Few years ago, I’d had yet another hellish year and I felt like nothing had changed. The thought of going through another 12 months of the same struggle filled me with dread and planning for the new year felt pointless because ‘nothing was ever going to change anyway’ – I had lost hope.
That New Year’s Eve I came up with this simple exercise that changed my life and I’ve done it every year since (sometimes even every month of every few months, when ever I need it).
What you focus on grows
I realised that the way to change things is to change what you focus on because what you focus on grows. We so easily make mountains out of molehills with our problems so why not do the same with the good stuff? Why not focus on the good things so intensely that they grow bigger and those mountains you’ve built in your mind become molehills again? Sure, it takes far more effort but it’s an effort worth making because you life will improve significantly.
EXERCISE: CLOSING THE YEAR
Do this before you even start thinking about the New Year because this will change your focus…
…from what went wrong and needs improving, to what went well and can be built upon
…from what needs fixing to what you can grow
…from struggle to progress
…from the external (the outside world/other people) to internal (your feelings, the true you)
…from what’s expected of you/what you should do to what really makes you happy
…from positive to negative
Simply, write down EVERYTHING you achieved in 2016.
- What did you achieve for yourself?
- What are you proud of?
- What make you feel good about yourself?
- What fears did you overcome or at least face? (Overcoming any fears, no matter how small or silly is always a big step forward!)
- What did you do that made you really nervous?
- What did you do better this year than in 2015?
- What did you do well for yourself?
- How did you treat yourself well (or better than before)? Anything nice you did for yourself?
- What progress did you make? Any steps forward? (e.g. maybe you had some sugar free days or improved your diet a bit or became aware of your eating habits – rather than focusing on that weight loss goal you did not reach, again).
While you can of course include all the usual things like career, financial etc successes, what you really want to focus on are the small things that made YOU feel good, it doesn’t matter what others say or think. We place far too much importance on impressing other people, getting others’ approval and completely ignore our own opinions and feelings. Try to forget what is expected of you, how you should feel or what you should do. These things do not make anyone happy. Go into your heart and ask yourself what do you think, how do you feel, what makes you happy. These things are usually small things that often seem insignificant or even silly to others rather than the bigger stuff that impresses others, that we feel should make us happy (but often doesn’t) because we are so conditioned to thinking that this is what success is, this is what should make people happy, that it’s all about what other people think about us.
Try to come up with 20 to 50 things (even more, go for 100 if you can!).
Repeat this exercise monthly, even weekly or daily especially if things are tough.
Benefits of this exercise
- This exercise will help you notice all the good things you did and achieved this year. You’ll find that no matter how bad things are, you can always find something good in every situation. Bad things happen but so do good things. Good things happen every day, everywhere, you just have to pay attention.
- You’ll feel better about the past year (and yourself) and this gives you hope for the New Year.
- You’ll start the New Year with a more positive outlook. You will feel excited – you achieved many of these things without even realising. Think what you can achieve next year with this new positive attitude?
- You get to know yourself better. You cannot become happy, change or grow until you know yourself inside out, the true you, not what others say you are. When you know who you are deep inside, it’ll be easier to figure out what you want out of life.
- You’ll be able to better plan for the new year now that you know yourself a bit better and you know what kind of achievements make you happy. Now is a good time to also learn a new way to set goals (more about this later)