As we approach the end of the year, it’s my time to assess what I have achieved during this year, how I have grown as an individual, and how much I have contributed to my family and those I serve. After assessing this year’s performance and celebrating significant achievements, it’s then time to look ahead to next year. I complete this cycle for my work and family life. The end of the year is a precious time for my wife, Heather, to do the same thing, and for us as a family to review, assess, celebrate and plan anew. This process of review, assessment, celebration, and refocus is critical in our professional and personal lives if we want to achieve anything during our short time on this earth.

Thinking about death can produce a passion for life. I only need to imagine what people will be saying at my funeral to remind me of what’s most important in my life. Do I want important people in my life to say “OK guy, good father, lousy golfer,” or do I want people to reflect on the difference my work made in their life — how I have helped them to grow and develop (which is my personal purpose)?

The process of reflection and planning is a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly habit that should be deeply ingrained. But at least once a year you, your life partner, and your team need to thoroughly review your progress and look at the big picture. This “retreat” — stepping back to step ahead — is an essential component in progressing toward your vision, values, purpose and goals. Team and organization annual improvement reports or reviewing personal journals, are an invaluable reflection and progress charting tool. Whenever I assess performance and look for the progress that’s been made, I’m reminded of the cattle rancher who let the years drift by without appreciating just what he had…

After 45 years of hard work, the grizzled old rancher decided it was finally time to sell the ranch, retire, and enjoy the rewards of his toil and sweat. So he called a real estate agent to list the place for sale. The agent spent most of the day with the rancher riding the range and getting a feel for the ranch he would be selling.

A few days later, the agent returned to finalize the listing and get approval for an ad he’d prepared. It was written to attract a city dweller from the large metropolitan area less than 100 miles away. The ad described the freedom of the open range. It talked in poetic terms about the river that happily babbled to the lush green hills as it meandered by. The ad described heartbreakingly beautiful sunsets that painted the big open sky with an awesome array of reds, oranges and crimsons. It spoke of the deep satisfaction and contentment of sitting on the big front porch and watching young colts play in the corral.

After reading the ad, the seasoned old rancher walked over to the huge picture window and silently gazed out. A few minutes later he softly whispered, “This ranch isn’t for sale after all.” As the rancher turned to face the agent, a tear ran down his wrinkled, leathery cheek. “All my life I’ve dreamed of a place just like this. Now I finally realize what I’ve got here.”

The relentless drive for ever higher performance and reaching our next goal often leaves us too numb and exhausted to enjoy what we have achieved.

Rather than pausing to appreciate what we have accomplished, we have become narrowly focused on what we haven’t yet attained. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. When we don’t slow down to savor successes along the way, each accomplishment becomes less fulfilling. When I have paused to assess and then celebrate, life becomes richer and much more satisfying.

I also find that it’s a great “battery recharger.” Savoring and celebrating is highly energizing. Paradoxically, it’s when things are darkest and our goals seem farthest from reach, that a focus on what’s gone right and what we have to be thankful for can be the most invigorating.