Looking back, looking forward, being present.
It’s that funny time of year in late December when Christmas is over and soon 2018 will draw to a close. It’s a time when people often look back at what they’ve accomplished and learned this year, while looking forward to the year ahead.
Several years ago, a therapist colleague shared a simple ritual with me called Closing the Year. It is designed to bring the old year to a close, so you can embark on the new year with maximum energy and understanding of where it is you wish to go. Now I’m not generally someone who finds journaling or performing rituals easy things to do. But this little ritual has proved wonderful and now I do it religiously at this time each year. I’d like to share it with you in the hope you find it just as powerful.
Find a peaceful spot and grab a pen and paper (or do it on your computer, if you’d prefer). I spend 10 minutes or so doing each of the following steps:
1. Brainstorm all the things you’ve accomplished this year, the memorable experiences you’ve had, and everything you’re grateful for. Spend a few minutes making a list of everything you’ve managed to achieve. You might be surprised at just how much you’ve accomplished in 12 months. And if you’re feeling “I haven’t accomplished anything”, I’d challenge you: at the very least, you have survived. I expect that as you think about it, you’ll realise that you’ve accomplished much more than that.
2. Next, brainstorm the things you no longer want in your life and make a list of the things you’d like to leave behind in the old year.
We all have things in our lives that are past their ‘use by’ date. Physical objects, unhelpful habits, limiting beliefs, thought patterns that hurt, people we no longer wish to spend our valuable time with, the list goes on.
3. Think about your dreams for the future. What do you want to bring into your life? What experiences would you like to enjoy? What new skills would you like to learn? What would you like to do? How would you like to be?
Spend as long as you like dreaming about the future you desire. If you don’t know what you want, you can ask yourself the Miracle Question: If a miracle happened in the night and when you woke up tomorrow, everything in your life was exactly the way you’d like it to be, how would you know there had been a miracle? What would you see, feel and hear that would let you know a miracle had taken place?
4. Brainstorm the things you’d like to bring into your life next year. What are the things, experiences, qualities, and ways of being that you’d like to experience more of in the future. Write them down. They can be quite general, specific or even seemingly banal. Do you want to spend more time with your family? Get healthier? Earn more money? Spend more time in the present? List the things you’d like to attract into your life next year.
5. Make a list of your goals for the year ahead. What would you like to accomplish? What would you like to learn? Where would you like to go? Who would you like to meet? There are all sorts of claims made about the power of goal setting, but I’m going to spare you the rhetoric. Instead, I’ll make a blindingly obvious point: you have a much better chance of reaching a goal when you know what it is. Human neurology is goal-seeking, so get your unconscious on your side, and make a list of what you’d like to achieve in 2019.
6. Read through your list of accomplishments and congratulate yourself for them. Put this list (1) on your left. Read through the list of things you’d like to leave behind. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you feel you’ve made and put this list (2) on your left also. Take the materials relating to your dreams (3) and place them in front of you. Review the list of things you’d like to attract into your life and put this list (4) on your right. Read through your goals for the year ahead, then put this list (5) on your right also (and if you’re left-handed, lists 1 & 2 go on your right and 4 & 5 on your left).
7. Sit quietly for a few minutes. Imagine all the good feelings, thoughts and energy from your accomplishments coming into your body (you can visualise them as a stream of light or anything else you wish). Then become aware of any of your energy that’s tied up in the things you want to let go of, and see it returning to your body. Look to your dreams, attractions and goals: any of your energy that is tied up in those (in wishing or wanting) can also return to you in the present moment. Notice how it’s possible for you to feel even better about those dreams and goals when your energy is in the present. A great deal of people’s awareness is often wrapped up in wishes for the future or memories of the past. It’s great to have access to these dreams and memories, but it’s also good to have our energy available to us in the present moment.
8) Allow yourself to be fully present in this moment. Become aware of the fact that all your accomplishments and activities of the past year were accomplished in an earlier present. Become aware of the fact that all your future accomplishments and experiences will take place in a future present. Really experience how it feels to be fully present.
Now relax and look forward to everything 2019 will bring! I wish you a very Happy New Year!