It’s off with the old and on with the new, but not before we’ve had a chance to reflect. After all, it’s only by understanding what has past that we can look to the future.
So, here we are again, facing up to the end of another year. For some, it will have been the year when all your dreams came true, for some, the year when you stuck to one or two of those resolutions made back in the haze of New Years Day 2016. For the rest of us . . . well, only one in five of us fulfill our resolutions. It’s hardly surprising then that, looking back over the past 12 months, it can be a little uncomfortable as we realize we didn’t quite shift those few kilos, get to the gym twice a week or make those all important changes.
Regret: a side effect of trying to get the most out of life
But the end of the year offers an opportunity to reflect on what we have been doing for the past 12 months and it’s important to be kind to ourselves when we do this.
Take, for example, Simone, who at 34 has been trying to meet a life partner for several years. She creates the same expectation every January – ‘this will be the year I meet someone’ – and every December she dreads the holiday season because of the emotions it triggers. It’s important to not to get stuck in this negative thinking cycle, which can prevent us from both learning from our experiences and celebrating the positive.
To break this cycle it’s important to think about what good things have happened. If you are regretting not having found a partner or a new job, think how this has been positive, rather than negative. Has it meant you have had more time to spend with friends, family or had fantastic experiences that you really would not have wanted to missed?
A few moments of self-reflection allows us to identify what is important in our lives.
Regret is also not wholly negative. It can be a learning process as well as a motivator: spurring us into action, encouraging us to get out there, to meet new people and to try something new. A life without regret is a life without goals and ideals and so is simply a side effect of trying to get the most out of life. Regret is also a signal that there is a chance to fix things; lingering where there are still opportunities.
Identify what makes you joyful
Every mid-winter I invite my clients to conduct a review of their year. Together we effectively press ‘pause’. I believe that pressing pause can be one of the most powerful and useful exercises you can do. Often we spend our lives running around, reacting to life, most of us too overwhelmed to take the time to look properly at what is working and what is not.
I asked a client of mine ‘what brought you joy in the last 12 months?’ She realized that it was something very simple, ‘walking my neighbour’s dog in nature, watching the seasons change and laughing at the silly dog’s playful antics was the one thing I looked forward to each day’ she replied. This light bulb moment helped her create a plan for the following year, which included joining a walking club. At the end of 2016, she now has her own dog, her fitness has improved, she has widened her friend circle and she feels happy.
Sometimes it’s not the big leaps that make us happy – but the small changes we make to our day – be it listening to a song or talking with a friend. Get out your detective hat and work out what has made your heart leap over the past year. What have you loved? What’s made you laugh out loud?
I invite you to put the kettle on and invest a little time reviewing your year. It can be a gentle way to examine the past 12 months, to spot any patterns and sources of issues that can help you make some small changes (or big leaps) in the coming year.
Copyright 2016: Joanna West
Photo: Morgan Sessions/Unsplash