As we move into 2013, most of us will find ourselves looking back on the highs and lows of the past year.  There was certainly much to celebrate during 2012 but there was sadness and tragedy too.  And of course each of us will have had our personal highs and lows – small successes and disappointments as well as major events and life-changing transitions.

As we reflect on the past twelve months we can use our time well or we can use it poorly.  We can choose to focus only on what didn’t go so well, to dwell on what might have been, to complain that yet another year has gone by and we are still in that job we hate or the relationship that’s going nowhere.  Or we can choose to ask ourselves some challenging questions to help make sense of our experiences and to prepare for the year ahead.  Here are my suggestions:

1.       What experiences have I had over the last twelve months?   Take a moment to look back on 2012.  Write down say, twelve experiences.  Include both ‘highs’ and ‘lows’.   For each experience consider what you learned or achieved.  Did you:

  • Acquire new information?
  • Gain a new skill?
  • Build your confidence?
  • Discover something new about yourself or others?
  • Change an opinion or shift an attitude?
  • Build a new friendship or strengthen an existing relationship?

The pace of life today means that we often fail to stop and acknowledge our achievements, particularly the everyday successes.  And when faced with a major transition that has been thrust upon us, we may overlook the fact that even a largely negative experience can have positive by-products.  Often we learn most when we are seriously tested, when things don’t go quite as we planned.  When times are tough we have the opportunity to find out who and what really matters to us and to discover inner resources we didn’t know we had.

Now look forward, to the year ahead.  How can you make use of that new information, skill or confidence?  What fresh experiences or opportunities do those new friendships offer up?  How can you build upon insights gained or strengths uncovered during 2012?

2.       What experiences brought me most joy last year?  And what do I want more of in 2013?  People who enjoy, and are energised by, what they do and who they spend time with, will tend to remain motivated.  If you are driven to succeed by a love of what you do and a sense of inner purpose, rather than fear of failure or the applause of others, you are more likely to feel happier and to stay strong and resilient under pressure.

So how can you bring more joy into your life and work in 2013?  Which activities do you want to spend more time on ?  And which people do you want to spend more time with?  Set aside a little time to think about your core values, those things that are really important to you.  How can you honour those values even more effectively in 2013?

3.       What do I want to let go and leave behind?  Successful personal change and transition usually starts with letting go of something – a habit, behaviour, thinking pattern, attitude or belief, even a relationship.  So what do you need to let go of in 2013 in order to flourish and grow?  Where do you need to de-clutter your life or work in order to make space for the people, activities or experiences that are most important to you?

4.       Finally, what are my intentions for 2013?   I am not a fan of New Year resolutions (see my  January 2012 article).  Instead I favour the setting of Intentions.  A resolution is often framed as a wish to fix what is wrong with us.  Usually expressed in the negative as a desire to say, ‘lose weight ‘or ‘stop smoking’, they tend to be associated with judgement and pressure.  When we stray we feel like a failure, the resolution is ditched and we return to our old ways.

An intention on the other hand is a positive message to yourself about who you want to be, how you want to feel and the actions you want to take.  We humans have the ability to shape our own thoughts, to create new neural pathways in our brains.  When we set positive intentions such as “I intend to appreciate friends and family”, “I intend to be constantly learning” or “I intend to listen to my body and take time out to relax and de-stress” we consciously and unconsciously influence our choices and our behaviours.

An intention is powerful because it is driven from within – from your inner values and passions.  And it is flexible. An intention can be viewed as an anchor or guiding light – if you find yourself drifting away from your intention you can forgive yourself (for being human), and then gently steer yourself back towards your chosen direction.

So, having reflected on your experiences and achievements in 2012, decided what you want more of, and what you will let go, direct your mind towards what you want to do, be or feel in 2013. Capture these as three or four intentions to help guide you through the ups and downs of the coming year.  Write them down.  Now for each one ask yourself “What am I doing this week to honour my intention?”

Do let me know how you get on – I would love to hear from you.  In the meantime I leave you with some wise words from writer and artist, Mary Anne Radmacher.

“Live with intention
Walk to the edge
Listen hard
Practice wellness
Play with abandon
Choose with no regret
Appreciate your friends
Continue to learn
Do what you love
Live as if this is all there is”

I wish you a peaceful, healthy and happy New Year