The holidays are a powerful, reflective time of the year and the transition to a new year often necessitates a sense of introspection about our impact in the world. Many of you may look back on 2016 and remember fondly the good that came into your life. Whereas, others may feel a sense of loss, anger, tragedy, and/or heartache, and anxiously await for this dreadful year to end so that you can begin again in the New Year.
Many of our clients at Center for Shared Insight are committed to a continuous process of self-reflection and improvement and our therapists work with these clients – from all walks of life – to become their best selves. Whether 2016 treated you well or has you looking forward to it’s end, you too can benefit from many of the practices used with clients to promote closure on the year as we look forward to 2017.
Take Inventory of your year
In order to help you take a full inventory of your year, we’ve developed an outline to help you dive deeper into self-reflection - The Reflection Checklist. This personal inventory helps you examine your experiences, relationships, body image, professional aspirations, productivity standards, and spiritual goals to understand how these aspects of your life might align with your greatest joys and most challenging struggles. Just like it’s necessary to know where you are on a map to know which way to travel to your destination, it’s nearly impossible to set new goals or commit to changes without knowing where you strive and struggle now.
Here you’ll find a small sample of those questions which are part of our full reflection checklist:
What was the single best thing that happened last year?
What was your greatest lesson?
What was your greatest source of motivation?
What new relationships did you cultivate?
What new boundaries did you challenge yourself to establish and uphold?
How well did you take care of your physical health?
Is there any aspect of health that you avoided addressing?
Work / Productivity
Has your career progressed the way you desire?
What was the biggest time waster of your year?
What were your sources of motivation?
When do you feel most fulfilled?
How did you grow spiritually?
Ask yourself: What’s Unresolved?
It’s important to attempt to move into a new year with a clean slate. While completing the reflection checklist, unresolved issues will most likely surface.
Unresolved relationships (romantic, professional or otherwise). Perhaps this is related to an argument with a co-worker or a disagreement with a parent. Maybe it’s that romantic relationship from your year that ended without sufficient clarity or closure. This is the time to reach out, wave the white flag, and clear the energy, hopefully with the involvement of the other party. It could also involve you setting a boundary with a family member or coworker that has been challenging to set before now. If the other person doesn’t want to talk about the situation or isn’t in your life to do so, choose a ritual to let go. Whether or not you feel as if you achieved closure, it’s important to metaphorically “close the book” once you feel as if you’ve made all possible effort towards amends. Carrying last year’s baggage into 2017 won’t help you become your best self in the new year.
Unmet goals and aspirations. If you are a journaler or new year’s resolution setter, this might be a valuable time to examine the success of goals and dreams from the current year. When we let go of those aspirations, we are often making excuses for not continuing to strive for those dreams. With a little time and space between the potential giving up of these ideas and now, understanding the personal defeat might be more clear. Maybe your own fear, self-limiting beliefs, or tendency to self-sabotage stood in your way. (Oh, and we have an ebook for that! Download the “Fearless Guide to Living and Loving” today.)
Untapped purpose or potential. At the end of the year, it’s common to feel like you could have done more, taken more chances, been more active in your community, patient, giving, involved, etc. Dig deep and examine where you might feel as if you aren’t living up to your highest potential. This need for self-actualization is one of our most basic human drives. Ask yourself where you are limiting your own full potential and consider ways to tie this desire into your 2017 goals. Maybe you have talents or expertise to share with a mission-based non-profit, or want to become more involved in the political future of our country. Connect with your altruistic nature and examine how you might be more fulfilled by giving of your skills or time in the coming year. Not only does this provide support in your life, but it also feeds another basic human drive and fosters a sense of belonging – through interacting regularly with a group who shares common values and beliefs. And, it’s almost certain that giving will impact your happiness by preventing feelings of isolation, disengagement, and general stagnation.
Now that you have full clarity on the gaps of understanding in your year, and the ways you might have fallen just short of ideal in your interactions with others and your own desires, it’s time to channel that wisdom into clear, actionable, attainable goals for the year ahead. Look for patterns in your reflection inventory and unresolved issues and note whether they tend to center around a few key topics including romantic relationships, raising children, or professional development, etc..
While we are all trying to becomes our best selves year after year, I challenge you to pick one (or maybe two) role(s) you play in your life and focus on improvements around these key areas. So often we over-commit to goals and spread our energy thin when we are motivated to change. Instead, commit to positive improvements in your life with a laser focus on specific behavioral shifts and the desired results. For instance, if you want to live a healthier lifestyle, set a goal of making three healthy choices a day. This keeps you focused, and also leaves it open to numerous healthy choices you could make (e.g., food selection, intake of caffeine, communication with your partner about something stressful, working out, taking the stairs at work, getting to bed on time, taking your vitamins, etc.).
A relationship goal might involve a desire to overcome your tendency towards avoidant behaviors in romantic relationships due to your attachment system. If your default communication pattern of withdrawing keeps you single at a time when you desire long-term companionship, commit to making an effort to connect to your new special someone more frequently. Chose time together, initiate texts/calls, or even a quick video chat to stay connected daily and make that frequent contact the focus on your relationship goal-setting.
If this exercise in taking inventory of life and unresolved challenges has left you with questions on how to set goals and make changes in your behavior for a more fulfilling life, contact Center for Shared Insight to talk with a psychologist about how meeting regularly with a neutral, experienced professional can help you stay on track to make the changes you desire in 2017.
Or, download our fearless living ebook to learn how a January commitment to fearless living transformed my life as a therapist and can also positively impact yours.