start. GOOD STUFF!!!

  7. First, congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! Second – I LOVE your list of questions for the new year. I definitely tend to dwell on the wrong things and need to focus on the things that really matter. Thanks for the reminder and have an amazing year.

  8. It’s a good idea to start the new year by getting still and looking for all the good the passing year has given to us. We live magical, blessed lives if we only take the time to look. Enjoy always, T

  9. These were good questions for me to ask of myself. I enjoy knowing there are others out there asking themselves those types of things too. I just spent two years teaching middle school reading, and while that has a place in the world, it is good for me to see what adults are thinking about. Thanks for the questions, and great job on the blog.

  10. Those are great questions… Everyone always says, “New year, new me” but they do nothing to assess the past year nor set goals for the upcoming year. I think these questions do a good job of both of those.

  11. Good questions for “me, myself and I” to ask. The only exception seems to be this one: What were the “defining moments” of 2011? If I were to consider the overall context of the questions, it is presumably asking what were the “defining moments” of 2011 *in my life*, but since it omits *in my life*, I’ll have to say that the defining moment of 2011 was the “Arab Spring” which began initially with real hope of liberty and freedom. Unfortunately, it has now been hijacked by Islamist groups that despise true liberty and freedom, spawning a whole new wave of anti-Christian and anti-Israel sentiments throughout the Middle East and elsewhere that was once kept at bay. I think that this has, or eventually will, indirectly affect us more than we realize.

  12. Thank you for a great post, and one that made me stop and think.

    I am in the middle of setting up my resolutions, and this will certainly help me to whittle them down to the core of what will push me in the right direction this year.

    Good luck in 2012!

  13. Perfect questions which when reflected upon would indeed produce answers that we need to learn. Many times, people don’t want to know the answers to these questions because then they’re faced with the dilemma to do something about their lives.

    As for me, I’m always seeking answers and your questions would be perfect for anyone who wants to enlighten and enrich their lives.


  14. Reflection is counter-intuitive for many people — as what if they don’t like the answers to those questions? It’s safer and easier to avoid it at all costs rather than sit still and figure out what works (best) and what doesn’t. The relationships that put us under the most pressure are the ones we may most want to flee — but it’s exactly that pressure that may offer the most useful insights.

  15. Love it… I’m starting a new journey this year and your questions about 2011 are a great way for me to evaluate the past year and see what I can take from it to get the best out of this next year! Thanks!

  16. good post….I have always tried to make the beginning of each new year a time of personal reflection. Its my way of reassessing and recharging for the coming year.

  17. Awe the music in the silence! That is what I call it… I have always loved that time where creativity flows. It is where I go to write, paint, draw and just be. I love that music that play in the silence, which is why I have no tv and or stereo. I also happen to live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere!

    I find intentions much stronger than resolutions, and remember what you focus on is what you will get.

    Now how about some real fun for 2012? Visit me at where I have my blog… We are having a literary contest where the Contestants will write the chapters and everyone one else will vote on each chapter. It starts on Friday the 13th of January, and ends in 2013! We plan to have a lot of fun, and the proceeds of the sale of the book will go to charity!

    Blessings Sallyjane

  18. Great post! It’s so incrediably important to take time to think and reflect on the past in order to better prepare for the future. I think this is especially important when a new year rolls around. It is such a blessing to be able to reflect on the times and experiences from the past year. There are lessons in everything we do and it is important to learn and remember those lessons. You’re questions are a great way to plan for the new year and everything a new year may hold in store. I’ve written about this a couple times on my blog. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  19. “We don’t learn simply from experiences; we learn when we reflect on those experiences.”

    Absolutely true! If everyone lived by this, the world would be a much better place.

    ….And lol yes, you were a cute kid. 🙂

    Thank you so much for your insight. I love it!

  20. Hi Tom

    Thought provoking and edifying, although it seems to me that much of the time “life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”. Thank you for your inspiring suggestions.
    By the way, I was born in Durban, and lived in Cape Town for many years (now in Cairns, Australia).

    Alles van die beste.

  21. I find sometimes it’s hard to figure out a defining moment in any space of time. We don’t always know it until it has long passed. Thought provoking blog.

  22. This is brilliant… I’ve been doing something similar to this for a long time and it really is a wonderful practice. It can be challenging to take the time to do it, but is absolutely worth it. I don’t think I would have done nearly half the things I have done in my life had it not been for this kind of self-questioning.. I’ll be keeping up with your blog!!

  23. As a person who always plans everything way in advance, I think this is a good thing for me to try. Stop and take a second to think. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a 5th grade teacher when I was student teaching. She said “At least once a day you need to stop, take a second, and go to the bathroom”. Being so busy, she would often find that she hadn’t gone to the bathroom at all that day. I realized that often that happens to me as well. Nice post!

