Reflecting on the Past and Imagining the Future
Spending time reflecting on the past year now can lead to a more fulfilling life in the new year.
The last week of the year is a natural time to slow down, take a small breather and reflect on the year that has past. A lot of people begin making their lists of new year's resolutions around this time, but I've never been a big fan of them. Have you ever REALLY made a resolution that lasted past March?
Last year around this time I discovered a blogger from Brooklyn who wrote about choosing a "word" for the year. Instead of making resolutions, Jen Lee chooses a word that acts as a focal point and reminder of her goals for the year. I tried that this year but to be honest, I can't even remember what my word for the year was anymore!
Despite this, I truly believe that "He who fails to plan is planning to fail." It seems to me that it's even more important now, than ever before, for those of us who have been dealing with the challenges of the recession to dream of a better future and to make a concrete plan for achieving that future.
Creating this plan doesn't mean writing down a list of drastic changes—in fact, drastic changes are exactly what you want to avoid because few people like drastic change. Instead, I suggest you take three small steps:
Notice what's gone right.
Take a day to really think about and record all the things that have gone right in your life this year. Make sure you list EVERYTHING you can think of too, whether it's a big or small accomplishment. For example, I finally nailed my work route down so that I have a good commute. That will definitely go on my list.
Figure out what could have gone better.
Now this one is tricky because it's easy to slip into "woe is me" and "pity-party" mode if it's been a challenging year. Keep in mind, you're not trying to achieve your perfect dream life as a millionaire sipping pina coladas on the beach. Instead, focus on what would have helped to make your life more enjoyable and fulfilling. Divide these into a list by area of your life such as family, work, recreation, creativity, or whatever fits your life best.
Commit to three small changes.
Based on the list you made in step two, determine three small changes you can make that would help you to improve those areas. Notice, I wrote "improve." Life comes with imperfections—bosses that drive you crazy, children who won't listen, spouses who constantly refuse to cooperate—and often these imperfections are outside of your direct control to change. When you focus on "improving" your life, rather than perfecting it, you learn to concern yourself only with those things that you can control.
And for most of us, that is a HUGE improvement right there!