As the New Year approaches, many will spend the final weeks creating lists of all the things they hope to do in 2021, revisiting and redistributing the things that weren’t completed or started in 2020. I, too, have been in the cycle of creating these long lists of things I want to do, places I want to go, the weight I want to lose, and often fall short of those goals routinely. As this year comes to a close, however, I’m thinking of approaching it differently by exploring all the things I don’t want to do next year. If you’re like me, you may often attempt to bring in the new without really clearing space and addressing what is already present in your life.
When thinking of this time of year, I remember that winter is a time for stillness, reflection, and cleansing. A time not to do but a time to undo, so why don’t we emphasize the decluttering and reflective portion of this season? We cling to the traditions designed for burnout and living in emotional excess by ignoring what didn’t go right and exploring why. So below, I want to challenge us all to begin to do the work that could potentially set us up to reach heights we often fall short of reaching.
Reflection Before Action
Whether New Year’s Resolutions are a yearly habit for you or not, I find that one of the keys to steady and consistent personal improvement is taking time to stop and reflect. When we have years like this year, it’s easy to throw ourselves into survival mode and get caught up in the momentum that it creates; however, creating time and space to stop and think is essential to how we continue to move forward in our lives.
When taking time to reflect, I more than anyone can attest to my tendency to focus on the negatives in past years primarily. When sitting and reviewing your year and your habits, make sure to emphasize the positives as hard as it can be. I am a firm believer in the challenges and dark times producing a silver lining; even if that silver lining only occurred for you, don’t dismiss it. Consider all the positive moments that happened, the people you’ve met and shared space with, lessons you’ve learned and may have overlooked. The importance of taking the time out to celebrate your wins, no matter how big or small and the moments you may not have realized happened in real-time, allows your mind to slow down and recognize a change in pattern. If we are continually focusing on the negative and making habits around the negatives occurring in our lives, that becomes ingrained in us. Reversing, this happens by emphasizing the positives in our lives as they happen.
I encourage you to take time out this coming year, once a month, to sit and note your wins from the previous month. Doing this every few weeks instead of in bulk at the end of the year may allow space for gratitude to occur; it may inspire you to take more chances where you know success is likely to be your endeavors’ outcome.
I usually take time to stop and reflect on how I’m moving through my year quarterly. While still celebrating month by month, every three months, I sit and see how close I am to whatever goal I’m striding to hit by the end of the year. (Notice I didn’t say striving– no more overexerting ourselves into purpose). I stop and ask myself some tough questions to challenge myself and see if I am creating the life I want or at least taking steps to get there.
Once I have some honest feedback from myself, I begin to break down what I want to continue doing, what I want to have more of, what I need less of, or what I may need to remove entirely. Breaking down your wants can force you to make some difficult decisions regarding the habits you’re forming or trying to break. Still, it will ultimately allow you to continuously take actions that lead to the life you’re choosing, leading to more happiness and fulfillment.
Whether it is at the end of this year, the beginning of next year, or a date of your choosing (I celebrate New Year’s on my birthday), make sure that while you’re considering the next 12 months you:
- Take some time to reflect on the last 12 months
- Take some time to review the last 12 months
- Take some time to view the things you would like to nurture and build on in the next 12 months
- Take some time to consider what you would like to challenge yourself to change in the next 12 months
Reverse Vision Boards
I usually commemorate my New Year with a vision or intention board. Creating one of these boards gives a visual representation of what I desire. Not too long ago, I was encouraged to apply that same logic to things that I need to dump by reversing my philosophy for the things I want to attract. For example, in the past, every year in January, I would spend two to three weeks going over the previous year. Asking myself questions like:
- Did I meet all of my goals?
- How many things did I start?
- How many things did I neglect?
- How many “winning” or “losing” months did I have?⠀⠀
(Included below are more questions for reflection and journaling).
I would then go over the resolutions or intentions I set out to complete and celebrate the ones I finished, mark the ones I started and even celebrate the ones I intended to start or finish but never did. Then I make a separate list of what didn’t get done or created. For the ones that I did not finish or even start, I take time to figure out why. Recognizing what kept me from following through could identify a pattern or trigger that may prevent me from completing something similar for the current year.⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀
This reflection period is fun and insightful as it breaks down the habits I have to either succeed or fail at my hand. When it comes to setting intentions, it’s essential to understand the patterns that may prevent them from happening before you get started. Finally, after analyzing my previous year’s habits (good and bad), I make my list for the current year in the last week of January. I focus on things that I want to challenge myself, I make sure that some are silly and small, and I am also intentional about not adding anything that is out of my capability to see through. I would then create visualizations for my board that reflect the things I want to achieve and make sure it is somewhere I can see it daily.
So how would I reverse this? I would still spend all of January being still and taking an in-depth look into what 2020 was like for me. Explore the habits that I picked up in quarantine and dissect how those impacted my goals and outlook about those goals. I would ask myself, do I like the person I became this year? What characteristics did I develop that hindered me instead of building me up? What practices and habits need to be evaluated and removed? What relationships am I clinging to out of tradition or nostalgia? I would continue to explore all of the areas I need a change in and then figure out how and why a change needs to occur. Exploring these areas is essential because there is no real motivation to see them without understanding why. I would then use the same visualization method, only with a physical representation of what must go and what must change in my life, being sure to also keep it somewhere I can see it daily.
