Reliably, at this time of year I feel nebulous. Liminal. The year is concluding and I'm still digesting and processing - what was all of that? Simultaneously the new year is imminent and I want to be ready to write a new chapter - what will it be?
To buoy myself through this threshold space I like to get tangible. I reflect and plan on paper. This has become an annual tradition, and each year I build my collection of exercises - adapted from various writers, creative therapists, coaches, psychologists, business strategists and thinkers.
For those of you who are also feeling transitional, I thought I'd share a selection of the exercises I do at the end (Part 1) and beginning (Part 2) of each year. Some of it may be useful, some may not. Just use what works for you. It's meant to be enjoyable and empowering. (Also, if you have any exercises you want to share with me - please do!)
Now grab a pen, a note book or some plain paper and follow the questions and exercises below.
Part 1: Reflecting on and letting go of 2016 - the future is only rational in hindsight
The future is unknown. But by looking back you can make some sense of what has happened, how you got to where you are, what has influenced you, what you learned, achieved and how you feel about it all. Creating your own narrative is empowering. Mapping your trajectories over time, insightful and surprising.
1. Overall, when you look back on 2016 what are the top 10 moments, achievements, lessons, memories or themes that come to mind?
2. In more detail, what were the top 5 moments, achievements, lessons or memories for each month? Write out the name of each month with 5 dot points beside it. (This exercise may be hard or easy depending on how much info you have about what happened each month - I currently write weekly and monthly summaries of activities in my diary which makes doing this end of year reflection much easier).
3. What major goals did I achieve this year? These could be health, relationship, project, leisure, work, friendship, wellbeing/spiritual or finance related. Whatever matters to you!
4. Where did I spend my time and my attention? Create a life pie - here is an example of my life pie for 2016. I created 7 categories. Use them or make up your own. Whatever makes sense to you. The closer the dot is to the outside edge the more time I spent in that area, the closer to the centre, the less time spent.
5. What was challenging/awful this year? It's important to be real about what didn't work. Have a rant.
6. What lessons did I learn? I now know myself more now because of...
7. In 2016 I really enjoyed, and am grateful for...
8. I am proud of myself for...
9. How did I go with keeping within my budget and meeting my financial targets? I have monthly and yearly targets. If you don't have financial planning measures in place - do it. Of all the areas in life that benefit from having a plan, it's your finances!
10. To finish off, are there things I need to let go of? Unsubscribe from mailing lists you don't read, donate clothes and homewears you no longer use. If you need to let go of someone or something emotional or intangible, I sometimes write a peace offering letter or draw a pictures or word on paper and burn it for symbolic release (make sure you have water near by!)
Part 2: Visioning and your 2017 - plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.
Now that you have a grasp on where you stand, what do you want to create in 2017? Making a plan of action is useful, but hold it lightly. What really matters is the journey of thinking though what really matters to you, where you want to go and figuring out the smaller steps of how to get there.
1. Looking forward, from my reflections on 2016 - in this new year what do I want to stop doing, start doing and continue doing? I usually create a matrix with various life areas on the side, eg. financial, work, relationships, health, creativity then along the top write stop, start, continue and fill the matrix out for each horizontal area.
2. What do I most want to experience 2017 as?
3. How do I want to feel in 2017?
4. What are key goals I want to achieve in 2017?
5. I choose my intention word for the year. Write it large somewhere where you will see it regularly. This is an idea, a word, or even a motto for the year that you can return to as a focus. What do you want this year to be about? What do you need? What theme will support you and your actions?
For 2016 my intention word was generosity. What this meant to me was self-care, compassion for others and myself, room for growth and the sharing ideas - writing this newsletter is a manifestation of that.
For 2017 my intention word is power. Why have I chosen this word? It's a summary of various things I want to work on. Like, the art of giving less fucks. This 2017 word is a build on my 2016 experiences where I felt really blocked by my own worry, fear, smallness. In 2017 I want to encourage myself to feel the fear - and do it anyway. Work it. Own it. Dig deep. Return to my core and knowing. Shine. Be what I am. Think big, Play big. Be bold. Be audacious.
6. Create my vision board. Get an A3 sheet and a stack of magazines or paper and cut out or draw images and ideas, words, shapes and colours that resonate with what you want to create in 2017. If you have clear goals write them out and stick them on your vision board too.
7. Create artist date times and ideas. Write a list of 52 ideas. Then in your calendar (digital or paper) put a reminder each week for an artist date. This concept is from a book called The Artist's Way. The artist date is an opportunity to do something that nourishes you and fills your creative well. It could take up a whole day or just 15min. Whatever works for you. List 20 things that you love to do eg. swimming, a trip to a bakery for a specific tart, massage, a trip, reading, buying yourself flowers, taking 30min to have a coffee and sketch what you see etc.
8. Figure out my values for the year. Here is a piece I wrote about defining your values (http://us10.campaign-archive1.com/?u=40ecd15f62b5465cf7f52ca73&id=c99562cc7f) that explains the process in more detail.
9. Make concrete plans. Get specific. Break down goals into smaller steps and plot them in your calendar. Eg. this year I want to travel, or I want to save x amount, or write a book, or exhibit in x many shows - break these goals down into smaller steps. What can you do each week to slowly, step by step move you towards your goal? Write a list of all the small steps involved. Then plot them in your calendar so you have one or a few actions to take each week. As this little video I made shows, prioritising is key. (https://vimeo.com/164056904)
I hope that these exercises are potentially useful for you! Let me know how you go.