Year-End Retrospectives and New Years Resolutions That Aren’t 100% Pure Hell

December 30, 2017 in feel-good, self-coaching

It’s late December.  You look back on the year and smile, listing the career goals you shattered, the ways you treated your body like a temple, the bad habits you shed.  You giggle softly in acceptance of the passage of time, envisioning 2018 with giddy excitement.  You’ve looked forward to this all year.  It’s time (you pause, sipping herbal tea from your hand-thrown mug – the fruits of another successful 2017 venture) to set your New Years Resolutions.  Or, hey, maybe fucking not.  You pop an ibuprofen or four, wolf another three-donut-breakfast and spend three hours in a tizzy reading hot takes on Twitter.  You overspend the last of your December funds, over-binge another couple seasons of whatever’s streaming,  and – just maybe – you envision slowly inserting sharpened pencils into your ears.  All of which sounds better than looking back on this hot, trashy, trash pile of a year.

I get it – as the year winds down, the pressure to look back, look forward, and get resolute mounts.  Year-end reflections can be painful, and setting new goals from a bleak place feels miserable.  Whether uninspiring, superficial, too general, or too hard, resolutions fizzle fast; you feel shitty by mid-February and even shittier this time next year.  But here’s a kicker: resolutions don’t have to suck, and neither does looking back on your year.  The good news is that you have a mind, you have every necessary resource to look back on 2017, harvest inspiration and clarity, and use it to spring load yourself into 2018.  It only takes a few steps, and I’m gonna tell you how to do it.

Look Back Step 1: Find the Feeling.  I know.  I know.  2017 wasn’t exactly a banner year for……anything?  But you were alive for all of it.  You did things, thought thoughts, and felt feelings.  And that’s where we’ll start.  Think of the favorite emotions you experienced, however fleeting, small, or silly.  You’ll start to recall moments, but don’t harp on specifics of what happened.  Instead, try to just think about how you felt.  I think of feeling hopeful at the Women’s March in January, of the exhilaration that followed quitting my job, and of the giddy anticipation of pulling a cake from the oven.  I think of googley-eyed adoration for my husband – of whole oceans of love swelling so strong that sometimes I’m certain the tips of my fingers and toes will pop off.  Let yourself glaze over the details of what happened and jump straight to the emotions you loved feeling.  The ability to consciously *think* on a past feeling is powerful, and learning the impact of your thoughts on your feelings is a tool that will carry you forward.

Look Back Step 2: Don’t Drop the Ball on 2017 Just Yet.  So that feels nice…unless you’re stuck on a failure.  You made a 2017 resolution to read fifteen books, and you haven’t cracked one.  You aimed to learn Spanish and you’ve got nada.  Staring down a fresh start with nothing to show for a goal you made 364 days ago feels meh at best.  So fuck that.  Set a 10-minute timer and work on your crusty old resolution now (right now).  ”But Emily,” you ask, “I’ve blown it all year; how much progress can I possibly make in ten minutes?”  Answer: ten more minutes’ worth than if you don’t try.  No more, no less.  Listen Toots, if this goal was worth it to you 11.99 months ago, you owe it to yourself to have something to show for it.  Grab a book, right now, and read five pages.  Enlist the help of Google Translate to make five vocab flashcards.  This is your last chance to short circuit the wiring convincing you you can’t do it, so take it, dammit.  Need some inspo?  Bathe in the thoughts from Step 1 for a few minutes, and try again.

(Here’s where I pause for 10 minutes, cause I’m serious.  Go away.  Don’t come back ’til you’ve done the thing.  Done?  Good!)

