FORGET New Year's Resolutions
First and foremost, I’d like to wish you and your loved ones a beautiful holiday season and end of year. Can you believe 2018 is nearly over? What a year! SO MUCH has happened. Not only for me, but for so many people I talk to. The older we get, the faster time flies. I just spent 5 days babysitting my nephews (6, 7, 9). Kids will immediately bring you back into the present. They don’t think or worry about the future the way adults do. Granted, sometimes you’re in survival mode, but you get the point. Everything is about the present moment. They notice things we don’t. They ask questions that stop you in your tracks and make you think. They’re spontaneous. They embody wonder and awe. They express their emotions wholeheartedly. It’s such a gift to witness.
Which is why I find it more and more important to intentionally slow down as we get older. Take time to be present with our moments, our loved ones, our accomplishments, and our losses. In that spirit, I am slowing down and taking time to write you. I haven’t written in months. So perhaps read this once quickly, then grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and come back to it later with a paper and pen. And go through it slowly. Use it as a guide for reflection.
FORGET NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS!
I am not a fan of new year’s resolutions. It’s not that I don’t think visioning is useful. I just don’t find our society’s artificial way of pushing these onto us is helpful. It’s certainly not sustainable.
What I have found to be much more helpful is to reflect on what happened this year. One question I ask many executives I’m coaching is when do they have time for reflection? Few set aside time. If you don’t make time, it won’t happen. So now’s an opportunity to do this. Especially if you’re the leader of an organization. This exercise will be more helpful than any “strategic planning” exercise because it will give you REAL concrete examples from your own life. Any future vision, life plan, or process will be much stronger if you’ve reflected on what actually happened. Let your own life show you your patterns, what you’ve accomplished, done well, not done well, where you keep repeating the same mistakes, and where you broke free from that which no longer served you.
I love this blessing by John O’Donohue (I slightly adapted it).
AT THE END OF THE DAY [YEAR]: A MIRROR OF QUESTIONS
What dreams did I create this year?
Where did my eyes linger?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn this year?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin this year that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do this year for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom this year did I feel most myself?
What reached me this year? How deep did it imprint?
Who saw me this year?
What visitations had I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid this year?
From the evidence—why was I given this year?
I know this year was painful for many, just as it was extraordinary for others. Some of you may want to rage and cry out “f$ck you 2018!” While others may want to get down on your knees and say “thank you.” However you feel, know that you have changed in some way. All those moments, beautiful or tragic, have marked your life.
This year was epic for me on multiple levels. I took amazing trips to Thailand, Laos, and Bolivia. I spent a lot of time with family and friends. I got several big contracts doing work I love, helping people who need it the most. I spoke at various conferences and events. I went on silent retreat with the most incredible spiritual teacher, Adyashanti. That experience deserves its own post. But there is one thing I’d like to share now that is relevant to this reflection process.
While most of the retreat was in silent meditation, there was Q&A each night. If you had a question and Adya called on you, that was the one time you could speak. I asked about forgiveness (for another post!). Another woman asked about her purpose in life. In other words, she was looking for meaning. I feel like when we take time to reflect on our year, we are revealing its meaning.
His advice was simple and profound, yet not easy.
GET CLEAR ON WHAT IS YOUR HIGHEST VALUE IN LIFE.
What do you value most in your life? What is most important to you? This is not so much a matter of the mind as it is of the heart. What do you cherish, love, and value most? Do not assume you know this. Dig deep within, contemplate, meditate on it.
A way to figure this out, he suggested, is to think about one of the most significant, life-changing moments of your life. Oftentimes it’s the most painful. What value did that experience evoke? What value is worth you orienting your entire life around, and worth suffering for? (A great article that highlights this sentiment is David Brooks’ The Moral Bucket List - the resume virtues vs. eulogy virtues)
Then, what action can you do today to express this value?
Life unfolds according to what you value most. Bigger life questions answer themselves when you start doing this today. Tomorrows are made up of todays.
Most people have conflicting values. Just because you think something is your deepest value does not mean it is. Look at where you spent your time and attention this year, the two greatest commodities you have. If it is not an expression of what you value most, then you’re not aligned.
I’ve been suggesting this process of reflection to many of my clients. Some have been so inspired that they want to do this with their families and teams at work (or their own version)!
And so, I invite you into the process as well.
Forget New Year’s Resolutions.
I promise, you will learn a lot…
Wherever you are, may you have a beautiful holiday and end of year.
Wishing you moonlight clarity, love, peace, and joy.