At the end of the year it’s hard to muster up the energy and suddenly write down all that you want to achieve in the New Year. I confess to often making up goals because ‘ I should’ and it’s ‘what you do going into a new year”. But I rarely achieve these goals. In fact, they just add unnecessary pressure to my life. Often we’re afraid of not meeting these new milestones & either put them in the ‘too hard basket’ or are slightly unrealistic. In both scenarios we are setting ourselves up for failure and entering the New Year with butterflies of awkwardness flying around in our bellies! Right now, let’s choose to put our energy into reflecting on the last year. It’s difficult to feel grounded & gain clarity about where we’re heading without drawing on we’re we’ve been!
Here are 7 questions (& sub-questions) I quickly devised to help you reflect on 2016. These hopefully will help you reflect on and simultaneously fuel your resilience for the challenges that you will inevitably encounter in 2017
1) What were/ are your top three values? It’s easy to focus on other outcomes from a certain task, like the amount of money we earned, but do you value money? Although having a stable income is important, we can become too focused on this and lose sight of the actual purpose of the task. Think about your life role in 2016, maybe you were a full-time accountant, mother or doctor. Perhaps ask yourself these questions;
‘Why am I doing what I do?’
“Is it aligned with my values?”
‘Do I feel valued doing my role?’
“Am I respected in doing what I do?”
“Am I using my strengths? Are these attributes clear to me & others?”
‘Do I have all the support & resources to do my role well?”
1b) What gave you the most meaning and purpose? Think about what you did in your year that made you feel more satisfied and feel like you were living according to one of the values you’ve previously thought about. For example, I value ‘Health & well-being’ so regularly do yoga classes or swim. Although it seems tedious, perhaps now is when you could choose to implement a few things into your everyday in 2017 so that you live more according to your values. If it’s important to you, surely it’s more meaningful & you will perform better at whatever it is that you do.
1c) When did you have fun? It’s likely that by engaging in more meaningful tasks we will also have more fun & be more fun to be around. Often we tend to take life too seriously and become engulfed in the many stressors in our everyday. However, in that way of being we overlook the good times and choose to let our negative mindset taint our enjoyment. How can we simply ‘be’ and enjoy whatever task we’re doing without focusing on all that we have to do afterwards. I often feel guilty for engaging in something fun when I feel ‘I should’ be elsewhere. At these times, I regularly remind myself of the importance of stopping and refueling so that I’m more productive in the next task. How can we be present when our mind is stressing about the future or guilt-ridden about the past? Using my breath as an anchor to the present & becoming more aware of the things in my present moment i.e. sounds, noises or another’s words, really helps.
2) What risks did you take last year? Did you go outside of your comfort zone? What were two things that you did that were risky, outside your comfort zone?
Also maybe think about how you responded when things didn’t go to plan
a) How did you react?
b) What did you learn?
Resilience is about bouncing back from a setback or unexpected obstacle. But what I think it fails to capture is the many lessons we can take from that setback. It’s easy to focus on ‘what went wrong’ or ‘wasn’t planned’, often letting our minds replay these challenges over and over again. Subsequently we become engulfed in this negative mindset. Instead, after the setback let’s choose to stop & reflect on what we learnt. Surely if we do this, the next time we encounter a similar obstacle we will feel more prepared. Rather than feeling swamped by an event, we will likely feel that ‘it happened for a reason’ and leverage ourselves to be more successful in bouncing higher in the next unexpected event.
Publishing Reinventing Emma meant that I was hugely out of my comfort zone for a lot of 2016. Revisiting my journey as a stroke survivor & trying to write this so that others’ would benefit was very scary. But forcing myself to reflect & relive my experience was immensely therapeutic & I learnt so much in the writing & publishing process. The ongoing promotion of my book requires so much more of my time & efforts than I thought. Something which I hadn’t prepared for!
One thing I did at the end of 2015 was paragliding in New Zealand. Initially, as it’s an activity that requires you to basically run & launch yourself off a cliff, many deemed it impossible. But, I have learnt that anything’s possible, maybe done differently, but with a bit of problem solving, we can make things happen. I was able to paraglide with the help of two guys lifting & running with me.
Often, when we’re trying something new we are reliant on those around us. If they say, “It can’t be done” in our vulnerable or needy state, we tend to dismiss the idea. We stay trapped in our comfort zones. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” It’s likely that you wont try it as your fearing an outcome that you’ve already made up in your mind.
