By Nancy Alexander
As one year ends and a new one begins, many of us are reflecting on our lives. Well, today, I want to make you a promise. No matter what is behind you, you can take control of your future. You can choose to dream big. You can make your life whatever you want it to be.
2018 was an amazing year for me. For example, I published my first book, An Unlikely Gift: Finding Inspiration Caring for My Father with Dementia. I went from being employed to being self-employed. I earned another clinical certification to help others in our community enhance their mobility and live a better life. I don’t say that to boast. I say it merely to demonstrate that if I can do it, you can too. It does not matter how big or how small your dream is. What matters is the dream.
So today, I would like to share an important first step to make your dreams a reality this year. What big dreams do you have for the next year? Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Or, for you, is the process of improving your life continuous? Either way, consider my recommendation below as an all important first step.
Let me go on record and say that I am not one to make New Year resolutions. Sure, years ago I did and back then I would get all charged up for a bit, maybe a month or two, and then life would take over and I would slip back to my ways. It’s like that new gym membership. Take a look at all the new people in the gym in January and maybe February. Come March, many are nowhere to be found. They had good intentions, but change is hard.
First Things First
I want to challenge you in this brand-new year to look forward by first looking back. Hear me out. What I’m asking you to do is to look back on the last 12 months or so and think about what you achieved this year. What did you accomplish? What did you learn that was new to you? Where did you travel for the first time? What new skill did you master this year? Did you make a new friend this year? What relationships became more meaningful this year?
I started doing this about four years ago. I look back at the past year and make note of my achievements. Every single year I am amazed at what is on my list. We have a way of forgetting our accomplishments you see. Our lives move so fast and our own programming will have us look first at what we didn’t do or achieve. Look for the positive for a change. Look for what makes you smile. Look for what makes your heart sing.
This is a great exercise to do when we start a new year, but truly we can do it anytime. I do it during the year too. I find it particularly helpful when I get into what I call a “funk.” Do you ever have those times too when things just don’t go right? What I’ve learned is that sometimes I can be my own worst enemy. I catch my self-talk becoming negative and that limits me from seeing the good. That is the time when I have to turn things around right away.
To do this I stop and write down everything for which I am grateful. I mean everything. It might be hard for you to find things to put on your list at first but stick with it. Once you find one and then another, it tends to snowball after that. The holidays – even with all their beauty – can be stressful too. This is the perfect time to appreciate all you have achieved. It works, I promise. It has a wonderful added benefit too. You will find that your mood, your mindset, will improve almost immediately.
Write Them Down
Go ahead, write them down. Some of you will be surprised about how many things you have done in the past year. If you have trouble getting started, ask yourself these questions:
What was your biggest accomplishment this year?
What are you most proud of this year?
What experience taught you the most?
What one word sums up your year?
Once you think you have everything listed, put your pen down and read your list. Feel how that feels to relive each accomplishment. Doesn’t that feel great! Do you see that smile on your face? Keep reading until you’ve read them all. Take the time to acknowledge what this year has provided. Take the time to give yourself a pat on the back for what you have accomplished. You deserve it! Be good to yourself and bear your own gift this year.
The really cool thing is that this will open your mind to positive thoughts about your future. Let the ideas flow when this happens. Dream, and dream big. Write these down when they come to you. Don’t discount anything. Write them all down. Revisit this list often and decide what’s worth exploring more. Who knows, you might be on the cusp of something special.
Looking back is a gift and a great way to jump start your future. You are capable of so much! So, before you spend money on something you may not use later, take the time to just breathe and appreciate all you have achieved. Appreciate what YOU accomplished this year and use that to propel you into another great year of new opportunities and an even better life. Your new year starts now. Make it great.