  24. This was a good read for me. Thanks for posting .Actually, I have been doing alot of reflecting this week on what I want my resolutions to be – or actually, what God is directing me to focus on. Thanks for the affirmation…I will consider some of those questions! 🙂

  25. Hei, Tom! Thank you for sharing such very helpful insight on which things should go first. And yes, being still and taking time to reflect on our day-to-day activities is worthwhile. Thank, thanks!

  26. I find that a great place to find the answers to these questions is as I’m coning off of the yoga mat. Yoga provides a place to be still and in the moment and allows for your thoughts to formulate more clearly when you get back to “braining!”

  27. Really great post. I appreciate that you took the time to pose some questions – and have found they’ve gotten me thinking already! I also really loved the quote from Trevor Hudson – I never really thought about the fact that reflecting on an experience was as beneficial as actually going through it. Happy new year!

  28. Great questions to ask yourself, maybe even on a more frequent basis. I think we could all benefit from taking a second to slow down, re-evaluate ourselves, and make changes to ensure constant progress. Remember — busy is always a good thing! Best to you in 2012!

  29. What I like about the questions is that they are mostly all positive. Negative thoughts only serve to keep us glued to the past and not looking forward.
    Great post!

  30. i found this post amazing to read.
    thinking a right question to ask would help each of us live this life better than looking for a right answer for someone else’s question. thx.

  31. These questions are perfect. The rest of this week’s blog entries for boogiepants will be dedicated to answering them. Many thanks for nudging our resolutions in a better direction!

  32. These questions are perfect. The rest of this week’s blog entries for boogiepants will be dedicated to answering them. Many thanks for nudging our resolutions in a better direction!

  33. Pingback: 2010, examined | Minnesota Transplant

  34. Sometimes when we feel that the work we loved to do, now the same appears boring. This is true not only for job and study but it is also true for love, which seems to be a load.

    Its time to take a break, just for a while leave and enjoy. Take a break. And everything will again be fine.:)

  35. This mantra of ‘being still’ (and remaining calm, and being ‘present’) is exactly what I preach to myself on a daily basis (with mixed results). Thank you for the reminder, as a new year is certainly a good time to think about what matters.

  36. You are absolutely; undeniably correct. Stopping for a while is important in-order to know where you stand.

    The questions helps a lot in moving forward to a better future.

    A Very Happy new 2012 to you :).

  37. Excellent Questions. Thanks! May I suggest 2 more questions though?:

    What did I learn in 2011 to help me become a better person?
    What is the single aspect I will work on in 2012 to help me become sucessfull in life?

    I write on similar topics. Please do visit my blog sometime.

  38. Such simple things, forgotten in the hurry of our present lives. I remember lamenting that we are either always looking back at the past, wanting to relive it, or are striving towards the future, hurrying our way into it; while we forget to ‘live’ the present.

  39. yes, you were cute.
    and “ants in the pants” means curious mind and it’s not ok only for an exhausted mother, who needs atleast 5 minutes break to drink her coffee (know it from first hand expirience)

  40. When I started reading I felt like “this is my story :)”. by the way nice questions, I did ask myself those.

  41. Great set of questions Tom! I think this is a really positive way to start 2012 and it’s a good way of measuring your achievements.

  42. I’ve enjoyed looking at your WordPress site. It’s very readable and good design/layout.
    I’ve printed off the 9 questions to ask myself and shall consider very carefully.
    Well done for a thought provoking Blog.

  43. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog site is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks a lot!

  44. I just happened to stumble upon your blog this morning, but I’m so glad I did. Reflection is essential. I’m a teacher, and that’s one of the key words that continues to pop up in our inservice training. We need to teach our students how to reflect, but more importantly, we need to make time to reflect so that we can learn from our journey and choose wisely the next step in our path. I will be back. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Great job! Thank you for giving me the words I needed to hear. Serendipity!

  45. Great blog post, I’m going to ponder over what you’ve written and ask myself a couple of questions. This is the best time of year for reflection I think.x

  46. I have “ants in my pants” too and so is my son….keeps us on our feet and always active and looking for new adventures and activities….helps burn those calories too. A fun and optimistic post that we can all relate to. Happy New Year!!!

  47. Happy New Year Tom! Reflection is so very important, but few people acknowledge that and even fewer people take the time to do it. It was always stressed in teacher’s college (Ontario). We hated the way it was presented to us, but we acknowledged the merits. Stopping to regain control of your mind and allow yourself to think then reflecting on your life are crucial elements to improving or maintaining quality of life. Nice post!

