I love the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another. The last 15 days of December is a great time to wind down from the year that has been, reflect and muse on the milestones and catalogue memories in a variety of ways.
Each December, I also read opinions on how New Year Resolutions are pointless; how they don’t work and why we don’t need to put ourselves through that kind of pressure.
I humbly disagree with these opinions and wish to propose a different outlook – let’s address the beginning of a new calendar year, first, with closure and then with pragmatism.
I have a method I have been following for years that works for me. It has 7 steps and by the time I reach Step 7, I feel like an expectant butterfly, ready to emerge out of her cocoon into a new world that’s waiting for her.
Step 1: Describe
Philosophy: Be your own witness
I write reflections in my diary on the development of each of my two kids in that year. I envision that when they turn 25, I will hand them a box full of my reflections about them that will inspire them in their independent adult lives.
This maternal thought and the short and long term vision of being a witness to our lives helps me to stay motivated to write.
Some years, I write gratitude letters to people who have been influential in my life that year.
If writing is not your thing, try making a video or audio book describing the people who have touched your heart this year. The important thing is to describe.
Step 2: Catalogue
Over several quiet hours spent at cafes, I look through photos clicked that year and sort my favorite ones. In this digital world where everything is online and no one prints photos anymore, I still do. About 300 of them each year. I then collate them in albums numbered by the year and add them to my collection at my holiday home. In the 10 years of performing this ritual, these albums have given me much joy, both in togetherness and in solitude.
Instead of printing, you may want to try collating them digitally; give them titles, dates and notes.
Step 3: Clean up
I clean up and I give away what I don’t need. My home and my office spaces. Cupboards, drawers, old gadgets, toys, books, clothes, kitchen ware, files and documents. It’s simple and methodical. The action translates from the physical to the metaphysical effortlessly.
Step 4: Review
I check our business performance statistics for that year. I compare budgets v/s actuals; review our offerings and celebrate with our people quietly. If done promptly, it helps my small team to start the new year with the freshness it deserves.
Accepting things as they stand is an important step. Keep emotion and judgement out of this process as far as you can. If your learnings are sombre, allow the sombriety to affect your next steps.
Step 5: Plan
Philosophy: Be your own leader; attract the right energies
I get practical and hands-on. I visualise things the way I want them to be.
I tell myself, that if I want things to work differently or better, I need to take the necessary steps to initiate change. It’s the Gandhian in every Indian speaking here!
This is best done in a quiet place with minimum interruptions, over long hours, if you have the patience for it and depending on the scope of planning needed.
Step 5: Organise
Philosophy: Nothing works unless you do
This is the hardest part. I fill calendars with important events and set schedules. I do this for our lives – personal and professional. Children’s hobbies, school calendars, family holidays, running my house and kitchen, business events and administration. All-in-one. I apply principles of management to my new year. This is not done in an inflexible, regimented style, but rather in a wishful and hopeful one…Wouldn’t it be nice if we visited Goa on this long weekend; or let’s try and have guest speakers at 6 staff meetings…what topics would be most relevant?
There is no one to blame for insincerity. You do your best and then allow the rest.
Step 7: Set goals
Philosophy: Live your dream
Last but not the least, I set goals. On the first day of each new year for the last 15 years, I write down goals. Personal, professional, family and children. As the kids have grown, they contribute to the family goals as well as write their own. In a family meeting, we discuss, question, ponder and get excited. We design a Master Dream List with a simple motto “Here I will write everything I ever wanted, every place I want to go and every thing I would like to become or achieve”. We list down our Goals in Life. We don’t just leave it there. We photocopy, laminate and post them in our cupboards for the whole year.
I realise that this may sound too geeky or worse, control-freakish behavior to some people. Well, it can be if experienced through blinkers of control or fear of unpredictability. Instead, I like to experience this process through blinkers of hope. When I envision a future for myself, I increase the chances of it manifesting.
Does everything have to manifest? Most of the time, no. That’s why you need to create a Dream List and not a Reality List. To remind ourselves that it is OK to dream. It is OK to dream and not achieve what we dreamt of right now too. It is OK to then keeping dreaming.
Marrying the ideals of dreaming with the practicals of planning is the only way we can achieve what we do.
Some say, setting new year resolutions is an exercise in futility. I say, try it my way. Go slow. Be reasonable and act with love and compassion for yourself and faith in your abilities. Follow the steps in this order:
- Clean up
- Get organised
- Set Goals
After all… Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.
(Quote: Karen Kaiser Clark)