Things to sit with before 2021
Before we slam the door on a colossal 2020 and welcome in what we hope to be a peaceful 2021, it’s essential to recognize all your mistakes. Acknowledging your mistakes is important because if you try to facilitate a change in your life blindly, it may not pan out; just like our resolutions. We then find and cling to the philosophy that, “Maybe it wasn’t meant to happen,” or we preach the self-deprecating notion that, “Well, I knew I wasn’t going to do that anyway.” When will we grow tired of this? It’s infuriating, being trapped by your own decision making or lack thereof. Does this occur because we refuse to put aside time and look in the mirror? Sometimes there is a hard truth that must be faced– that we may be the problem. Yes, external factors can have an enormous impact on how things go; this year proved that more than others, but accountability and responsibility must start with you; then and only then can you begin to look elsewhere. Instead of rushing ahead in setting out all the ways 2021 will be your year, stop and think about this year.
- What did you set out to achieve 12 months ago?
- What excited you about 2020?
- What moved you?
- How did you imagine 2020 to be?
- Did it happen?
- If yes – How?
- If not – Why?
- What will you do more of because it worked well?
- What will you do less of because it didn’t get you the result or impact or outcome that you wanted?
- What have you learned about yourself?
- What positives can you pull out of the experience that you can take into the next 12 months?
- Did you learn that you are more resilient than you thought?
- Did you learn that it is okay to ask for help and seek support?
- Did you learn more about the internal resources you already had to apply to other situations?
- What did the past 12 months reveal to you about the people around you? Did they show up and step in when you needed or asked?
Refusing to sit and reflect on the past 12 months can hinder the behavior and habits you want to have in 2021. Don’t go leaping enthusiastically into next year; even if 2020 was a success for you, spend time figuring out why so you can make it happen again!
Questions to consider when clearing space for 2021
When thinking of what you may need to release or let go of, start at the year’s genesis. Take yourself back 12 months from now and consider some of the questions below. Figure out what you may need to let go of, release, or confront. Shed the parts of yourself that don’t produce fruit and begin to nurture the interests that do. `
- How did you handle the challenges of this year?
- How many goals and milestones were reached?
- What did you learn about yourself this year?
- What habits have you formed that you’d like to un-form?
- What thought patterns do you need to break? These patterns don’t have to be about yourself as much as the world and people around you. What negative or hurtful thoughts are you putting into the world? How can you turn this around if this applies to you?
- What hurtful words might you have said to yourself that you need to un-say, breaking the habit of negative self-talk?
- What plans have you made that you can no longer commit to and must un-make? These can be plans that you are keeping just because you said them out loud—Untether yourself from plans, projects, ideas, and paths of life that no longer serve where you’re going.
- What pieces of your heart broke that need to un-break? A lot of people believe that a broken heart has to stay broken. Many steps can help restore yourself whole. What areas of your life need addressing so healing can take place?
- What have you been apologizing for that you need to un-apologize for? Sometimes we put a lot of emphasis on apologizing for who we are because of how it makes other people feel. Sometimes we apologize for being better, for having more, for being so many other things. Is this a habit you need to break as well?
Questions to ask yourself when goal setting for 2021
For those who are ready to tackle new resolutions but aren’t sure of where to start, here are some other questions and tips to consider so that, hopefully, you have higher chances of succeeding at reaching your goals.
- Who are you setting the goal for, and why are you setting it?
- What are you prepared to give up and take up to make it happen?
- Are these goals in alignment with who you are and what is important to you? (values/needs/purpose)
- What old behaviors and habits do you need to leave behind to make these happen?
- What internal resources do you have, and what external resources will you need to support you?
Tips for MAKING attainable resolutions
- Be precise in your goal setting: Vague goals are too open and won’t help you stay motivated, but being specific with what you want to achieve can help you stay focused throughout the year. Write something out that can translate into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Share your plans: When you share your goal with another person, it adds a level of accountability. Having someone who can root for you and check up on you is a way to keep you motivated towards reaching your goal. Perhaps find a group dedicated to the plan you are working to attain! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Have clear motivation: Finding the right reason to see your resolution is crucial for success. It’s harder to stay on task if you aren’t 100% sure why you are doing something in the first place.
Tips for KEEPING resolutions
- Celebrate small steps: I think we get so caught up with results that we don’t celebrate the steps we are taking towards those results. Small victories are still victories! Schedules day to look back at where you were when you started. Weekly or monthly check-ins with yourself to celebrate your progress! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Plan: Being organized helps with keeping resolutions! When you write them out in your journal, on your vision board, or in the notes on your cell phone, you are specific about what you need to do to face each goalkeeping a calendar with time set aside for each thing you are planning to tackle this year! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Develop new habits: It takes time to create new patterns! Make a separate list of things you may have to change to accomplish your goals, and slowly work towards making those a daily routine or habit!
Gerlinda Renee’ is a creative with a background in Psychology and enjoys looking at the arts through a lens of personal and social behavior. Topics of choice will be in the collection of growth, reflection, perspective and self care.