“This is the end, my beautiful friend,” rang out Jim Morrison of The Doors many decades ago. And while he wasn’t talking about the end of the year – he was reminding us of our beginnings and our endings. The question is – how do we frame what’s in between?
The Alpha and the Omega are hallmarks for all cycles and a way of interpreting our beginnings and our endings. Everything from our first breath to our last to all things that start and finish: races, jobs, relationships, journeys. It’s often said that time is a man-made construct. Nonetheless, time is something we live by, something we crave more of, something we squander, something we treasure.
Let’s be honest: 2017 wasn’t an easy year. Hurricanes, fires, floods, shootings, Equifax, nuclear threat, and political dissonance have all been gnawing on the psyches of Americans – and that on top of our own personal challenges – health, finances, relationships, jobs. It can certainly feel overwhelming.
Yet here we are at the end of another year, and it’s time to become reflective: what worked, what didn’t, how far did we come, what were our lessons learned, how might we do it better next time around? This reflective process is helpful when we are able to look back and assess our experiences. But in order to be effective at “looking back," you must avoid regret. Looking back with regret is riddled with pitfalls, not the least of which is getting stuck by the story of the past, as well as being mesmerized by all the ways it could have been better.
The brain registers loss more than gain as part of a survival mechanism. While that can be helpful in life or death situations, it’s not helpful when you’re trying to glean lessons learned and move forward. When bad memories of the past year or regretful feelings begin to surface, have a plan and take action without lingering in the murky waters of negativity.
To make the end of the year a productive and powerful time and to start 2018 with gusto, here are a few ideas for putting a positive twist on closing 2017.
1. Reflect Upon. Look back, and with your eyes on lessons learned, name one or two best moments, best wins, best turning points – whatever it may be. Knowing one or two will make your highlight reel short, sweet and impactful. If you have more, bravo. Write them down in a journal, notebook or post them on a bulletin board or sticky note to remind yourself of these wins.
2. Affirm It. Knowing your one or two best victories of the year, look forward and reflect on how you intend to turn that gain into fuel for the New Year. Affirm how these wins have and will continue to help you. For example, one of my best wins of 2017 involved preparing for and going through a weeklong trek into the wilderness. There were moments I was cold, hungry and sleep deprived, but the journey gave me such rich value that those challenges quickly faded, leaving me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and greater resilience. I affirm this success when I think ahead to my next goals.
3. Give Thanks. Even if 2017 had it’s share of challenges, give thanks. Give thanks for your best and worst experiences – for inside of both are the building blocks of resilience. Any time you are grateful you are helping to improve your heart rate variability (HRV), which is a marker for good health and the regulation of stress. Appreciation also improves your emotional and neurohormonal state. Whether you give thanks by celebrating actively or being quietly reflective, generating a state of appreciation and gratitude will anchor the power of your accomplishments in your mind, body and emotions.
4.Ready, Set. Now, look forward. Knowing that you’re at the start of a new year, it’s important to project into and imprint the future you’re creating. A positive mind set is nothing to poo-poo and generally sets the foundation for success, as you are tuning your brain's pathways to operate in this new reality. Your intentions are everything when it comes to setting goals and creating a determinative state within. Be sure to write these down and make them measurable (quantifiable), actionable (have a process to get there) and achievable (not out of your grasp). Research shows that those who write their intentions down on paper are many times more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t write them down.
5. Go West! Or East, or North or South – just GO!! Action is vital to moving forward and required for hitting your mark. It’s often too easy to put things off until tomorrow, until all your tomorrows are used up and before you know it – it’s the end of another year. While all action involves risk, it is far less than the risk of taking no action. As Will Rogers, said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
Here’s to a strong finish for 2017 – and all the best for a blessed and prosperous New Year!