Wow, you guys. It’s so hard to believe we’re sitting at the close of 2016, ready to bust out our shiny 2017 calendars and launch headfirst into a brand new year. January 1 – a day oozing with possibility. We love the idea of a definitive fresh start, untainted and ripe with hopes, dreams, and goals.
What will 2017 hold for us? Maybe a few ambitious types have already jotted down a couple of resolutions, determined to harness the potential in the year ahead.
Don’t get me wrong – I think resolutions can be productive, but before we dive blindly into working out every day or saving a million bucks for retirement because these are things we think we SHOULD do to be a good human being, let’s push the pause button and back up a few steps.
I want to share a really simple process I have – consisting of three steps – that I use to reflect on the previous year and assess how on track I am (or not) with how I want to live my life.
One of my own greatest fears is that one day I’ll be lying on my deathbed and have the sinking feeling that I lived too much of my life accidentally, going along with whatever happened to me rather than co-creating it with rock solid intention.
I know I’m not alone with this fear; I hear my clients and friends talk about this, too.
For the most part, I’m on it. I really strive to be intentional and present and have clarity about who I am, yet there are certainly times when I notice I’ve been half-asleep and settling for things that are comfortable and easy rather than those that are going to nudge me into a satisfying life I’ll ultimately feel proud of.
So I’ve found great power and magic in pausing to look in the rear view mirror, scanning the last 365 days, and reflecting on what I accomplished and brought me joy, what was hard and forced me to grow, and what I want to feel more of in the coming year.
This gives me a better sense of what I want to keep inviting in or what I need to say goodbye to going forward. It guides me in creating meaningful intentions for the New Year that are ultra specific to me and don’t stink of any societal “shoulds.” “Shoulds” can be hard to get away from.
Sometime over the next few days I’d encourage y’all to get down with your bad selves, pen and paper in hand, and get real about what 2016 looked like for you. You can take five minutes to do this or five hours. It’s up to you.
Here goes (elaborate as much or as little as you’d like):
- REJOICE IN THE HIGHLIGHTS
- HONOR THE LOWLIGHTS
- FIND YOUR DESIRED FEELING/S
1. REJOICE IN THE HIGHLIGHTS
There can be a ton of questions you can use to drill down into the highlights of the year – those peak experiences that made you happy to be alive and grateful for all the goodness in your life. Some happened organically, some you created intentionally. This step is often fairly easy because we love remembering the good stuff. (Just make sure you don’t overlook the little good stuff that can get lost in the shuffle.)
Once you’ve identified the highlights, circle some of those you’d like to bring forward into the new year, if possible. Below are some questions to get you started.
- What are the events, activities, or trips that made you smile from ear to ear?
- What did you accomplish?
- What do you feel proud of?
- What new skills did you develop?
- What’s something new you tried and liked?
- Did you meed someone new who has become a bright light in your life?
- Remember a time when you laughed so hard your belly hurt.
- What’s your favorite story from this past year?
2. HONOR THE LOWLIGHTS
Let’s face it, every year has it’s low spots, those times when we feel devastated, hopeless, frustrated, rejected, exhausted, or lost. Sometimes we lose a loved one or have to say goodbye to a relationship that isn’t working anymore. People lose jobs, others deal with major health concerns. We all make mistakes and do things we feel badly about. Take some time to reflect on the lowlights from the year. These are the moments in life that typically stretch us the most and ultimately lead to personal transformation – if we choose to examine them.
Once you’ve listed your lowlights, take an extra minute or two to note what you learned and how you grew from those experiences. Then decide if there’s something you could do differently in the year ahead to eliminate or dim that lowlight. (Obviously this step doesn’t apply if the lowlight included something outside of our control, like the passing away of a loved one.)
- What mistakes did you make?
- Did you have to say goodbye to someone you loved or who was important to you?
- What made you cry?
- What disappointed you?
- What made you bubble over with anger?
- What didn’t go the way you had planned?
- What sorts of things rocked your sense of safely in the world?
3. FIND YOUR DESIRED FEELING/S
Is is said that our choices are largely based on how we want to feel, that we are always trying to move towards pleasure and away from pain. Additionally, it’s fair to say we all want to feel loved and to feel love for others. Assuming that’s true for you, if you were to explore even more, what other desired feeling/s do you want more of in your life?
