The week after Christmas is a strange time.
In some ways it’s relaxing and peacefully pleasant.
In other ways, it feels anti-climatic and unnerving.
The anticipation and festivity of Christmas is over, but the New Year with all of its promise hasn’t yet begun.
You don’t quite know what to do with yourself beyond picking up wrapping paper and making returns. I think it’s fun to spend time with friends and family, read quietly, go to a movie, and just relax. Hopefully, you are spending some time doing these things too. (And reading my blog — thank you!)
But there’s a part of me, and maybe you too, that feels just like I do on the last day of vacation. You want to relax and enjoy it, but you know the real world is waiting for you to show up the next day.
But maybe in addition to squeezing in the last bit of holiday fun, we can use this time for some simple preparation for the New Year.
Maybe this can be a time of quiet reflection, internal review, and tentative planning for how we want to grow and bloom during 2012.
Some might call this setting goals, but I prefer to think of it as laying the foundation for personal evolution.
Creating and attaining goals is an important part of making big change in our lives. But personal evolution involves more than just setting goals. It is a process of self-actualization and life creation. It is a process of sculpting, refining, balancing, and articulating all aspects of our lives so we emerge with a life canvas that is a true expression of exactly who we are and what we want from life.
To create this canvas, you can’t start slapping paint on it willy nilly. Nor can you paint by numbers based on what other people have outlined for you — or what you think you should be doing.
Before you dive in to 2012 head first, perhaps this week is a good time to reflect on the year that has ended, your life as it is now, and how you would like to evolve and create your life for the year ahead.
Here are 12 very simple ways you can start that reflection process in various areas of your life. Grab a pen and paper to make some notes. This won’t take long, I promise!
Every New Year we vow to “get in shape.” We look at our bulging bellies or our flabby thighs with disgust — mainly because we don’t fit the physical standard of perfection in the media. What if we stopped thinking about “getting in shape” as an attempt to meet those standards, but rather started embracing our bodies as the amazing home for our mind and soul? Begin the New Year by changing your perspective on your body. See it as your most prized possession, and treat it with tender loving care.
- How are you treating your body now and over the last year?
- How has your body been reacting to the way you’ve taken care of it?
- What is one simple thing you could do to take better care of your body?
This goes hand-in-hand with taking care of your body, but nutrition is so important to all aspects of your well-being. Proper, nutritious food not only keeps your body healthy, but also it provides energy, helps your mood, and keeps your brain functioning at a high level.
- What have you been feeding your beautiful, amazing body over the last year?
- How has this food supported or diminished your overall health and well-being?
- What is one small nutrition change you could make that would improve your health?
Our emotions can profoundly impact our happiness and success in life. Even when we understand that negative emotions can undermine our ability to evolve and grow, sometimes these emotions appear out of nowhere. However, there is usually some trigger or source for the negative feelings that hold us back. It’s not fun to dig around in the wounds of our past or the pain of our present. But stuffing them down or denying them will only force these feelings to appear in other debilitating ways (depression, over-eating, anger, etc.).
- What has been your emotional state in general now and over the last year?
- Can you identify a problem, past event, or regret that has sabotaged your happiness and ability to be your best self?
- What is one small action you can take to heal this wound or address the problem directly?
Often our emotional state is impacted by our relationships. The people closest to us, particularly our spouse or significant other, can have a huge impact on our feelings of happiness and life satisfaction. And our relationships with our children, family members, work associates, and friends all create a fabric of joy and life fulfillment if we enjoy mutually supportive and healthy interactions with the people.
- What is the state of your important relationships right now?
- How have your actions, inaction, or behavior impacted those relationships?
- What is one thing you can do to improve a relationship that needs tending?
A couple of years ago, I read the book The Brain That Changes Itself, and I’ve written about it here several times. It fascinated me because of the amazing implications of the science of neuroplasticity. Our brains are not fixed and rigidly mapped. We can rewire them, strengthen them, and keep them healthy well into old age if we continue to learn and challenge ourselves. Plus, leaning new things helps our self-confidence, keeps us engaged in life, and expands our opportunities for bold living.
- What new things have you learned over the last year?
- How has this learning impacted your life?
- What is one small action you can take toward learning something new and challenging?
Our lives consist of a series of habits, everything from the time we get up and when we brush our teeth to our routines at work. Some habits are good, some not so good. And some habits we’d like to have, we don’t have. Incorporating new habits in your life isn’t easy, but it can be done if know how to start small and use triggers, rewards, and accountability.
- What habits have been missing from your life over the last year?
- How would incorporating one of these habits improve your life?
- What one action could you take to add one positive new habit to your life?
You don’t need to be reminded of the importance of money and sound finances. Having enough money to meet your needs and some of your wants is essential to happiness, self-confidence, and security. Being in debt, having your finances in disarray, or even being overly-focused on wealth can create havoc in your life.
- What is the state of your financial life right now?
- How would you define a balanced and healthy financial life?
- What is one action you could take to bring you closer to that ideal?
Your work and finances are obviously intertwined, but hopefully you aren’t working just for money. Your work should bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. In fact, it is best when your work is your passion. When you are working to just get by or to just buy — then work becomes drudgery or a means to an end, rather than part of the purpose of your life.
- What do you love about your work now?
- What do you dislike about it?
- What one action could you take to bring you closer to feeling passionate about your work?
If having a spiritual life is important to you, then you have consciously determined why this should be part of your life and how you want to express it. Living a spiritual life may mean regular practice, worship, and prayer for some — or it could be meditating or walking in nature for another.
- How well have you lived your spiritual life in the last year?
- What defines your ideal spiritual life?
- What is one action you could take to move you closer to that ideal?
Having fun, going on adventures, meeting new people, socializing, traveling — all of these add spice to your life and make you a more interesting and engaged person.
- What kind of adventures have you enjoyed over the last year?
- What new adventures would be fun to pursue in 2012?
- What is one action you can take to facilitate one of these adventures?
Our home is where the heart is. It also reflects our state of mind and supports or detracts from our energy and ideal lifestyle. A home that is neat, organized, inviting, calm, and in the appropriate neighborhood, environment, or city that supports who you are, is a haven for beautiful and joyful living.
- Does your home fully reflect who you are and how you want to live?
- What is the ideal home environment and location for you?
- What is one action you could take to move toward that ideal?
The details of living can bog us down and create chaos and anxiety if we don’t tend to them. Most of us don’t enjoy paying bills, getting the tires rotated, or having the gutters cleaned. But these practical life details can begin to feel like a scratchy sweater, irritating us and inhibiting our full pleasure in life.
- What practical details of life have you left undone this year?
- How would it feel to have these cleared from your mind and to-do list?
- What is one small action you can take to get the ball rolling?
As you write your answers and read through this list, remember that you don’t have to tackle all of these actions at once. From this list, you can begin to reflect on what is most important for you to address this year. All change begins with reflection and preparation, so empower yourself for personal growth and evolution in 2012 by considering your options today!
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