A New Year is a good time to reflect on life, to make resolutions, and to think ahead a little. The festive break provides a pause, in which we can see how we feel about everything we are doing. Perhaps we are working too hard. Perhaps we are in the wrong work. Perhaps our life is pretty good, but we need to make some healthy changes to make it even better.
CHANGE IS HARDER THAN HABIT
It is a psychological truth that change is usually harder than habit. Our bodies have evolved that way. Most of what we do every day is supported by very strong habitual urges. If we look at our eating habits, our exercise habits, and our social habits, we can see that, generally speaking, we continue on an automatic path.
It is extremely difficult for the mind and body to shift from the rail tracks of habit. We need to operate with a little wisdom to make it possible.
STRATEGY, PLAN, TIMETABLE
As well as doing psychological counselling and therapy, I teach business skills. We can borrow a bit of business science in our management of personal change. Good businesses work down from strategy – they assess where they are going in the long term, then make a medium-term plan, and then do a short term resource plan and timetable.
Over Christmas and the New Year, we can take time for a strategic assessment of our lives. Here are three useful questions to contemplate:
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? Where and how will you be living? What will you be doing? If it scares you, then be more gentle, and look at your life now: decide on three things you would like to keep from your life now, and three things you would like to lose.
- What brings you joy? Take some time to contemplate this. Maybe research Google for 10 photos that express joy to you, and stick them on a notice board. What do those pictures have in common? How can you bring more of that to your life?
- What brings you pain? Again, take some time to contemplate this. Do you suffer repeatedly in certain ways? Is it because you have relational habits and patterns that make you vulnerable? Name three of them. Perhaps resolve to work on them next year.
After doing the above, put your findings on a notice board. Three things you want to keep; three things you want to lose; 10 pictures that bring you joy; three relational habits you want to change.
PLAN AND TIMETABLE
If you are not a business, then you won’t have a whole planning team at your disposal, so you have to keep your planning efforts simple. A good way of doing this is to enlist the help of a counsellor or friend to monitor your self-development. Share with them your intentions, and what motivates you. Set out on the journey with some company.
Keep your strategic statements visible to you every day, and check that you have something in the diary for each one. Also, if you like to journal or be creative, set aside some writing time each day to reflect on how you are doing in relation to each part of your strategy.
New Year is a good time to reflect on your life, consider where you want to go, and set your intentions. In particular, you can ask yourself what brings you joy, and what brings you pain.
Make your research visible to you (e.g. on a notice board), and use a counsellor, or a good friend, or a journal, as a companion on your journey.