Traditionally, January is the time we wipe the slate clean. We turn away from the previous year, from our so called failures and all that went wrong and when the clock strikes 12:01 on the 1st we can start anew.
I don’t know about you, but this year that feels like a tall order. I’m not ready. I want more time so that I can digest everything that’s happened in 2016.
Not only was this quite an ugly election year, but we have experienced the loss of so many iconic and talented people that have in been part of the fabric of our lives. David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Prince were part of the sound track of my youth.
It’s not just me. So many people seem to be stuck in the negativity that has defined 2016. I see meme after meme in my Facebook and Twitter feeds with the common sentiment: “F*** 2016”.
I get it. It’s been a tough year. But here’s a question: if we’re knee deep in regret, sadness and anger how can we start 2017 with a truly clean slate?
Its something I’ve been trying to answer for myself and in my discovery I’ve come across 5 tools that I have found to be helpful. I hope that these tips help you too!
1 Acknowledge what you’re feeling. According to Dr. Leslie Greenberg, the primary developer of Emotion-Focused Therapy, one can’t create true psychological change without putting a strong emphasis on emotion. He helps people accept, express, regulate, understand and transform emotion. Although Dr. Greenberg’s work has shown that some emotions can feel threatening it is still possible to be in touch with our feelings and allow them to serve a positive purpose. Our emotions can be felt and then let go of in a safe way. We don’t have to let them take over. Accordingly, if we allow ourselves to fully experience our feelings for a short time, this can help us sort out what we really want and think. Then we can make the necessary changes in our behavior which then will move us toward what we desire.
2 Pick yourself up and get back in the race. “That’s Life” to quote a Frank Sinatra song. Any success is made up of a series of failures. When we make a mistake it’s important to forgive ourselves and move on.That doesn’t mean we avoid taking responsibility, it means not to get stuck in blame. Oprah Winfrey was publicly fired from her first television job as an anchor in Baltimore for getting “too emotionally invested in her stories.” Good thing she was.
We never have to give up on our dreams. In 1998 I was fired from a job that I hated. It was on that very day I decided to become a recruiter. I now have a successful company and a career that allows me to live a fulfilling life and has continued to support me while I transitioned to a new career in writing.
3 Write for your life. I started writing in a journal back in the days of diaries with little silver locks and keys. In grammar school my diary is where I could complain, rant and rave. My journal is still my go-to tool to get clarity and understanding when I’m experiencing uncomfortable emotions. Writing helps me to understand what I’m feeling and I gain insight into patterns and habits that may not be serving me.
4 Create a Love-it List. In 2015, instead of New Year’s resolutions, I wrote a Love-It List. I didn’t want to start my year by focusing on my weaknesses. Instead I chose to accentuate the positive and develop change from there. According to Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and bestselling author of Authentic Happiness, lasting happiness comes from developing personal strengths, not weaknesses. As a sort of joke, I made a resolution I knew I could keep. I decided that each day when I left the house I’d wear lip gloss! The funny thing is I really began to shine.
I had the best time.Not only did my lips shine that year, but I did. I shined in my business, published my first book of poetry and I was invited to speak at my alma mater, UCLA.
5 Go with the flow. The more attached I am to a certain outcome, the more stressed out and unhappy I become. I’m learning to go with the flow. In his book Super Brain, Deepak Chopra refers to “magical flow” as the ability to “recognize and take advantage of the abundant possibilities that always surround” us. We all experience those everyday coincidences that somehow put us in touch with just the right people, direct us to just the right place at just the right time and give us that next step that eventually helps you realize a long-held dream. I’d rather row my boat gently down the stream than force against the current.
Studies show “the input you give your brain causes it to form new neural pathways.” If the simple act of wearing lip-gloss caused me to shine in so many areas of my life, think of the effect focusing on love might have.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Pema Chodron’s book, “Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living
“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both…Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”
Originally published at medium.com