Happy New Year Friends!
It’s that time again to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new with perhaps a mix of anticipation and trepidation, depending on your circumstances.
Was the past year like this for you?
Or maybe it was more like this?
For many of us, 2016 was a dumpster fire of difficulty, struggle, and grief. I understand and sympathize. The past year has held some of the most challenging circumstances for me, personally. In many ways I am thankful to see the year end and I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I can now call that year, part of the past. I have cried and railed against loss and pain with those closest to me. I have spent countless hours wondering if I am doing the right things and making the right choices. I have struggled to find satisfaction and purpose in some areas of my life.
And yet…much of the past year has held some amazing moments. Many of my friends have had events and experiences that have improved their lives or made them incredibly happy. Just watching them blossom in those moments has been a source of joy to me. I have had the chance to watch my children grow and change and see my husband be increasingly successful in his work life. Unlike the years past, I was given the chance to travel like I never have before. I saw new things, ate new foods, met new people, and lived life with zest! Amidst all the questioning, I have found parts of myself I never knew and I’m coming to own my life in a different way than I have before.
So the question remains: How do you process the old year and prepare for the new?
I know that we can just live each day and roll with life, but the turn of a new year offers us opportunities to live in a more purposeful manner. Time slips on by whether we plan our days or not, so why not choose to live life in a way that we won’t feel like we missed it? With that in mind, here are 3 ways to reflect on the old year and prepare for the new.
1. Choose a word or phrase of the year
Many people pick a word or phrase to use as the base of inspiration for the year. I am relatively new to this practice as I have only done it for two years so far. The first year I picked a word but I don’t feel like I really kept it in mind and it probably didn’t have the impact that it should have. Last year, with the inspiration given to me by several friends, I decided to give it another go.
My phrase for last year was “Fearless Action”.
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about how this phrase played out for my 2016. I knew that this phrase would be a great option for me with my travel plans since up until now I have traveled very little since I had my children. Add that to the fact that my travels this past year have been without husband or children, I really had to be willing to step up a bit and get out of my comfort zone! And it was wonderful! I felt so fulfilled and refreshed that I was able to really appreciate home. I also got to gain a sense of perspective on my life that is often lacking with the day-to-day grind. On the other hand, after some tragic circumstances I actually found myself more anxious and fearful than I have ever experienced in the my life to date! Where was my “Fearless??” Several times throughout the year I found myself thinking that I had the wrong phrase for that year. How can I have “Fearless Action” in the midst of such worry and anxieties over those around me – and even the whole world?
Roll forward a few months to this reflection time and I am again reconsidering that phrase that I chose. After much debate I think it actually is an even more applicable idea that I could ever have imagined. When I chose it I had one application in mind. However, through the life circumstances of the past 12 months I realize that I have had more than the average number of situations that enabled me to actually apply to opportunity for real action through fear. Yes, I have had fear – and tension, grief, anxiety, and even anger.
And yet, I kept showing up.
No, maybe it wasn’t “fearless”. But then again, maybe it was better than that. It was action through fear and in spite of fear. Which I think is even more valuable. I kept plugging, even when I was scared, frustrated, or even lost. I watched good things happen – right next to some of the crappiest situations. How much more of Life can you get than that? So I guess I did live my phrase last year. But as the universe often teaches us, we get what we get, and what we do with it is up to us.
With all that under my belt, I have decided to choose a new word for this year. The word is “Own”. Now I have my conceptions of what it will mean for me this year. I am hoping that it will mean that I will own my life, my decisions, and especially my thoughts and reactions to life around me. But as the last year has taught me, I will have to wait to see how this will play out in 2017. I think I am ready. I hope I am ready. Most of all, I pray I am up to the task – whatever it will be.
If the theme word or phrase isn’t your style, perhaps you might like to be a little more free flow with your reflections. For many years this was the favorite of my husband’s. He would take time at the change of the year to write his thoughts on how the previous year went and how he felt about everything.
This method gives us the opportunity to put our experiences into perspective and glean some lessons from them. Often with the passage of time we see things that we couldn’t possibly have recognized when we were so close to the situation. As I described above, the ability to see beauty in difficulty often only comes a bit after the fact. Journaling also gives an excellent place for really figuring out how we feel about elements in our life – especially when we think we know how we “should” feel about something. A wise saying goes: “Stop ‘should-ing’ all over your life!” How true!
Looking forward with the practice of journaling is a great way to find intentionality as well. If we can reflect on what we really want to do in life and relationships, we give ourselves a place to develop goals and plans to bring our purpose into reality. This is a particularly good place for the “why”. Everyone is talking about finding your “why” these days. Identifying your purpose and reason for doing things makes the likelihood for success so much greater. Journaling is just an age-old way of achieving this goal.
3. Vision Board – with a twist!
The third option I’m going to share here today is the idea of a vision board. But I’m adding a special twist at the end! The idea here is more to plan ahead than reflect. Of course, if you had done this last year you can look back on your creation and see how it lived up to the year’s experiences. But to plan ahead for this year you will need some art supplies. Some people draw this one out but many opt to make a collage with things they find to clip out – using magazines, pictures, even advertisements.
This activity allows you to envision what you want your life to be this year. You can plan about things, such as a new house or increased financial success, but you can also use images to represent what you want for your inner life as well. A picture of two friends bonding over coffee might represent how you want to put more emphasis on your social relationships. Or maybe an advertisement for a valentine gift could symbolize your desire to spend more time investing in your spouse. As long as it is meaningful to you, it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. The most important part of this activity is that when you are done you need to put it in a visible place where you will be reminded of what you are aiming to attain this year.
Now for the twist! This is for all of you who have had a year with situations or events that you can’t wait to kiss goodbye. Using that visual cue model – take the past year and either write down or artistically render the things you want to say goodbye to. Then get rid of them in a very final and definitive way. This might mean throwing them into a river or other body of water so they can be washed away from your life. Or, my personal favorite, burn them! For some of us this might be a quick match to a piece of paper over a trash can but for others it might be nearly a bonfire! Whatever makes you feel like you can be free to move on and release what was, that’s the ticket.
Well Friends, there are plenty of options here! Now all that’s left is to pick a model (or use one of your own!) and get busy – busy with planning, processing, and moving into the new year with a desire to grab hold of life and make it yours! It might be great, it will probably get a little messy, but surely it will stretch us and make us more beautiful to anyone who looks and sees what is at the heart of who we are.
Many, many wishes to each of you for this New Year and let’s stick together and see where it takes us!
Peace and health,