It’s that time of year where we shut the door on another year and look hopefully to the next.
Whether you make formal resolutions or not, most of us can’t help but whisper solemn promises to ourselves to do better in 2016. I know that I personally started thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions a few weeks ago – mapping out my health regimen, work goals and personal desires.
And while the New Year is always a good time to examine your vision and goals, what dawned on me was that all too often our desire to create resolutions has more to do with sweeping away our disappointments of the prior year than making real and lasting change. Like many of you, my past year was filled with highs and lows, amazing moments and devastating disappointments. My family faced serious health issues, unmet goals and changes galore. I would say that overall, we weathered the unexpected difficulties amazingly well, but by early December I could still feel the exhaustion from the year weighing on me - so much so that I felt the pull of 2016 calling to me like a beacon of light promising only sunshine, unicorns and rainbows.
But, rather than being lulled by the false promises of a new year, I realized that if I wanted to make 2016 my most amazing year yet, it would take more than just shutting the door and making new resolutions.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we all carry our past with us into our present and future unless and until we make peace with it. Like shutting the door to a messy room – we may not see the mess for a while, but inevitably, we know it's there and we have to tackle the mess in order to clear it out.
So, I decided to dive in and see what 2015 held for me to see. Turns out, that like any other mess, there were surprise treasures to be found when we are willing to look. Sure, there was fear and anger and disappointment, but there was also a willingness to embrace my weakness and ask for help. I can remember always being told that I was so strong, but 2015 taught me that unless I embraced my weakness, my strength would run out. I also learned that out of tragedy, your family relationships can strengthen, especially when you let go of judgment and simply choose to love and understand. There were moments of fun and laughter and bravery that I never recognized because I was too busy simply following my passion. There was also a newfound patience that I have NEVER EVER exhibited before. And yes, although I was still absolutely type A and neurotic – looking back on my year with reflection allowed me to love my neurotic self more and really see what ways I wanted to grow.
As I sat in review of what happened and who I was this past year, I realized that most of us make resolutions from the vantage point of our most flawed selves – we decide what we did wrong and then set out to make resolutions to change those parts of ourselves.
Honestly, that is why most of our resolutions fail – because when we can’t see the gifts in our pain, our loss or our failures they inevitably pop back up until we learn our lessons or claim our gifts. When you do a year in review (looking for the gifts), it is almost impossible to be so harsh. You instead gain a new perspective that allows you to bring forward the parts of yourself that have grown and that will give you the courage to face whatever comes and make your next year, your best.
How to Do A Year End Review
Begin by looking at this past year and write out all the high points, even the seemingly small stuff. Maybe you worked out most every week, took a fun family vacation or made a new friend. Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes writing out all of the joyful moments of the past year. Be sure to focus on your own personal joy or high points rather than those of others.
For each difficulty that you faced, identify one good thing that resulted from that difficulty. Really focus on the gifts that you received despite the difficult circumstances. Also, identify one quality that you can see in yourself that helped you get through or overcome that difficulty. If you can’t identify one, decide what quality you might want to develop this upcoming year that could help you grow and tackle any future obstacles.
Identify the relationships and people that were supportive this past year. Spend time reflecting upon the people and the types of relationships that you want to carry forward into this year.
And lastly, celebrate yourself. Even if you feel like you didn’t show up fully in 2015, choose to spend a few minutes celebrating all that you are in this moment.