The holidays are almost here, you might be looking forward to time off, precious moments with loved ones, great food and post-feasting naps.
Then come those post-celebration days, where you eat all the leftovers and have no idea what time it is, let alone what the date might be.
It’s somewhere during this twilight period that thoughts of January 1st rise to the surface, often as the media ramps up its traditional annual message of ‘New Year, New You’. You might start mentally listing resolutions, before remembering that, actually, they’re the same as last year’s – oh, and the one before that, too.
For many, of course, resolutions are exactly the focus required to begin the New Year, but others might find an end-of-year or end-of-period review is more effective, and for most people it offers an opportunity to see how small steps can lead to significant changes.
Why do an end-of… review?
Sometimes you need to look back to be able to move forward. When you think over the past season or year, recognising where you’ve made progress can be motivating and encourage your ongoing growth. In a similar way, seeing where you didn’t meet goals can help you to assess and, if need be, recalibrate your course so that you can get where you want to be. Here are a few things to bear in mind during your personal end-of-year review:
Acknowledge your progress
English mathematician and biostatistician Karl Pearson once said: ‘That which is measured, improves.’ One way to do this with personal goals is to keep a journal and use it regularly to chart successes as well as setbacks.
And it’s important to celebrate all your successes, no matter how small or sometimes seemingly insignificant they might seem. This means acknowledging every choice or action that takes you closer to who you want to be and recognising that progress is incremental and comes in every step you make. Every. Single. Day.
Keep your eyes open for wins and celebrate each one. Write them down so that when you do your end-of-period review they’re all there to be seen and won’t be overlooked by the all-too-human tendency to latch onto and remember the negatives while underestimating – and even forgetting – the positives.
Remove the pressure
Ask yourself if your goals have a particular emphasis. Are they focused on achieving promotion at work; improving fitness levels; learning new skills; spending less time binge-watching TV? Could it be that they’ve been adding more pressure to a life that already feels a little ‘too much’?
If the answer is yes, it could be that your past goals are no longer as appropriate for where you are in your life. It might also be that too few were focused on self-care or at least giving yourself a break now and then.
By looking back it’s possible to see (though harder to admit) that sometimes it’s easy to place undue pressure on yourself to achieve while unintentionally overlooking any goals that emphasise self-care.
Be kind to yourself
Importantly, it is possible to practise self-care and reach your goals. It might not be straightforward, but setting realistic time frames to achieve targets and complementing them with goals that prioritise personal wellbeing is a good place to start.
Instead of asking what you want to achieve at work or within the community, for example, you might consider exploring what your body and mind need in the months ahead – more rest periods, longer walks, focused breathing exercises?
Tailor your approach
Another option, especially if a goal feels too big, is to break it down into smaller and more manageable steps. If, for example, you want to extend your meditation practice to 30 minutes a day, you could start by setting your alarm five minutes earlier than normal for a few weeks to allow time to meditate. Then, when you’re ready, add more time to your meditation and get up a little earlier again. This involves less pressure and makes it easier to have a can-do attitude.
If you have more than one goal, you could also try adding steps towards another, once you have formed a constructive habit with the first. You might think of it as adding layers gradually, as you build new habits slowly.
One last thought
Why wait until January 1st? You could dip your toes in and begin today. In fact, the real beauty of an end-of… review is that it can happen at the end of any period – weekly, monthly or quarterly. You can reassess your position with a check-in later on, knowing there’s less pressure to make it all happen at once. Have an amazing year ahead.
Words: Carrie Baker.
Breathe magazine is the original mindfulness mag for a calmer and more relaxed you.