The beginning of a new year is a time of reflection. People start talking about their resolutions; the things that they would like to be doing to improve their lives in some way. There’s a pressure within this process of setting resolutions to think about the things you don't do so well, the things you wish you were doing, the things that you feel negatively about. For example, maybe you feel guilty that you aren't doing enough of something, or are doing too much of something else!
We can feel the pull of 'should' and 'must' and 'have to'. This can sometimes be a draining experience. When thinking about goal-setting and resolutions, we would like to feel motivated and driven. There is a more positive framework that you can build for yourself.
What is the purpose of looking back? Time of reflection is important because it is the way that we can take learnings from our experiences. You can think about what didn’t work well, and learn what did work. By spending some time reflecting in this way before thinking about moving forward, it is likely you will realise that you already have some helpful skills or tools that can help in areas of our life that feel new.
Rather than thinking about what you should do, what you wish you were doing, or what you feel you do badly: reflect on what you’ve achieved, the progress you've made in other areas of your life, and what you do well. Underlying lots of the things you'd like to achieve are good habits and discipline. You will likely find that you can translate these skills and build on them in new areas of your life. Look at how far you've already come.
Looking back and think about what you’ve achieved and where you want to be in terms of what you've already done is both powerful and positive. Rather than seeing the gap between where you are and where you want to be as a negative thing, don't beat yourself up. You’re not at zero, you’ve likely got skills there you haven’t acknowledged before.
A simple tool that you can use as a framework for this exploration of your current state, your past actions and your goals is Start, Stop, Continue. What is something that you would like to start doing that would have a positive impact on your life? What is something that isn't helping you to achieve your goals that you might want to stop? Finally, think about something that is already helping a lot that you can continue to do.
This is a clear way of organising your thoughts around how you are spending your time currently and steps you can take towards where you want to be. It doesn't allow for judgement, only evidence: what could work, what hasn't worked, and what is currently working.
If you'd like to take on this process in a gentle way, look to our previous article on the Yin Jar ceremony. Through this, we guide you to consider what you would like to hold on to, and what you would like to let go of.
For a deeper exploratory exercise, it can be helpful to write down your top ten barriers or difficulties you have that are currently standing in the way of you doing something. Then, you can try to find a way to write about how each of these barriers have benefitted you; how they’ve helped you.
It's not so much that you shouldn't address the barriers, but it can really change your mentality around them and encourages you to delve into what is really holding you back. It can at times be uncomfortable to think in this way, but you may find benefits to your barriers. Repeating this exercise when you come up against barriers can start to build a resilient mentality, since you are always looking for a lesson in challenges you face. What space do they provide for your growth?
In reflection, what are the things you bring with you that are of value? Hold onto them preciously as you choose to let go of things that no longer serve you well. Finally, remember; growth comes more easily when we are kind to ourselves along the way.