I don't know about you, but I'm already booked through April and it's only January!
Do you feel like time is just flying by, too?
From watching my 3-year-old grow up so fast to managing my coaching practice to keeping up with world events, there's so much happening that it's a challenge to remember what I just did last month, no less stay focused on what's ahead.
That's why I love the New Year because it's a perfect time to pause, reflect, and intentionally consider how I want this next year to go - before it gets away from me!
If you'd like join me, enjoy this simple exercise: The Five Questions. It will help you take stock and set yourself up for a happy and successful new year. Just grab a notebook and get ready to feel some good vibes.
What am I most proud of? A common symptom of speed and overwhelm is that we don't stop to celebrate our achievements. It's so easy to forget just how much you do and the impact you have because you're always onto the next thing. Plus, your brain automatically tends to focus on unfinished business. This causes you to obsess about how much more has to get done, instead of reveling in your wins. That's why it's so important to pause and recognize your successes. Studies show that appreciating your achievements can boost your self-esteem which boosts your happiness, too.
Exercise: Take a moment to consider your highlights from 2017. Capture one or more moments you're proud
of on paper.
Bonus: If you have a team, share this with each other. It's a great exercise for morale and a special way to end the year on a high note. Plus, you'll probably learn a few things about your colleagues.
Extra bonus: If you ever get any emails from happy clients giving you a compliment or thanking you, keep them in a special folder called “celebrations.” This way, next year it will be easy for you to recall them. Plus, it's nice to review when you have a bad day.
How did I grow? Sometimes things don't work out as we planned. Or we make a mistake we regret. Or we lose a friend. We can't control what happens all the time, but we can choose how to respond and show up when life happens. The act of turning lemons into lemonade is what researchers call benefit-finding – experiencing positive life change as a result of struggle or suffering. When you benefit-find, you choose to grow and appreciate the good, despite a setback. Studies show that people who engage in benefit-finding are happier and more resilient.
Exercise: Describe a moment where you made some lemonade: How did you grow from a setback? What did you notice about yourself in the process? Write it down.
Bonus: Not sure if you learned anything from your setbacks? Take a moment now to consider an experience that didn't go your way. How can you look at it differently? Can you identify at least one way in which the experience ended up leading you to a positive change in you or your circumstances?
What's one thing I wish to release? Imagine your practice (or your life) as if it were your wardrobe closet. As winter rolls around, you get excited to buy some new sweaters. But unless you release that stack of clothes that you haven't worn for five years, there's not going to be any space for your new wool beauties.
When it comes to the New Year (or any time you want to create a new experience) thinking about releasing the old is just as important as considering bringing on the new.
Exercise: Choose one and write it down: What behavior, thought, relationship, or thing do you wish to leave behind in 2017? Which experiences drag you down, keep you from being productive, or make you your best self? Is it time to unsubscribe from Netflix? Dare I say, Facebook? Clear the clutter in your office? Stop doing everything yourself and finally hire some help?
Bonus: Sometimes letting go is complicated. To help you generate momentum, write down the smallest and simplest first step you can take to facilitate letting go. For example, if you want to release a client relationship that just isn't working out, a good first step may be to pull up the client's file for review later this week.
What am I grateful for? Gratitude is easy to fake. It's like when you know you have a lot to be grateful for (a home, a practice, clean water, food, people you love, etc.) but sometimes you're so stressed that it's hard to really feel the gratitude.
This is one of those cases where you want to fake it until you make it. Because the benefits of gratitude are huge!
Gratitude is one of the strongest predictors of positive mental health and feeling more in control of your life and work. In a study1 conducted by Drs. Martin Seligman, Tracy Steen and Christopher Peterson, a group was asked to journal three things they were grateful for every day for one week. While the exercise lasted just seven days, at the one-month follow-up, participants were happier and less depressed than they had been at baseline, and they stayed happier and less depressed at the three- and six-month follow-ups.
Exercise: Make a list of at least five things you're grateful for in 2017. If, after writing your list, you feel about the same as you would writing a grocery list, then set a timer for at least three minutes. Remember those free-writing exercises in high school, where your pen couldn't leave your paper? Keep answering: “I'm grateful for ______” until three minutes are up. Even if at first you're not feeling the gratitude but just know you should be grateful for certain things, go for about 3-5 minutes. You may start to notice warmth in your body or at least a little bit of lightness set in.
Bonus: Do the gratitude experiment referenced above: Write down three things you're grateful for each day for one week. Go with what you notice without judging your response.
How do I want to be in 2018? Goals are great, but this question isn't about goal-setting. The problem with most New Year's resolutions is that you focus on what you want to do or achieve instead of how you want to feel and be. That can set you up for disappointment and failure.
For example, if you want to commit to going to the gym three times each week without first becoming intentional on the why, you just set yourself up for an obligation that may not even satisfy you in the long run. Why do you want to go the gym? To feel more energized? To feel motivated by other people moving? To feel stronger? Once you get clear on the feeling, then you choose ways to express that feeling. This helps you:
- Choose goals that will ultimately bring you more satisfaction
- Stay more motivated because you're focused on the purpose
- Give yourself more ways to fulfill your ultimate desire.
So if you want to feel more energized, maybe that means seeing your friends more often, drinking more green juice, going to acupuncture, listening to your favorite tunes on your way into the office. Suddenly when you ask: “How can I feel more energized?” You get a ton of great possibilities that may be more fulfilling than going to the gym.
Exercise: So how do you want to be in 2018? Come up with one to three words that express how you want to
feel this year.
Bonus: Take stock and ask yourself: “what do I really want in life and in my practice?”
Here's the deal when we rush through work and through life: if we don't pause to consciously consider how we want to be, we run the risk of cycling back through the same challenges over and over again. Because no matter where you work there you are! Taking stock helps you feel better, choose wiser, and be happier.
Enjoy and Happy New Year to you and yours!
1 Seligman et al. “Positive Psychology Progress Empirical Validation of Interventions.” Tidsskrift For Norsk Psykologforening, 2005.
About the author
Stella Grizont is an international positive psychology expert, speaker and executive coach to Fortune 500 leaders and high performers. The founder of Woopaah, Stella is dedicated to helping people work happier and live better.