The Bear and the Bull: A Year in Review


Even Wall Street has its own fable. It’s told through shorthand between financiers. The fable offers a quick sketch of the economic climate at any given point and is represented by the bear and the bull. A bear market is a market in a slump and a bull market is a market rising.

This shorthand was created due to the volatility in the market as a way to concisely describe the status of a rapidly changing, complex system.

This same technique gets easily applied when we take stock of our personal lives: when we do a year in review. When we’re nearing the end of the year, we tend to make reflexive judgments that sum up the entirety of the year either as a bear year or a bull year. We decide whether things are deteriorating or getting better and then we act accordingly.

Whether it was a bear year or a bull year, our summation of things usually ends in avoidance, but for different reasons. In a bear year we can become depressed, overwhelmed and avoidant. And in a good year we can become complacent, over-confident, and sometimes even bullish.

Avoidance in bad years can lead to further decline, and avoidance in good years to reckless mistakes. Either form of avoidance misses out on the opportunity to learn and grow from our experiences.

Investors will tell you that the best approach to either market is an eyes-wide-open one. When applied to our year in review, whether it was a bear year or a bull year, let’s acknowledge it openly and be honest about our role in it. Reflection on the year gives us the opportunity to intentionally review, recap, and then move forward. Avoidance keeps us in limbo, or a place where we’re still impacted by the year without resolution (we’re stuck). Before you hit the fast forward button on the year end, I would invite you to consider taking inventory of your year.

Here are a few questions to prime the pump:

1–What has happened this year that’s important for me to remember? Why?
2–How have I grown?
3–Isolating this past year, who are the people I valued most?
4–What have I learned through pain?
5–Where did I take risks?
6–Where was I genuinely myself? Where wasn’t I?
7–What are my takeaways?

The reset button offered by a dawning 2015 could be an easy excuse to engage in functional nihilism. But if we choose to erase the past year, we risk losing valued memories, growth opportunities, and genuine perspective.

If it was a bear year, embrace it. If it was a bull year, embrace it. This life belongs to you and no one else. If you erase it, there will be no stories to tell, no losses to weep over, no joys to celebrate, and no fables to learn from.

Warmest wishes for a very happy New Year.