Happy new year! Like most people I am always excited about the opportunity a new year brings for a fresh start, a chance to work on new goals and create better habits. 

When it comes to recovery it can be easy to look at each new year as a chance to erase or at the very least forget the past one. However, I encourage you not to throw out 2023. Maybe you had a tough year recovery wise, maybe you made great strides. Like me, perhaps you experienced some of both.

As we begin 2024, I encourage you to reflect on the past year, to reflect on everything you went through, the ups and downs, highs and lows, the good, bad and the ugly. Learn from your mistakes by identifying gaps in your recovery and areas which require attention, as well as celebrating and affirming times of personal growth.

I had an experience recently that reminded me of the importance of both remembering and building off successes and reflecting on and learning from our mistakes.

It came in a place you might not expect – NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Houston, Texas

Although I probably can’t even tell you what NASA stands for, I have always been kind of a space nerd. I always found the moon landing Apollo missions of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s to be both awe inspiring and motivating. 

Why? I believe the grit and determination, steadfastness toward achieving a goal at all costs, and the willingness to risk big all resonate with me.  

So, when I had the chance to go see my cousins and Aunt and Uncle in the Houston area, I knew I needed to pay a visit to NASA – and it did not disappoint. 

One of the most impressive parts of the Kennedy Space Center was that it not only highlighted NASA’s successes but also candidly reflected on and admitted the tragedies that took place. 

As I walked around a massive Saturn V rocket with my wife and infant daughter, I took notice of a wall which laid out the history of the Gemini and Apollo space program’s from the 1960’s and 1970’s. 

I geeked out reading the different highlights of the achievements of the space program during that time. However, I was also struck by something else: a spot on the wall that directed attention to one of NASA’s greatest disasters and failures: the Apollo 1 fire in January 1967 which killed three astronauts who were trapped inside the command module. 

I was immediately impressed that NASA was not hiding from their mistakes. You see, this tragic accident did not derail the Apollo program, as it caused a great deal of serious reflection at NASA about its goals and priorities. Ultimately, NASA learned from this disaster and moved forward. (You can read more about that tragic accident and what NASA learned here: https://www.space.com/35474-apollo-1-fire-nasa-50th-anniversary.html.)

Two and a half years later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.

Later on during our trip we watched a video highlighting more of NASA’s history, which again highlighted some of the space programs successes, but also acknowledged its two other major disasters, as the 1986 Challenger explosion and the disintegration of the Columbia as it re-entered the atmosphere in 2003. 

Each of these tragedies and the loss of life are appropriately mourned each year by NASA and are a somber reminder of the dangers of spaceflight. But they have also been learning opportunities for the space program to ask tough questions like “What went wrong here?” and “How can we make sure this never happens again?”

In our recovery, we need to take the same approach.

We need to reflect on 2023 and look at what worked and what didn’t, as well as what we need to do (and what resources we need) to be more successful moving forward.

Likewise, we can also celebrate our wins with the same mindset. What made our successes possible and how do they demonstrate that we are moving toward real change?  

Here are a few traits of the space program that I think will benefit us in our recovery this year:

  • Transparency and learning from mistakes– NASA didn’t attempt to hide their mistakes from the world or even minimize them. They readily acknowledge what a risky endeavor space flight is. And if the space program is willing to admit mistakes which resulted in the loss of lives and examine them, then so can we when it comes to our recovery.
  • Intentionality – The moon landing and every other successful NASA mission have been the result of meticulous planning and thousands and thousands of hours of training and preparation. Exploring space is too risky to be left up to chance and so is our recovery.
  • Building on success – Each successful mission and operation is used to build towards another project. NASA is always seeking to grow and explore new frontiers and challenges. We can take the same approach in our recovery and personal growth this year.

Thanks for reading, and praying that you experience tremendous victory in your recovery journey in 2024.