  48. I adore your blog. Just so ya know, I suffered from that same affliction as a child, and still do: antcypantsitus. Don’t think I’ll ever overcome it. Thank you for your insight to living a better life and starting the year off right. And congrats on becoming Freshly Pressed! You deserve it. 😉

  49. Great post! I agree, it so important to not just jump into the new year and start doing new things without reflecting on what happened in the previous year. Take a second and reflect on what worked and didn’t work to not make the same mistakes twice. I’m inspired!

  50. Pingback: New Year, New Life | Carabeth's Blog

  51. Haha, I haven’t heard that name “Ants in the pants” in over 20 years and it brings me back–I heard it all the time lol. I think so very similarly, but your articulation of this post is nonpareil. I found this post as comforting as I did inspiring; it’s good to know there really are plenty of others out there that think in this vein. Congrats on the Freshly Pressed, Tom!

  52. I often forget how important it is to reflect on the experiences you have…thank you for the excellent reminder! May 2012 be full of experiences (and reflections!) for you and yours!

  53. Reflection is a good thing. With the right attitude, it can help you learn from your mistakes as well as remember what you have to be grateful for. I’ve been doing some reflecting in my blog as well today. I remembered I still have some ‘pay it forward’ to accomplish.

  54. Pingback: Family « My Diary

  55. Pingback: Brief Reflection: 2012 | My Blog

  56. I found this relates well to the upcoming book I’m trying to write. Before I just started typing I sat down and thought (and thought and thought) about the story and specific scenes before going at it. Thanks for this blog.

  57. Pingback: Reflection to resolutions for 2012 | Play mindful

  58. Great questions to put our mind on things that actually matter. I’m gonna sit down and answer all of them and I’m sure good would come out of it. Might be posting my answers on my blog along with your post. Thanks a lot for the advice and inspiration.

  59. Hi, I came across your blog on the main wordpress website. I’m going to subscribe not only do you write interesting things. I like the way you’ve written them. I’m going to get tips on how to improve my own blog.

  60. Thank you for this post.
    It’s really hard to just sit there and ask yourself these questions. It’s like we have ants in our brains, lol
    because our minds do not stop to focus and be mindful of the present.
    So odd how we do so much at our jobs every day, but to do something for ourselves (like reflect) it always seems like a bigger job, or not as important….odd indeed 😉

    Cheers and congrats on being pressed
    Be A DJ

  61. Pingback: Cortical Functions (or stuff we waste our time on) « poofingawesome

  62. Pingback: The first thing you should do in 2012 « Mm172001's Blog

  63. Sometimes its so easy to get caught up with only focusing on the future and running ahead, it is so nice to actually be reminded to take a break and to reflect on what has gone past. When I think most of what energised me in 2011 it makes me smile because those same motivations are still present, I’d just forgotten about them.

    Thank you for making my day. 🙂


  64. Thank you for this post, very encouraging considering my reason for joining wordpress to begin with!

    PS: I once had an actual ant in my pants (technically, up my dress, but still), and my grandmother thought I was just making excuses for my hyperactivity.

  65. Pingback: Looking back on 2011. Survey style! | loriinthesky

  66. Great questions !
    This is a great way to evaluate the year and make positive changes for the future!
    Thanks 🙂

  67. nice one,and you have a smart thinking or strategy thinking which is GREAT..
    Good Job
    with my best wishes for you:-)

  68. Pingback: The Year in Review-2011 « homebydawn

  69. Thank you for this posting. It affirms my need for a mental and emotional cleanse. I love the statement “you have to stop before you can truly begin”. There so much time that passes that me miss in life and reflection is powerful.

  70. Pingback: The Versatile Blogger Award « Pullingitupbythebootstraps's Blog

  71. I am a lot like you, always looking forward to the next hing, the next moment. Those are really good questions. And that picture of you as a kid is really cute! 🙂

  72. hahaha @ “ants in my pants”. They use to say the same about me when i was little. Very cute childhood foto by the way. I’m trying to put the ants back in my pants for 2012. My goal: To finally loose those extra hamburger pounds on my badonk, so i’m running up and down to the 7th floor of my apartment building 5 times a day. *wipes sweat* Enjoyed your blog!

  73. Thats a very good point. What did energise me in 2011? My bonsai. They keep me interested. They are like children. They can’t be left behind, they can’t be left alone. Just the thing for someone who doesn’t have kids:)

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  76. Tom, thank you for your post. I am always looking for new ideas and inspirations. This post was just the thing I needed to put things into perspective for 2012 and point out some of the more meaningful moments, people, and things from 2011.

  77. Pingback: Welcome… « tom.basson

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