With a new year and decade upon us, it comes naturally to take stock of where we are, how far we’ve come, and at least ponder how we could make things better now that symbolic first week of January has come around.
Though we can certainly self-evaluate and commit to resolutions any month we choose, something has to be said for the feeling of a fresh start and its effect on our motivation levels.
THE LIFE AUDIT
I encourage you to join me by evolving from the regular resolution-making this year and to delve into a full life-audit. This means a complete evaluation of how your life is going – what is going well, what needs to change, and how you can improve.
Far from a chore, this process should be a therapeutic and self-affirming exercise. Self-improvement is self-care after all. Choose a moment of the day where you have few distractions, set up a quiet working space, play some calming music and take the time to truly reflect.
WHAT’S GOING WELL?
It’s always good to start positive. If you keep a regular gratitude journal, then you will be no stranger to identifying and noting down the positive aspects of your life. What is it that makes you feel happy, appreciated, or proud? It could be a one-off achievement, experience or compliment. Or it could be a long-term blessing, a hobby, a person, or a talent you possess that you could appreciate more.
It comes with many benefits to actively point out what generates joy in your life. The act of physically writing them down forces you to pay them the attention that they deserve, shifting your focus and encouraging within you a deeper sense of gratitude and joy.
To begin your life audit, you should carry out this gratitude process for the year. Take it month by month if that’s easier. What good things have happened? What did you enjoy? What can you be grateful for? However big or small, if it makes you smile when you look back on it, then write it down.
WHAT COULD YOU DO WITHOUT?
Just as it’s important to recognize what is going well for you, you must train yourself to identify sources of negative energy in your life. This may sound simple enough. Sure, there are instances when a toxic person or habit is undeniably causing you harm.
However, sometimes it is less obvious what’s draining your energy and holding you back. Whether an unfulfilling job, a toxic partner or a false friend, if something causes you any amount of unease – add it to the list.
You don’t necessarily need to quit your job or cut anybody out (though sometimes this can be the healthiest solution!) but you need to identify what exactly about this person or thing is bringing you anguish. Maybe it’s not the person or thing itself, but your current approach to them.
HOW COULD YOU DO BETTER?
Most of us make resolutions each year along the lines of “eat healthier, work out more, learn a new skill…” Sure, these can be great resolutions – but there’s a reason why they don’t usually last.
Rather than plucking a generic resolution out of nowhere, construct your own action plan on how you want these lists of positive and negative elements of your life to look in 12 months’ time. What “positives” do you hope to see there? What “negatives” can you work on striking through?
If it is your health that’s at the top of your priorities list for the new year – then that’s great. But don’t just settle for “eating healthier” or “working out more.” Be more specific. Maybe commit to cooking from scratch more, or try a new form of exercise.
Maybe it’s confidence or inner happiness that you are seeking. If you are naturally on the more sensitive side, then pledge to adequately care for yourself and adjust your lifestyle to suit your temperament. That could mean learning to dismiss the opinions of others, putting aside more time to be by yourself or with your closest friends, or simply learning how to say no.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Here’s the thing: not everyone knows what they want to do in the next year or even in the next 6 months – and that’s fine. Life is unpredictable and should be exciting. And whether you prefer to plan or love to live spontaneously – then you do you!
The life audit merely serves as a way to gasp clarity of how the elements of your life are affecting your overall wellbeing. You don’t necessarily have to plan everything out, but evaluating on a basic level what you want and don’t want can have a profound effect on your life satisfaction and state of mind.
If you’re on the more spontaneous side, set goals based on your inner yearnings rather than on job titles, numbers, or certificates. Commit to healthier choices, not a number on the scale. Specific milestones can be motivating for people on specific paths, but for most of us, chasing overall health, happiness, and wellbeing is where true fulfillment lies.
2020: NEW YEAR, NEW YOU?
We are lying to ourselves if we pin too much on the year ahead, which only sets us up for more disappointment and irrational self-criticism
Instead of focusing on an endpoint or outcome, focus on the bigger picture: what changes can you make to feel happier and motivated day-to-day? It shouldn’t be about setting rules or punishing yourself, but rather a positive lifestyle re-balancing. It shouldn’t be a “new you” that you are chasing, but rather new opportunities which can make you feel more like yourself than you’ve ever felt.