After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the New Year rushes in quickly. Often, you’re pumped with new vigor as you have a clean slate before you. You start to hastily make your New Year's resolutions, which often look similar to those you’ve created in years past. A few weeks later, your waning enthusiasm makes your list seem less important, and you’re faced, once again, with many incomplete goals.
By pausing and reflecting on the past year, you can avoid making empty goals and, instead, create ones that are more in line with your personality and bridge your previous accomplishments. You might see beautiful things you had previously ignored because you were so busy chasing the bigger dream. You can also reflect on things you didn’t enjoy and make a course correction toward a more fulfilling new year.
While reflecting on the past year, avoid judging yourself on merely accomplishing goals or not. Only looking toward your accomplishments can give you a narrow vision of the progress of your life. End goals are not wrong—they can give you direction. But there are many other pieces of your life that can make a significant impact on who you are.
As you look to create new goals for the coming year, reflect on the past year with these three tips in mind. They can help you create meaningful next steps to achieving what you want this next year.
Notice the Little Things
As you reflect on this past year, pay attention to the little things that make your life what it is. As you go throughout your day, you might notice that you take many things for granted. You don’t even think twice about your automatic car starter that allows you to slip into your heated car. You’re so used to Jenny having your triple-shot skinny mocha ready at the bar each morning that you don’t think twice about it. Yet, these little things are blessings each day.
Think about the path you walk or jog by your house. You might think, “This is just the same old path, I need to find a new place to jog.” Yet, every time you probably notice something different—the chalk drawings of neighborhood kids, turtles or frogs standing in your way, or the happy baby in a stroller being pushed around by his grandmother.
Think back on your year and ask yourself, “What were the little things that made my day?” Perhaps it was the time your work colleague brought you lunch to your desk or the day your spouse made the bed. Maybe it was your child throwing her arms around you and telling you how much she loves you during a sad or stressed out moment. Whatever the memories are, jot them down and cherish them.
Every day in your life is truly a gift. It’s about unlocking those little gifts throughout each day. Learn to embrace the ordinary, mundane moments such as:
- Commuting to work
- Making the bed
- Shopping for food
- Tucking your kids into bed
The majority of life is made up of the mundane, yet it’s so easy to disregard those moments because you’re too focused on getting to the goal. Gain some perspective and relish in the ordinary.
Appreciate the Journey
It’s common to make fitness goals like running a half-marathon. As you look back on hitting that goal, recognize the many little steps it took to succeed. Many people prepare two to three months for this kind of race, and some might even take eight to nine months to prepare. Every week is made up of little goals. The race itself is always exhilarating and exhausting, but that’s not the only part to celebrate.
Looking back on it, the moments that made it great were the steps you took to prepare for it, like:
- Putting post-it notes on your treadmill with your last running time
- Making it to five miles the first time
- Hitting 10 miles
As you make new goals, think about the steps you might take in order to get there. Sometimes we want everything to happen now and we miss the interesting (and at times annoying) steps such as making that trip to the home improvement store or going to meetings with recruiters while pursuing a new job or career. And yet, the things that happen in those steps often make the best stories and bring you the most joy as you share those stories with others.
When you miss the steps, you miss 80 percent of the joy. As you take inventory of the big moments in this past year, ask yourself, “What were the steps that got me here?” Perhaps you stayed up studying all night for your college exam and were awake to see the sunrise. Maybe you listened to the same song over and over again on a road trip and now that song is a reminder of your destination and the time spent with a loved one.
By appreciating the steps along the way, you take pressure off of hitting a big goal and realize that perhaps the joy is in the journey.
Look for the Magic Moments
Take the time to reflect on the magic moments of 2016 with gratitude. You can start with the big milestones and accomplished goals. But then try to look deeper. What were those magic moments that made up your year? It could be something completely non-tangible such as an area of personal growth. Maybe you worked on patience or anger and stress management. Perhaps you focused on a spiritual practice. A magic moment could be healing a relationship or forgiving someone from your past.
As you discover these magic moments, write them down in a journal with the date they happened. Notice the timeline and any pattern that might arise. These magic moments probably didn’t happen just by chance.
Where can you find these magic moments? They are everywhere. You can find them while you’re waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. You can experience them on a warm fall day as you crunch through the fallen leaves. Magic moments make you feel alive.
Sit quietly and reflect on the following questions to realize how beautiful your life has been and what it can be in the upcoming year.
- What was the funniest experience you had? Who did you share it with?
- What made your mouth drop in awe and wonder?
- What was your smallest ritual that you loved?
- Who made you smile the most?
- What was a kind thing a stranger did for you?
- What is an annoying experience you had that is now a great memory?
- When did you feel closest to God or your Higher Power?
- What made you jump for joy? (On the inside or literally?)
- What was the most beautiful thing you saw?
- What words made your heart melt?
- Who gave you the best hug?
By taking the time to reflect on your past year, you will be better able to make meaningful goals for the next. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to create your new goals. Be present to who you are and what you need. Your inner Self will reveal how to best care for you this next year.