What will you create in the new year?

A new year is a matter of ritual. It’s a little reminder to take on the next chapter of our lives with a little more agency and awareness. Ultimately, a new year is just a really good excuse to become more intentional about the kinds of experiences and stories we are creating for ourselves.

New Year’s resolutions in the traditional sense don’t usually work for most people because they are too detached from our daily experiences. A few years ago I started doing this exercise where I take some time to reflect upon the year that just passed. From there I decide what I want to focus on changing for the coming year.

This has worked well for me because it is integrated with the continuity of my daily life. It doesn’t assume that the new year comes with a reset button, but it builds on my strengths and deepest needs for change.

For example, at the end of 2012, in my ‘looking back’ I realized I had had tons of ideas that got me really excited but that I never took any action towards. I realized I was being paralyzed by many fears, and I set out to learn to cope better with that fear. This turned 2013 into the craziest, most fun year I have had in my life. That year I committed to doing every single thing I felt scared to do, big or small. It was thrilling… and exponentially more fun, liberating and interesting than ever.

If you want to try it out for yourself, take two pieces of paper and something to write with. Maybe ask some friends to join in and do the exercise together!

LOOKING BACK ON 2016

Take a moment to visualize this past year. Quickly review any random moments of each month of 2016… observe whatever comes to mind.
What were you worried about? Happy about? Striving for? Struggling with?

Browse your mental folders for January, February, March… and so on.
(Take note of anything that surprises you.)

Now take the first blank page, write 2016 on top and answer the following questions.

  1. What are the things you are proudest of from 2016?
  2. Things you are thankful for in 2016?
  3. Mistakes & low points from this last year?
  4. Biggest insights or lessons this year brought?

Now take a look at what you wrote. What surprises you? Do you see any patterns emerging? Anything you didn’t expect? Or maybe something you are getting really tired of repeating?

NOW LOOK FORWARD INTO 2017

It can all start with simply asking yourself what you want.

  1. What do you want to see/do more of this coming year? (Think about what kinds of environments, experiences, people, and attitudes you want to cultivate more this year.)
  2. What do you want to see/do less of this year? (Same… think environments, experiences, patterns, attitudes, etc.)
  3. Find any common themes between these two lists & prioritize. Choose 1–3 concrete areas you want to commit to focus on & work towards.

For each of these goals, take a minute to visualize what each specific one means to you. How do you want it to look and feel? Why do you think this goal is so important for you right now? And most importantly, what do you need to get there? What attitudes, people, and patterns will you need to let go of? What resources will help you in this process? How will you stay focused on this throughout the year?

It has been my experience that saying “I will do x every day” sets me up for failure. So I try to make my goals into themes I will remember throughout the whole year. This way I can seek out books, courses, activities and people who will help me cultivate the area I want to grow in. (Fear, travel, electronic music, tolerance, etc.)

The trick is to choose something that really ‘sparks a fire in your belly’ and to dive into that rabbit hole. Explore, try things out, learn more, talk more, let it push you forward and lead you where you can’t yet imagine you’d love to go.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST… SHARE IT!

Sharing your goals & commitments with others is usually a great way to keep the momentum going. It can be great to have friends at each step who will ask about them, help you move forward and get excited for you.

If you can gather some friends to do this exercise together, great! If not, send your commitments to your mentor or best friends. Maybe try and start some kind of mastermind group. Different forms of support work for different people & different times. The point is to never underestimate the power of finding the right social support.

Now it’s your turn. What will you fill your 2017 with?

Some more reflections for later (because January 1st is only the beginning).

  1. What are your 2 biggest fears and anxieties about this next year? Once you’ve identified them, think about how you can address them.
  2. If you could focus this year on conquering one of your biggest fears, which would it be? How might you achieve this? What has been stopping you thus far?
  3. What are 2 things you really feel the need to let go of? Write a bit about each. Why have they been difficult to get rid of, and why you are ready to say goodbye now? Then maybe burn the pages for a more dramatic effect.
  4. What things have you always wanted to learn more about? Pick one and join a friend or a skillshare class. 🙂
  5. What problem in your community have you always cared about deeply? Why do you care so much? Read more about it. Talk to more people about it. Try and get them excited & maybe you will soon find yourself prototyping some solutions together.

**Dorothy Zablah **is an expert in alternative education. She is an advisor for Collective Academy’s pedagogic model and a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.