This might be the hardest piece of this whole process because, let’s face it, a lot of us are not very in tune with our feelings. You may actually want to refer to an online list of feelings to help brainstorm. Using a list can help us get away from generic words we grossly overuse like “happy,” “good,” “successful,” etc. and get to some meatier words that are more specific and meaningful.
Once you land on a word or two, then guess what? Your job in the coming year is to keep those words forefront in your decision-making processes. For instance, if you decide you wan to feel more “calm” in the year ahead, then you get to make more of your decisions based on that desired feeling. If a friend invites you to a concert and you get anxious just thinking about the crowds, then you will likely want to say no so you stay congruent with what you say your desired feeling is. If you consistently pack your schedule too tightly, causing stress and resentment, then some major shifts will needed to build more calm into your life.
Here are a few possible feelings to try on:
What do you think? Will you do this with me?
In my newsletter I promised I’d post some excerpts of my answers here. If you’re curious how 2016 was for me, keep reading. Otherwise, go grab your pen and paper and get started, or leave me a note in the comments. :)
Overall, 2016 was a smooth year for this gal, especially when I compare it to previous years. I have a lot to be grateful for, and most of my highlights involve the beautiful people in my life – my incredible family, friends, and my hubby. I traveled more in 2016 than I had in a long time – both with friends and family – which brought me immense joy and fed my very real need for adventure. I saw some stellar stage productions and other live performances, and I began reading fiction again for the sole purpose of reading for pleasure, something this English major had been deeply missing in her life for YEARS.
After a tumultuous shift in my work environment the year before, I once again found myself with my feet on the ground and head held high in my business, which I feel quite proud of. I was reminded that I am more resilient than I sometimes remember myself to be. I created materials for my business that had been sitting on a to-do list for a long time, and I feel so ecstatic that I get to do work I love.
I have a new goddaughter who lights me up and reminds me of the pure love and potential inside all of us. I love baby snuggles.
I am so grateful to live in a neighborhood where we know our neighbors. Our neighborhood game nights, soup exchanges, and dance parties make me feel 20 again (except when I wake up with a charlie horse in the middle of the night from too much dancing. Ouch.) I have community. Real community.
While 2016 was fairly smooth sailing as far as my personal bubble is concerned, it certainly didn’t come without challenges and disappointments. Friends’ health concerns tore at my heart, the political climate in our country stressed me out and left me downright depressed, and the never-ending violence around the world leaves me feeling hopeless on days when my resilience cup is low. I’m also dealing with a health concern myself that will require surgery in the coming year, which bums me out big time. I still suffer from the mindset that as a health coach I should never have a health concern myself, which pretty much sets me up for failure. Sigh. Believe me, I’m working on shifting this.
What I’ve learned from the health concerns is a renewed appreciation for the very real mystery of life and a willingness to at least try to surrender to that mystery (some days, at least). I also feel even greater empathy for my clients and others dealing with health concerns.
As far as the bigotry, racism, and outright hatred that surfaced with a vengeance after our insane election, I felt embarrassed and grief-stricken and disappointed in myself. I had to admit that I’ve been naive, complacent, and lazy over the years, allowing way too many inappropriate comments, jokes, and behaviors to go unchecked in my presence. My inspiring godson is African American, my sweet goddaughter is African American/Native American/European American – I need to be fierce and protect them, which means I need to start speaking up and challenging beliefs that say they are somehow less valuable than other people.
And as far as the worldwide violence, I guess I’m going to keep this quote close by in the new year, which reminds me to keep working on myself, and trust I can somehow make a difference:
“You must purge yourself before finding faults in others.
When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake.
This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement.
Do not look at others’ bodies with envy or with superiority.
All people are born with different constitutions.
Never compare with others.
Each one’s capacities are a function of his or her internal strength.
Know your capacities and continually improve upon them.”
― B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life
Claudine’s Desired Feeling/s
Last year I determined that I wanted to feel more playful and adventurous, and I succeeded! Travel, reading fiction just for FUN, game nights, dance parties with friends, karaoke bars, Zumba, paddle boarding, snorkeling, snowboarding, hang gliding, and on and on.
FYI, I really know how to have fun.
This year I want to feel brave and free. I have no idea yet why these words are resonating , but next year at this time I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you. (P.S. Play and adventure are staying close by in the new year!)
There you go. Way more than you wanted to know about me. Now what about you?