It’s that time of year when all things turn to wrapping up the dozen months that came before. What major events made a real difference in our personal lives? Did we make and achieve a significant goal? Did we overcome a problem in a surprisingly creative way?
These mental reflections help us stay focused on what matters most to each of us. Before the deadline of New Year’s Resolutions looms, consider taking a mental health day (or evening) to close out 2016 and turn your thoughts toward the coming year.
Here are three tips to help you make the most of your 2016 wrap-up:
1. Prepare your mental space.
If you plan to do some serious thinking, you need to have a distraction-free place to do it. Find a comfortable, quiet corner in your house, away from the television and family. Turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices. Make yourself a nice, hot cup of your favorite tea. If you want to keep a list of the thoughts that come to mind in your reflecting, be sure to have paper and a pen.
Settle into your spot and take at least three minutes to really settle. Smell the aroma of the tea in its mug, feel the snuggly warmth of your favorite throw against your skin, listen to the quiet interrupted only by the gently thud of your heartbeat.
If you find thoughts about the day or your to-do list trying to break into your calm, gently acknowledge the thought and promise to get back to it at the end of your reflecting. Then, let the thought go. You can even visualize placing all your worries and cares on a dingy, sending it off into the wide, blue ocean with a touch of your foot.
When you feel relaxed and truly in the moment, you are ready to think back on the year that has passed.
2. Focus on your wins.
If your usual self-talk involves looking at your mistakes, then now is the time to turn that kind of thinking on its head. Think about the things that went right in 2016. If you can’t say, I finally lost that weight, or I got the job, then start small. Maybe you read more books in 2016 than you had planned. Perhaps you managed to eat meals around the family table at least twice a week. Maybe you were able to forgive somebody for an action against you that your younger self would still be hating.
As you consider what constituted a win in your life this past year, you’ll be showing yourself what is most important to you. After you brainstorm a nice, long list, read over it carefully. Mark the wins that seem the most important to you. Do you see a pattern in your wins that encompass entire areas of your life? Did most of your wins involve work, your family, your health? Make a note of the categories to help you see your past year from the big picture.
On the other hand, are there areas of your life that are important that you don’t see reflected in your wins? Note these areas as well. You may find these areas offer you a gold mine of material for your 2017 resolutions.
3. Look ahead.
Now that you have reflected on what went well in 2016, it’s time to think about what can continue to improve or needs to be better in the coming year. Begin by making a list of the top three areas of your life from your previous work. Take a minute or five to really think about each of these areas. You can write down what you are reflecting or just think about it, but make sure you concentrate on each area individually.
Consider angles like why is this important to me? How much time in my life do I devote to this? Is that enough time, or do I need more? How does this help make me a better person? How does it help make the world in general a better place? Is this area of my life in line with what I think the purpose of my life is?
When you have reflected on these three key areas in your life, consider where you see gaps. What needs improved in these areas to make them align with your sense of purpose or your goal to be a better you? Make a note of these needed improvements to help you create your goals for 2017.
Finally, consider working on a FOCUS STATEMENT for 2017. It should:
- Be in alignment with your life purpose
- Reflect the main thing(s) you need at this point in your life
- Move you toward a measurable, achievable goal
- Make you feel better about yourself
- Be something you can look back on in December of next year and say, Yes, I made that happen!
For example, my focus statement for 2017 is this: Foster what fulfills. To achieve that focus, I plan to put my mental and physical energy into the things that make me feel most like me, my writing, my music, my family.
If you are a person who truly likes to reflect, even if it is often hard work, there are many, many resources to guide you even more thoroughly through the goal-setting, life-purpose orientation that marks a well-rounded life.
May this December be filled with the joy of the season and love of family that are the pinnacle of being human. And may your 2017 resolutions reflect the true you, so that when you think about them, your whole self says, YES.