The challenges I’ve experienced & risks I’ve taken in 2016 have definitely taken me on an unexpected path, but also (and more importantly) made me grow and given me purpose. As I often chant to myself, “The expected keeps us safe, but still. It’s the unexpected that makes us grow and helps us achieve our dreams”
3) How did you handle the tough times?
When you reflect on the obstacles you faced last year, consider how you reacted. Did you just brush it aside & keep going, ignoring the fact that it did affect you & those around you. Perhaps the event paralysed you so much that you withdrew, avoiding ever having to deal with anything out of your comfort zone again! Did you refuse to take any responsibility for it happening & become resentful towards another & past focused?
I think we’d all agree that how we react to any hurdle is a reflection on our character and dictates how successful we’ll be at detouring & hurdling future obstacles. So think about how you react. Choose to be proactive rather than reactive.
4) Were you authentic? Being authentic is such a vital personal attribute to have. If we are authentic, it’s likely that another feels that we are more trustworthy, accountable and resilient. Many fear that in choosing to be more authentic, we become more vulnerable and weak. Often it’s hard to be authentic when we already are so reliant on others and feel so exposed.
When writing my book and delivering many of my presentations, there are times when I don’t feel like drawing on a difficult situation. A scenario that seems to only highlight all that I can’t do. However, whenever I feel like skipping over these anecdotes I remind myself of why I was doing what I do. It’s likely that in drawing on difficult times, others will also be more aware or perhaps feel less alone. If I am more genuine it’s likely to elicit that authenticity in another. If we are honest about what we have or are encountering, we will feel more real and empowered to face future obstacles. In relaying my story I admit to feeling vulnerable and extremely fearful of what that openness may mean. But I strongly believe that if it empowers another, my feelings are worthwhile. Authenticity encourages authenticity’
5) What supports did you have? We often associate support with vulnerability and feeling weak & needy. However it’s easier to get through an obstacle when those around you or there are certain resources in place to help you. Sure you probably can do these things yourself, but consider that by reaching out you can invest your energy into other tasks. In fact, by delegating you have freed up more time & energy to do what you do well. For example, I have another help me clean my unit once a week. I can vacuum, I can mop my floors. But I cannot do these tasks well or safely. I end up feeling depleted and attempting this only reminds me of what I can’t do well. Similarly, recently delegating many accounting & marketing tasks to another has made me feel more supported to invest my energy into areas that I am better at.
What supports could you implement into 2017 to ensure that you can do what you do better?
6) What did you do to reflect? What things could you incorporate into your week to facilitate you or another to reflect? The opportunity to stop, be still, get grounded and gain perspective on our day is so vital in becoming more resilient. If we don’t stop and have a chance to become more present & mindful, it’s likely we will never perform at our best. Our minds will be clouded.
This was an area that I really focused on in 2016. Not only did my daily practice of yoga or swimming or meditating help my pain management but it also became a great tool for dealing with any emotional stressors in my life. I admit to often feeling selfish doing these things, often prioritizing these over other tasks. But the emotional & physical benefits outweighed this guilt. I also attempted to enable those around me to have ‘time out’ too. Whether it was babysitting for my sister or encouraging another to go out & having more time to be still.
7) What were the top three things you were most grateful for that happened? As I often remind myself when I feel bitter or hard done by, gratefulness and resentment can’t co-exist. For five years I have been religiously writing down daily one thing that I am grateful for. Although there are days that eliciting a positive from the seemingly endless obstacles I encounter, it has definitely changed my mindset. Rather than filling my mind with setbacks & the associated feelings of vulnerability & failure, I choose to elicit good things in my day. We can’t control what we encounter, but we can control how we perceive it. Our attitude dictates our attitude!
In 2017, perhaps begin to consciously become aware of those things in your day that you’re grateful for. It might become a work or family mealtime ritual?
These questions are designed to help you reflect and prepare for all that’s ahead for 2017. Perhaps you are already aware of your responses to some of these. Although they have been posed largely to facilitate your own reflection, they are also good to generalize to the lives’ of those around you. How could you assist them to reflect or carry out what is meaningful to them? How could you make them feel more valued or mindful? Perhaps they are too engulfed in a difficult obstacle that they need you to elicit a positive spin on that time?