As the New Year approaches, you may be evaluating what has transpired in 2017 and what you’d like to experience in 2018. The following questions may help you to constructively and compassionately consider where you’ve progressed during this year, where you’ve possibly taken some unexpected or unhelpful detours, and where you’d like to go in the New Year.
Try to listen to your intuition and feelings as you look through these questions, rather than quickly answering in habitual ways. By adopting an attitude of “beginner’s mind”, you’ll be more likely to connect with your current truth and be able to come up with creative solutions. Begin with defining “what” the issue is and then move on to “how” you can contribute to effecting a change.
Also, make sure to give yourself credit for where you have moved in a positive direction, as defined by you, and notice how you’ve helped to bring about that change.
What do I really want? More fulfilling and authentic relationships with others? The courage to skillfully and kindly exit relationships that no longer serve me or the other person? Better physical health?
Take some time to determine if these wishes really stem from you, or if they have been imposed on you by other people or by society. Strive to be true to yourself. It can be difficult to resist external influence when it comes to determining your priorities. However, you may find that if you’re trying to fit in with other people’s ideas of what you should be and should want, your motivation to do so will be low or non-existent, which is not a fulfilling way to live. On the other hand, once you determine or reaffirm your true desires, you are likely to really come alive as you take appropriate action.
How do I want to feel? Calmer? More enthusiastic about my life? More on top of my finances? Happier with my career?
Consider when you’ve been most content with your life, and what was going on in your life at the time. Did you have a good social support system of family and friends with whom you could share good times and make it through tough times? Did you have ample leisure time? Meaningful work? See how you can reintegrate some of these factors into your life.
Try to define what a change in the right direction for you would look like. Instead of saying “I want more friends”, come up with a goal such as “I’ll say hi to two people today and show interest in their lives” or “I’ll have coffee with a friend one day a week”.
What am I willing to do differently? What behavior or attitude am I willing to let go of, even if in the short run this may be uncomfortable? What perspective am I willing to adopt, even if this may feel awkward and “not like me”?
It’s been said that we can’t think our way into right actions, but we can act our way into right thinking. It’s often true that by taking different actions than we’re accustomed to taking, even if we don’t feel like it at the time, over time we can alter our mindset in positive ways. For instance, even if you don’t feel like smiling, you may find that by doing so more often, your mood may change and you may connect more with other people, which can offer its own reward.
Are my relationships mutually beneficial? Do I spend time with people who encourage and support me, and with whom I do the same? Or do I have people in my life who drag me down or demean me without offering possible solutions?
Just because we are surrounded by people doesn’t mean that we are good for each other. While constructive criticism can be helpful, making snide comments or having a cold, disapproving, or belittling attitude can do a lot of harm. Do not allow yourself to be either the provider or recipient of such behavior.
Seek out people who celebrate your victories and are there for you in tough times – and respond in kind.
How am I using my gifts to contribute to the world? Do I have gifts that I’d like to cultivate?
We all have strengths. A clue to discovering yours, if you haven’t done so already, is to consider what brings you joy and makes you lose track of time. Then brainstorm as to how this gift might benefit other people and the world.
Are you empathic, picking up easily on other people’s feelings? Are you good in a crisis, while others might be losing their cool? Do you love taking care of animals? There are so many volunteer organizations that can use your help.
What am I grateful for? What warms my heart?
What would you most miss if it were suddenly missing from your life? We often take people, situations, and rituals for granted and realize only after these are absent from our lives how meaningful they were to us. Appreciate your blessings now.
How do I show kindness to myself? If I’m excessively self-critical, how can I treat myself with greater self-compassion?
We are with ourselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The type of self-talk and self-care you use contributes greatly to your level of inner peace and contentment. Cultivate harmony in this department, and your life will change from the inside out.
What did I attempt in 2017 that was easier than I expected it to be? Or harder? What can I learn about myself from this experience?
Sometimes we procrastinate about a project, thinking that it will be enormously taxing, only to find when we actually take action that it was fairly easy and possibly even fun. On the other hand, we might leave less time or accumulate less resources than are needed to tackle something, which leads to increased stress and anxiety.
What do I need to do more of and less of, moving forward? How can I delegate my time and energy so that I have a healthy balance of “wants” and “have tos” in my life?
Spending the majority of our time on what we want to do may be fun at the moment but lead to problems down the line, if we’ve left necessary tasks undone. Conversely, focusing primarily on what we feel we should be doing can result in our losing contact with joy and our “whys”. Why get up in the morning if there’s absolutely nothing on our agenda that we look forward to?
If I had to pick one goal to achieve this year, what would it be? What can be my first step in that direction?
Rather than taking a scatter-shot approach and expending your energy in many different directions, focus on your most important intention. Break down your approach in manageable small steps, and give yourself a timetable. If and when obstacles present themselves, consider how you can be flexible and yet continue to pursue your goal.
In the New Year, make sure to connect with what really brings you alive and resolve to prioritize those items, while living in line with your values. Imagine going over these same questions at the end of 2018 and imagine what you can do now to make your answers then be inspiring and fulfilling.