One evening last week, I was wrapping up my day of coaching sessions and writing some emails to clients while sitting on my bed. My puppy, Taco, who is now six months old, was lying across my feet, and I was working away to the tunes of my daughter’s piano and voice lesson in the living room. I snapped a photo of Taco and sent it to my husband.
“You have the best job,” He said
“By design,” I responded
I welled up with pride. I created this. I had a vision. I wasn’t sure it was possible, and I made it happen.
Now, as I close out my year and begin anew, I move through a process that helps me acknowledge the seemingly small (but truly big) successes like this one, find compassion for the moments I went off course and set intentions for the year to come.
Here’s how it works:
1. Celebrate your wins.
Whether it’s closing a new client, getting a new job or promotion, defending your dissertation, starting your own business, getting married, getting divorced, surviving cancer—you are all out there doing incredible things. Make a list of all of the big things along with the smaller moments that somehow felt transformational. Honor them. Celebrate them. Notice the ways you brought your unique gifts to those accomplishments and how what others may see as failures could show up on your wins list.
2. Be grateful.
Who in your life has shown up for you this year, without even a request? What are the moments that felt like luck or some divine intervention? Spend time on an accounting of all the things you have that bring you joy. It may not be all you want in life, but take time to focus on what you may be taking for granted—like for some it could be good health. Think about all that your health affords you to do in your life and notice how that can minimize the want or the hunger for what you do not yet have.
3. Forgive yourself.
No, not everything went as planned. You lost your cool. You yelled. You fumbled in your moment to shine. But you’re also human, and humans are flawed (sorry to break this news). In order to forgive yourself for what did and didn’t happen in this past year, I recommend writing yourself a forgiveness letter. And go deep. What compassionate words would you use to calm yourself for saying that cruel thing to your friend out of jealousy or for not listening to your partner because you had to finish an email or for knowing a relationship was over, but letting it go on too long? How would you talk to a close friend about those things? When you feel like it’s complete, read it out loud. Feel the emotions. Let the tears flow. With acknowledgment and forgiveness (and frequent reminders of both), you can work to leave these things in your past and not use them as the foundation for your new year.
4. Choose a theme for the new year.
You may still be in holiday mode and not yet ready to plan out your 2019. That’s OK. Or maybe you’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past that you gave up on somewhere between January 5th and 12th. Instead of that approach—I like to start my year off by choosing a word that will be my theme for the year. It can give you direction and help you choose how to move forward in your role or your business. It can also serve as your mantra in moments when you’re working towards a big change. I asked my daughters what they would choose as words to guide their 2019, and my seven year old jumped up and shouted, “Oh, I know mine! Except for food—ADVENTUROUS!” I can’t wait to see how this comes to be in her life, and I more than sort of hope that it does spill over into food.
As I do this reflection in my own life and then multiply it in my work with clients, the turning over of years has become one of the most simple and powerful rituals I use to gain clarity and momentum. It helps me to define what success looks like for me—knowing that my wins may sound either lofty or mundane to others—and that truly, none of that matters. In the spirit of my 2019 word, LISTEN, it prompts me to get quiet, observe, gather the clues and then alternate baby steps and giant leaps on my own unique path.