The turning of the calendar invites reflection about the previous year and contemplation about the year to come. If taken seriously, this is a healthy tradition. It’s useful to look back and reflect on experiences, challenges, successes, and disappointments. What happened in 2016 that was important? What did I do last year that made me feel good about myself? Where did I miss the mark? Was I the person I wanted to be? What were my aspirations for last year? How did I do?
This reflective process, spanning the earth’s circumnavigation of the sun, helps us consider where we are on life’s journey.
Each year has its low points. None of us are immune to illness, loss, or disappointment. Considering those events can make us feel sad or mad. But a more important question may be—what did I learn from these challenges? How did they help me become more of the person I hope to be?
On the other hand, it warms our spirits to recall the high points of last year-- celebrations, exciting vacations, new experiences, and our family’s accomplishments. It feels good to think about these moments. Don’t forget to gather that wool too.
But unfortunately, it’s far easier to bring our attention to our own shortcomings, especially when it comes to behavior change. Why didn’t I lose that 5 pounds? Why didn’t I go to the gym I joined last January? How come my credit card debt is higher than it was last year? There can be a long list of unmet aspirations.
Take some time to look back over 2016 and ponder the big questions. How did I keep what is truly important to me at the center of my life? And if I did get lost or distracted, what did I learn from those experiences? While we can’t change the past, we can learn from history. 2016 has come and gone, but we can apply what we have learned in 2017.
Like many other adults, I am a slow learner. I may have to bump into the same wall numerous times before I figure out a different approach. But I have come to nurture realistic expectations about myself. Instead of giving myself a hard time for making the same mistake several times, I consider how I might try something else going forward. Self-compassion is just as important as kindness to others. We are all learning and growing—mostly from our missteps and foibles. Be generous and kind to yourself too.
Here are some considerations for 2017:
Don’t make resolutions.
Behavioral and habit change requires more than the turning of the calendar. It involves readiness for change and motivation that rarely coincides with the New Year. Maybe it’ a bad time to start an exercise or weight loss program. New Year’s resolutions have the tendency to gather dust by March.
Instead, establish a vision for 2017.
Think, big picture. What direction do I want to go for the next year? What seeds do I want to water in myself? Avoid getting too specific. For example, think about improving health as an intention. Then consider what small steps might help you on your way.
Who wants to be realistic? Isn’t it better to swing for the fences? But when it comes to change, consider an incremental approach to achieving your vision. Learning and growing is a slow process. By putting a drop of water in a cup every day, over time you will have a full cup.
May the coming year be filled with joy and love for you and your family.
The celebration on December 31st (maybe just a good excuse for a party)