As we wrap this issue, it's late October and Halloween is just around the corner. I have a particular affinity for Halloween. In the spirit of full disclosure, it happens to be my birthday. But, as most of you know, once you get past a certain age birthdays tend to lose their magical qualities and mainly serve as a reminder that one more year has passed (possibly along with some of your memory and the elasticity of your skin). The primary reason I like Halloween is that it's one of the few holidays that doesn't call for visiting a house of worship, buying gifts or traveling to see family. It's about having fun. For kids, it takes the form of costumes and candy, with a hayride or bobbing for apples thrown in for good measure. For adults, it's usually about helping children have fun (which has its own rewards) or cutting loose at a costume party of your own. Maybe both, if you're lucky.

What I've described, of course, is an American ritual. In other parts of the world, Halloween and the following day have more serious connotations where they are times for remembering people that have died. Those origins come from indigenous and pagan cultures where the late autumn signified the end of a cycle. The harvest was complete, the earth was entering a dormant period to prepare itself for the renewal of spring, and it was a time to think about and prepare for the coming year. We typically reserve those types of introspective activities for the end of the calendar year. The year 2012, however, feels eerily similar to 1999, when everyone was preparing for Y2K. So much focus is on the doomsday prophecies surrounding December 20th (or 21st, depending on what you're reading) that your usual routines might fall by the wayside.

My challenge to Private Wealth readers is to take a page from the book of the ancients and use the next few months to reflect on 2012 and look ahead to the coming year. What happened? Where and how did you experience successes beyond your expectations? What didn't get checked off your list and why? Will any of your answers change what you do moving forward? What did you learn? Could you have used your time and resources differently? More wisely? What are you doing that gets you closer to your long-term goals? How should you revise your list of aspirations? It may feel like premature work, but time spent on professional and personal development is never wasted. And the effort may deliver the biggest and best treat of all: a prosperous and abundant new year!