Start Strong Step 1: Feed The Feeling.  Remember the feelings we thought about?  Which one made you feel *best* after thinking about it?  Which gave you butterflies despite yourself?  That’s the one you want.  For me, it’s pride.  I started feeling all kinds of pride this year and I love it, and I want to feed that feeling until it’s a big, strong-ass clydesdale I can ride into the fucking sunset.  Pick yours; we’re gonna make feeling more of that feeling your first resolution.  How?  There’s an easy, corny, woo-woo trick to it: ask yourself.  ”How can I create more [insert name of feeling] today?”  That’s it.  Write it down.  Post it on your bathroom mirror.  Make it your alarm every morning.  Tuck it in the inside of your cereal cabinet.  Do what you must to plant that question in your brain as soon as you can each morning.  Brains are good students – give them a question, and they’ll work hard to answer it.  Thing is, most of us wake up asking really crappy questions, like “welp, what’ll I fuck up today?” or “what’s the next shitstorm gonna be?”  Let this be the year you ask a better question, and don’t be surprised when you start getting better answers.

Start Strong Step 2: Write ‘em Down.  Ah, the meat n’ taters.  Think of a few things you hope to achieve in 2018.  You’re gonna write ‘em down, but before you do, make sure you can answer the following questions about them:
     -How will I know if I’m making progress?  Immeasurable progress is a motivation assassin.  Until your goal is achieved, you’ll need means of discerning whether you’re on the right track before you get there.  If your aim is to count to 100, you need to recognize that moving from 20 to 30 is affirmation of working in the right direction, even when 100 is still far off.  Make sure you know how you’ll account for your progress intermittently between now and a year from now.
     -Do I want to achieve this?  Only you know if you’re bullshitting yourself here.  If it’s not a goal you care deeply about achieving, or a resolution you care deeply about maintaining, kill it.  I don’t care how good it sounds, how nourishing it *should* feel, or how many enlightenment brownie points you think it will earn you.  If you don’t want it, you’re not ready for it.  And if you do want it but the wanting scares you a little?  Good, you’re onto something.
     -Why do I want this?  BE HONEST!  Does your honest answer create a feeling you like?  Excellent, write that shit down.  Does your honest answer make you feel dreadful, guilty, unworthy, or completely sapped of motivation?  Tweak your resolution, and don’t settle for it until the “why” behind it feels good.
     Write down each resolution, your why, and three measurable marks of progress towards it.  Post them up wherever your new morning question lives.

Start Strong Step 3: Don’t Wait ‘Til Monday.  Pick your most intimidating resolution and remove one teeny tiny obstacle between you and a fresh start, before tomorrow night.  Resolving to move more this year?  Go lay out Monday’s gym clothes.  Oh, they’re dirty?  Throw them in the wash now.  Boning up on your finances in 2018 and already know what books you need to get started?  Order them today.  If January 1st is the starting line, then start at the starting line, not tripping over obstacles on your way up to it.  Nothing will sap your motivation faster than botching a start over something as small as a load of laundry or a book on backorder.

Bonus Reminder: Party Less Hard.  I get it, it’s New Years Eve.  You’re free to indulge, and you’ll decide what that looks like (you’re a grownup, buttercup, this one’s on you).  Just remember that a hungover, blister-heeled, bleary-eyed Monday morning is one big obstacle between you and the fresh start you just put so much careful thought into.  What you want matters, way more than a third or seventh glass of champagne or a night of arbitrary exhaustion.  Find the celebration you’re excited for – a solo bubble bath, cooking a beautiful meal with your best friend, or a 2am karaoke blowout.  Enjoy it, and when it starts to smack of a recipe for tomorrow’s regret, turn in for the night.  This girl’s hitting the sushi bar with her hot husband and very much looking forward to a yuzu daiquiri…followed by a huge chug of water, a bath, and a bedtime that will likely hit before the ball drops.  You do you, just not so much of it that you dread the consequences the next morning.

Maybe it is kinda silly that we get all #NewYearNewMe just because the calendar says so (I’ve always been a back-to-school season gal m’self), but there is merit in finding what you want to achieve and going for it.  And there is value in looking back in a way that helps you feel even more excited about looking forward.  And you have every right to feel excited about giving it hell in 2018 no matter what 2017 threw at you.  So Happy New Year, angel.  I hope it’s your best one yet.