The last day of the year always elicits an exclamation of wishful thinking for the year to come. But it also serves as a benchmark for gauging our progress toward short- and long-term goals. In 2015, did you make good on the professional — and personal — objectives you set forth last New Year’s?

It’s a question only you can answer, and the answers will be as varied and unique as the readers of this column. Granted, many of our plans are based on last month’s bank statement, pending family obligations or career considerations. And it’s hard to get philosophical when you’re focused on dollars-and-cents priorities such as keeping your job or providing for your loved ones.

With deft planning, however, you should be able to meet your primary obligations while discovering, within yourself, untapped talents, abilities and strengths. In fact, the surge of personal confidence that comes from self-discovery will greatly increase your odds of achieving your objectives — whatever they might be.

I was reminded of the power of self-discovery recently at a certification boot camp. And lest you think this is a backhanded means of promoting AFIP’s certification program, it is not. I’ll be the first to admit that there are many things in life vastly more important than successfully completing the certification program. And key among them is self-discovery.

As is often the case at our boot camps, sales managers and F&I practitioners ­­— having toiled for years with minimal regulatory knowledge — find themselves eye-to-eye with an ego-threatening, rule-based academic exercise called AFIP certification. They’re not happy. To be precise, their demeanor ranges from nervous trepidation to fight-or-flight hostility.

Such was the scene when the AFIP’s Vince Sweeney conducted the first boot camp session in Corpus Christi, Texas. A fair number of attendees were up for the challenge, while others were in a foul frame of mind. Invariably, a couple of producers needed to take a second shot at the federal exam. Given the level of acrimony, I decided to conduct the second two-day session myself.

However, an unexpected transformation occurred between the two sessions. The self-doubters in the first group who passed the certification exam now saw themselves in an entirely different light. They had successfully accomplished something they didn’t believe they were capable of doing.

Those in need of retesting knuckled down and studied. They passed with flying colors. A second session candidate, having feared that her lack of a college degree would impede her performance, put her head on the table and had a good cry after learning she’d passed all three modules.

For this fortunate group, the significance of earning the Certified Professional in Financial Services designation paled in comparison to what they had unwittingly bestowed upon themselves: the feeling of exuberance that can only come from self-discovery.

We’re in an occupation in which atrophy is the handmaiden of the status quo. It’s an easy trap to fall into in an up-market when just keeping pace is a fulltime job. And the pangs of self-actualization are easy to quell with fat pay envelopes.

It’s essential, however, to allocate time in 2016 to recharging your batteries and expanding your horizons. Or, in a more practical vein, focus your self-discovery in areas that will make you more efficient or help you move one step closer to achieving a long-term objective.

The nice thing about self-discovery is that it’s the successful completion, not the magnitude, of the endeavor that spurs us to want to reach further. In your search for self-enrichment projects, look for one commensurate with your available time, capabilities and energy. But make sure it is one that will yield the optimum personal or professional benefits.

Readily doable F&I-related projects — with a direct correlation to capturing more finance and lease deals, selling more aftermarket products or keeping your dealer out of harm’s way — can be as simple as obtaining a working knowledge of the covenants on the back of the binding contracts you ask customers to sign. Another worthy endeavor is becoming conversant with and fully implementing the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Fair Credit Compliancy Policy and Program. And, finally, if you aren’t already on board, earn your AFIP certification.

You’ve completed your 2015 assessment and hopefully added new challenges capable of testing your mettle to your bucket list. To borrow Nike’s tagline, just do it! If you don’t, 2017 will find you a year older, but none the better for it.

David Robertson is executive director of the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals (AFIP). Email him at [email protected]