Take time to reflect on this past year before creating new resolutions.
2019: You’ve been a rough one and so I can’t say I’ll be sad once you’re a thing of the past. In fact, I’ll be relieved once you’re gone.
But, with only days to go until 2019 is over and done with, I am reminding myself of the importance of reflecting on this past year. Even though it was a tough one, I need to reflect before I rush to making my new resolutions. I actually like to use the term goals, instead of resolutions. In my head, a goal holds more weight and this helps to keep me more accountable in the long run.
Yes, I’m one of those resolution-making people and although people like me are often made fun, I ask the naysayers — “Isn’t some form of commitment to self-improvement better than none at all?”
My mind says yes.
But, before I dive head deep into my mile long list of goals for 2020, I find myself feeling the need for a bit of reflection and learning before I move on to the next. Here are a few of the suggestions I follow during my New Year’s goal setting session.
Revisit goals/resolutions for this past year.
Before 2020 rolls around, I want to be sure that I spend quality time reflecting on 2019 and especially looking over the resolutions I set a year ago. What did I originally set out to accomplish? Were some of the goals on my list met and if not quite, then why?
It’s important to spend time thinking about the challenges or obstacles that prevented me from fully reaching my goals. Analyzing these challenges/obstacles allows me to better understand what I need to shift in my life so that I stand a better chance at meeting my goals the next time around.
For example, one of the goals I didn’t meet was to finish a first full draft of a YA novel I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. When I think deeply about this unmet goal I’ve realized that there’s something larger than just not making time to write it. It’s that I’m still deciding whether it’s okay (or not) to share some of that mostly underground knowledge with the rest of the world. For me, not meeting this goal was larger than wasting my precious time Netflix bingeing instead of writing. But, what I’ve realized is that I’ve used a distraction, in this case mostly Netflix, as an excuse to not write but in essence what I’m not facing is this larger question of disclosing knowledge.
Being honest about this obstacle helps me understand that what I really need to resolve is talking with my elders about the content I’m including (or should not include) in my manuscript.
Keep it positive, focus on self-love.
Revisiting resolutions/goals set for 2019 can quickly turn into a depressing session if many of the items were not met. Because that’s not the point of this exercise, then it is fundamental to keep in mind that the goal is to reach a greater understanding of impediments so we can eventually meet most of our goals.
It is vital to immerse yourself in a state of positivity while giving yourself a lot of self-love and practicing patience while reviewing past goals. Even if only one or two goals were met, it’s okay, the new year provides another opportunity!
What were the major lessons learned?
The idea behind reflecting on prior resolutions is not to bring oneself down, it’s to better understand what might be preventing us from fully accomplishing our goals. It is important to ask — what were the major lessons learned over the year and what can I take from them to help me continuously improve?
In my case with the unfinished YA manuscript, what I really need to do is break up with Netflix and resume my nightly writing. But, because I know with that plan I’d relapse after only two emails from Netflix reminding me there’s a show I might like, instead I’ll set a schedule that’s more reasonable and realistic. For example, I’ll set a plan to write Monday through Thursday and then allow myself to binge-watch freely Friday and Saturday. Sunday I’ll leave open for other work projects.
Focus on ending 2019 in the most positive way.
This one is challenging for me given the rough year I’ve had. But, despite knowing that there were a lot of downs, I’m convincing myself to focus on the positive things that did happen throughout the year. Even if I didn’t meet all of my goals, during this reflection session I purposely revisit the accomplishments and successes I did have.
Maybe I didn’t finish the YA manuscript, but I did publish one academic article, at least a couple of Op Eds, a few community-based publications, and several of my stories were either curated or featured in Medium publications. Seeing things from this perspective makes me realize that I did spend quality time writing and that I should feel proud of my writing accomplishments this year. No, I didn’t finish the manuscript, but most importantly, my writing continued despite one of the harshest years yet.
Create your new list of goals for 2020.
I’ll be honest and say that although I don’t meet all of the yearly goals set, I continue this reflective practice.
I enjoy creating time to think about past goals and then writing down my new goals and aspirations for the year. I usually do this in the morning either right on New Year’s Day or a couple of days later. I brew a nice pot of cafecito, sit in a well-lit area, burn a bit of sage in the tradition of my elders, bring out my journal, spend a few moments in silence, and then hand-write my resolutions/goals for the year. Although there have been a couple of times I’ve written my goals using my computer, there’s something distinct when I actually write them down in my journal. I love the feel of the paper and the pen against my skin.
This has been the New Year’s tradition I’ve created for myself. Recently, I’ve brought my kids into it too. For the past couple of years I’ve been intentional in sitting them together, in front of the fire if possible, and I’ve asked them to set at least a couple of goals for the year.
As their mother it’s been so touching to hear them share their own beautiful aspirations and it is my hope that they continue this practice like their mama.
I want them to believe that any type of commitment to self-improvement is better than none.
Here’s to an improved New Year!