Well, gang, here we are again. Days before the ball drop.
It’s that promising time of year when we’re imagining the possibilities of fresh starts, shinier habits, and better adventures ahead. The flipping of the calendar does something to our mindsets… making us more reflective and aware of time passing. It’s why New Year’s resolutions are such a big thing. We’re already thinking about the possibilities ahead so we’re primed to make some changes… or at least THINK about making changes.
Personally, I’m a little lukewarm on the whole ‘making resolutions’ business. They can work, sure, but they have to be handled right. Something like, “I’m going to lose 20lbs next year,” with no other plan for how to do that, is the kind of resolution I can’t stand. It dumps the responsibility on our future selves, sticking “Future Self” with the problem of figuring out the logistics on how to get there. I’ve talked before about setting up more specific, short-term goals as the true way to resolution success so I won’t get into that again. Instead, let’s back up.
Setting goals for the New Year has to start with reflecting on the old one… and learning from it.
Self-reflection is a powerful improvement tool. It allows us to think back, observe ourselves, and learn from those experiences. Any goals worth their salt start with this reflective process. There’s an exercise I recommend you try before identifying your 2020 improvement goals. Answer these three questions:
1. What was I grateful for last year?
Gratitude, even though it is essential to a well-lived life, is something we tend to be pretty neglectful about cultivating and acknowledging. So let’s start here. BE SPECIFIC as you answer this one. Don’t give the canned responses like you do out of obligation around the Thanksgiving table, “…family, health, job”. Those are nice and all, but what about your health, for example, makes you grateful? Identify specific moments and experiences that happened last year that made you feel gratefulness. When you do this, you can find the things in your life that are most meaningful to you, and that will provide some background as you set next year’s goals.
2. What did I learn about myself and how did I grow?
It may surprise you as you begin to answer this one how this question is tightly bound to our comfort/discomfort zones. Most growth and learning actually comes from being stretched out of our comfort zones. So if you’re having trouble with how to answer this one, think about what situations challenged you or caused you stress this past year. That’s likely where most of your growth and learning happened. This information is going to be somewhat tied to the next question…
3. What held me back and what could I work on?
Our realities, and who we are, come from our own personal default modes. It’s an unconscious thing that’s been created by our life experiences, with some genetics mixed in, too. It’s what created our own limiting beliefs, and it’s also what drives every word, thought, and action we take. Many things that hold us back come from this internal programming, and for the most part we aren’t even aware of it running in the background. There are both strengths and weaknesses in there, and answering this question helps to identify those weaker areas. We can certainly change our default modes but it takes conscious effort, and it starts with identifying the things in there that hold us back from being the versions of ourselves we want to be.
So there you have it! Three questions that need answers before you go and start working on your 2020 goals. But don’t let this one time of the year be the only time you do any self-reflection. It really should be something we’re doing on the regular. Reflection gives you a chance to pause amidst the chaos, make sense of your experiences, and create meaning out of it all. This meaning leads to ‘learning’, and that right there, folks, is the key to your future actions. It paves the way for you to be the badass version of yourself, the one you’ve always envisioned and wished for. You can get to him/her, but it does take work and change! Start right here with these 3 questions.
As always, I’m rooting for you and I know you’ve got it in you to create change! Here’s to a healthy and fit and adventurous 2020! See ya next year! Heh heh, see what I did there…