“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
- Søren Kierkegaard
With a year coming to an end many are already in the New Year Resolutions mode. You know, the whole "New Year, New Me" vibe that obviously doesn't work for everyone? But what if I told you there is an important puzzle piece we sometimes overlook in our rush to get on with turning over a new leaf?
Reflection. Yes, mindfully reviewing the old year can be a powerful tool that plays a significant role in how we transition and ultimately design a year we desire. With that Christmas stress behind us and maybe you're still digesting all the food and like many anxiously wondering what the new year will bring and wanting to "get on with it already."
I get it, the idea of a new season is exciting. We love starting over, but sometimes we slide out of one season and right into another one without missing a beat and herein lies a secret. To quote Plato, or was it Socrates? One of them said...
"The unexamined life is not worth living."
While the above statement is pretty presumptuous and bold, the truth of the matter is, between Thanksgiving and the New Year, a lot is going on. People are way too busy and examining our lives often gets overlooked because it is not a priority. Forget reviewing; many are already previewing 2019. But this is such a great season to look back on the year because in life it's not only about how we start something, but also how we finish that makes a difference.
Of course, some things are beyond our control. But as the quote goes, "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward." Sounds like looking back before looking forwards is a wise thing to do.
On today's episode as I share five R's to help us harness the power of reviewing before previewing.
Here's what we cover:
1. REFLECT - While we don't have to wait for a Calender date to reflect on how things are going, a new year or birthday is an excellent opportunity to slow down, get quiet and ask a few self-awareness questions like "what was the year really all about for you? What worked? Reflection time can be minutes, hours, days, weeks or even months where we on purpose look back in a non-judgmental way. This is not the time to start beating yourself up about everything that didn't work. We address that later. Instead, allow yourself to mindfully pay attention to your wins and successes.
2. REJOICE - Gratitude is not overrrated. But we often focus on the negative things and brood over what didn't work. We underestimate, undermine, or completely ignore the positive things. But we can intentionally choose an attitude of gratitude and rejoicing about the positive experiences, memorable moments, life lessons, or people we connected with. Some people didn't make it to the end of this year, but we did. Rejoicing about the gift of life, health, family, friends doesn't mean we go into denial about the painful, negative things that happened. It just means we on purpose mindfully acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate success, both big and small before focusing on the losses, failures, pain and what didn't work well.
3. RELEASE - No one is exempt from the ebb and flows of life. We all experience joy and tears, wins and losses, success and failure, pleasure and pain. They're all intertwined together and ignoring the related emotions is not wisdom. Instead, we want to examine what happened, feel the uncomfortable emotions and also see what good we can glean from the pain. So maybe you have painful memories, you experienced severe setbacks, difficult challenges, and failure. Perhaps you have unfulfilled goals, broken dreams and relationships, maybe even the loss of a loved one. While I empathize with you, I hope you find comfort in knowing that with time we can find a new normal to continue.
But mindful releasing is vital. Sadly what sometimes happens is we either indefinitely put too much focus on the pain, or we ignore it completely. We don't allow ourselves to experience the feelings of loss, and instead try to numb the pain with a lot of activity, alcohol, substance abuse, work or sex.
Most of us are uncomfortable with our pain and that of others. But the beauty of reflection is the chance to purposefully seek out space and people where it's safe to sit with the pain and acknowledge it as evidence that you are alive. I've come to realize that if we actually take the time to feel these things and allow all the messy emotions, snort and tears to come up, as painful and uncomfortable as it is, feelings are not permanent. They came and go; we can choose to go through, let go and grow through them.
Unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, negative emotions like sadness, anger, shame, guilt, toxic people and possessions are other things we can lovingly release. Unfinished projects at the back of your mind can be rescheduled, open loops closed. Because like an aeroplane before take-off, we want to offload all extra bagage that weighs us down by letting go of anything that no longer serves us.
4. RECHARGE - If all that leaves you feeling exhausted, I wouldn't be surprised. You are good company :-) Working through and releasing negative memories and emotions takes energy but leaving them unprocessed is draining. After the inner work, we are open to fill up with good vibes and recharge our empty batteries. In the midst of all the celebration and excitement, treat yourself to some rest and rejuvenation. It's a good time to unplug from the holiday stress and plug into self-care. Having boundaries and healthy self-love is part of self-care. Give yourself permission to unapologetically put yourself first because you cannot pour out of an empty cup. And if our needs are not met, we can get resentful and have no joy serving others.
Ask for what you need, lean back and be in receiving and being mode instead of giving and doing mode. Spend quality time with people who energize (not self-absorbed energy vampires)! Sleep in late, have breakfast in bed, get a babysitter and reconnect with your partner, go on holiday, enjoy a mini-spa or take a hot bath with scented candles. Have a digital detox, no emails, phone notifications and mindless scrolling on social media. Whatever energizes you, nurture yourself because we cannot serve our families, community or even have God when we are operating on burnout, right? By recharging, we mindfully prepare to transition into a new year.
5. RESET - Reset has the idea of adjusting or fixing in a new or a different way. A new year is like uncharted waters waiting to be explored, and our lives can be compared to a ship sailing on both calm and stormy seas. Without a set course, we can aimlessly drift through life and find ourselves in places we never intended to be enduring stuff instead of enjoying irrespective of the cards we have been dealt. If like some of us 2018 left you feeling a little lost and disoriented, the good news is we can always reconsider our options and reset our inner compasses.
Mindful reflection is one way to review the journey so far so that we can preview the future and by design transition into new waters akin to a new exciting year full of possibilities and adventure. With gratitude let's bid the old year goodbye, and with faith, we welcome 2019.
Enjoy the journey my friend!
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