A wonderful sense of finality comes with the end of December. Work has slowed to a crawl, family has risen to the forefront of our limited attention spans, and full nights of sleep become routine for a sliver of precious, indulgent time. December’s natural, food-coma-fueled fade will be quickly followed by the cold, empty rush of January, a new year and a blank slate from which to build. With January 1 just a few days away, how can we prepare for the roller coaster of a new year while still cozy in the warmth of the old year’s comfortable glow?
Around this time last year I kicked off my columnist residency at The Everygirl with a piece on four questions we should ask ourselves moving into a new year. I wanted to do a bit of a follow up on that piece and list four new action items that are a bit of a progression from the last questions I asked.
1. Take Stock of How Far You’ve Come
In our excitement to look forward, we should not forget to look back, to process what we’ve learned, and to be grateful for another crazy year that we have somehow survived. Ask yourself: What choices did you make this year that got you to where you are? Think about both good choices and bad choices. What are you proud of? What would you have done differently? Who stood out as a good friend, a great mentor, or a solid ally? Who faded into the background? What did you promise yourself that you didn’t come through on? Did you meet your goals? What did you do that led to the most happiness? What backfired? This is not the time for a guilt trip, but honestly assessing our own strengths and weaknesses is the only way to find a firm platform from which to move forward.
2. Look Forward with the Long Term in Mind
New Years Resolutions are famous for their rate of failure. We know that as determined as we are when we write down those promises to go to the gym more often, to cook at home, and to save money, statistically we’re going to fall right back off the wagon in about a month. Short-term resolutions can be great kickstarts, but I’ve found that it helps me to focus more on the long term. Where do you want to be at the end of next year? What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of job will you have? What will be in your apartment? In your savings account? What can you get done over the next 12 months that will help to get you there?
3. Find a Way to Give Back
I usually take care of my annual donations (i.e. museum memberships, that kind of thing) on the last week of the year so that I remember them. For me sometimes financial giving is the easiest and most accessible way to contribute to causes that I care about, but maybe the way you give back isn’t financial. Is there time you can give to someone who needs a friend? Someone who could just use someone to be there and to listen every once in a while? Someone who needs a ride to the airport? Do you have talent you can give? Is there art you can bring into the world to share? Are their words bubbling up inside of you that could bring healing or insight? Do you have a skill that could be used for building up someone else as well as yourself? Life isn’t only what we get out of it, it’s also what we choose to give away.
4. Remain Open to Adventure
More likely than not, the old year ended nothing like you thought it would when it began. As they say, life is predictably unpredictable. With this in mind, try to approach the new year with an open heart, excited to learn what it has to show you, excited to take on the new challenges and opportunities and adventures it will inevitably bring. Plans are great to start with, but make your plans with the knowledge that everything may change in a moment. If you’re life tends to lean towards the routine, it might be a good idea to purposefully leave the door open for adventure a little wider. Go new places, take a day trip, go hiking, talk to strangers, see what magical presents life opens up for you. Live expecting adventure and it will find you. Live with an appreciation of the beautiful and more beauty will appear.