I mentioned last week that I hadn't finished (or started to be honest!) my year-end review of 2016 or created goals or intentions for 2017 during December, as I had hoped to do. I thought maybe a few of you might be in a similar situation, and if so, we could move along slowly together.
Did you reflect on how you want to FEEL in 2017? I did it! Woo hoo! And, as is typical for me, I wasn't willing to choose just one word. I kinda have three feelings phrases (you too can make your own rules for this exercise!) Already I am finding that focusing on how I want to feel is a nice addition to my annual review routine. If you missed it last week it's not too late. Take a few minutes and see what comes up for you!
You may be surprised to hear that I have never been much of a New Year's resolution kind of person. However, in the past few years I have found that the habit of pausing to think about what I really want (annually and sometimes more often) and looking back on how I've done at moving towards what I want has a couple nice effects.
First, the thinking ahead part helps me to make choces more easily and quickly because I did all the back-and-forth debating in my head when I made myself pick my top 3 intentions for the year, or when I've chosen a word as a guide for the year, or a feeling, whatever it is.
My prior planning helps me to get clear about what I want when I'm not under time pressure. That's a stress reliever for me. It also means that, more often than not, I choose in ways that actually do move me forward towards what I long for—whether that is more savings, better health, a stronger marriage or an easier end-of-the-semester (or just to find a pair of black boots I love!)
The review part of the process is great because it helps me to celebrate progress I've made that I have forgotten about.
If you are a perfectionist with high standards for yourself, as I can be, you may need to be reminded to notice and celebrate what you've done. (See below for a practical way to make sure this is part of your process.)
Of course, the review part also helps me to notice where I didn't meet my goals. The key to making this part of the process helpful to me is that I've learned to view the places where I missed the mark not primarily as evidence of my failure or flaws, but as neutral information pointing me towards a new way forward, as data I need to interpret in order to move towards greater success.
So, if you want to set goals and intentions for 2017 that will really work for you, I suggest that you start with a review that looks something like this:
1) START WITH THE HITS. What went right in 2016? Can't remember? Look through your phone or calendar or Facebook to jog your memory. Perhaps think about specific categories. The ones I use currently are: money, marriage, kids, extended family, profession, spiritual, body health, appearance/closet, service, living space, life functioning systems (for me this means how I manage time, tasks etc), joy/fun. But I love detail. You could get by with way fewer categories. Strapped for time? Just do 5 minutes free writing and call it done.
2) REALLY CELEBRATE your successes. At minimum do something physical like a fist pump or jumping up and down that will let your brain and body know it's worth it to do all that hard work! Even better, share your successes with someone else. Go out or make your favorite meal. The act of celebration itself will make success in the future more likely because your body and brain feel all celebrations as just about the same, big or small, celebrating feels good. Working hard and never feeling like we're finished, doesn't. Why would you brain and body want to cooperate with that plan anymore?
3) THEN REVIEW THE MISSES. What went wrong,or could have gone better, in 2016? Use a similar structure here as you did for the hits. Agsin, strapped for time? Do 5 minutes only. Set a timer and stop when it rings. Be sad and grieve the losses if they feel really hard and you're really disappointed, but then, instead of becoming a judge, become a detective.
4) BE A DETECTIVE. Before you set new intentions or goals - especially if they will likely look just like the ones you didn't meet last year - look for clues about why things went wrong or didn't go quite right. There can be any number of reasons, some of which we can't control, and some that we can. Note that information if you think it may help you find new ways forward.
In my own life, and in my work with clients and students, I've found two very common issues I want to highlight here. 1) The goal wasn't/isn't quite right. (Often we don't meet goals because really we don't want to. We think we should want to, but deep down we aren't interested, or just aren't ready right now. 2) There was no structure for success built in to help you get where you wanted to go.
I'll help you think about how to build a structure for success in a later post, but for now just notice whether the goals you didn't meet are ones you really wanted to meet and were ready to meet. If you wish you were ready, but your gut says otherwise, that's a no. And that's the information you need. So that brings us to the final step for this week:
5) LET GO OF THE GOALS THAT DIDN'T FIT. Just let them go. Or set them aside just for now, until the time is right. Don't determine to do better next year. Just let them go. I know it's hard, but you can do it and if you do you'll unleash a whole lot of energy for the goals you really DO want to meet. For me, letting go of a goal related to losing weight was necessary many years ago. I wished for a smaller body, but I wasn't ready to actually do what was necessary to make it happen. I felt anxious just thinking about it. I was much happier learning to love and clothe my body as it was and letting go of the battle to be thinner. It wasn't the right goal for me at the time. And honestly it hasn't been a goal since the day I let it go about two decades ago - but I've gotten thinner and healthier anyway.
So, now it's your turn. Review the hits. Celebrate. Review the misses. Look for clues. Let go. I think that's plenty for us for this week!
Let me know how it goes! As always you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's to thriving!