Having A Great Year Is No Accident

The New Year is well on its way, the festive decorations have been packed away, and you are running out of excuses. Time to ‘fess up: Have you closed off 2016 and set your goals for 2017 yet?

If your answer is a resounding: “no”, or a slightly less resounding “not entirely”, don’t worry, it’s not too late. We’re not even ten days into the new year after all. You could of course argue, that a new year is a somewhat random point for the process I’m suggesting, but if you consider that much of our world is organised around the calendar and around years, it does make sense to align yourself with this rhythm.

No matter when you choose to do this, it’s important to occasionally review your life, close off what you’ve left behind, and plan your next steps. It’s what keeps you aware and conscious, “online” as I call it, and engaged in your life. In the following, I’ll give you a process for doing this; it’s a ceremony I do at the end of every year.

 

Closing off 2016

Many people have nothing but complaints about the year we’ve just left behind. I say, there was good as well as bad, and in any case it is important to formally finish what needs to be closed, and draw a clean line, so you can move forward unburdened. I have developed a little ritual for this process. Here are the steps.

  • First, take some time, maybe half an hour, when you’ll be undisturbed and undistracted. Keep some paper or a notebook ready, and a pen.
  • Set the scene: get comfortable, maybe get a cup of coffee or tea, light a candle if you like.
  • Think back over 2016, month by month. If necessary, take out your calendar as reference. On a piece of paper, write down everything that didn’t go so well in the year past. Disappointments, failures, illness, personal heartache (family troubles or a relationship break-up), other hardship, or simply a bad mood, sadness, or lack of motivation.
  • Take your time with this step. Look over your list, and if necessary, experience the emotions associated once more. Cry if you have to, say angry words you feel you need to say. Then when you feel at peace and ready to move on, tear up the list and burn it (don’t set the house on fire, please! The sink is usually a good place to burn a paper safely).
  • Now remember all the good things that happened. Achievements, new projects, love, good times spent with your friends or family, success, happiness, well-being, arts and crafts, your hobbies and passions. Write them all down.
  • Now look over your list and take time to fully experience the emotions associated with each item. Feel yourself flooded with gratitude. If it feels right, say aloud words of thanks to the universe or God or whatever you believe in.
  • Finally, determine which projects or goals you wish to carry forward into 2017. Write these down on a separate piece of paper.
  • Say: “Thank you for all the experiences and lessons. I am now ready to move on into 2017.”

 

Setting yourself up for 2017

Now it’s time to create your joyful, passion-filled 2017! Are you ready? Here are some helpful steps. For a more detailed guide, refer to your One-Year Goals Workbook and the Goals Worksheet (if you need another copy, email me and I’ll send you one).

  • First, determine where your intentions are for this year. Is there any particular area of your life you wish to focus on? You can pick more than one, but I’d recommend limiting the focus to about two areas in any one year. This might be health, business, finances, family, hobbies, passions…
  • Now pull out the paper where you wrote the goals and projects you wish to carry over from the previous year.
  • Add goals for each area of your life, with particular emphasis on the areas you’ve decided to focus on.
  • Determine a first step for each goal. It can be a small step, something seemingly insignificant, like googling art schools if your goal is to do a course, etc.
  • Schedule your first steps for the following three days. It is absolutely vital to actually complete these first steps within three days, as psychologists have found out. After this period, it becomes increasingly unlikely that you’ll take the step at all.

Once you’ve done all this, reward yourself. It could be a night-out or a special Self-Care session, and it doesn’t have to cost money. You have set yourself up for all possible success in 2017; all that’s left is to follow through and revise your goals regularly.

 

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Relentlessly Positive

 

Oh please. Not even a pathologically optimistic Coach could find the bright side in the state of the world today, could they? Scathing analyses of the year 2016 are all over the news and social media and the emotional waves of anger and frustration are washing over us.

Well, I’m certainly not going to downplay the challenges. What I am going to do is make a case for the necessity of being positive, of love, optimism, and connection in a world which seems laser-focused on separation, spite, and gloom. I’m even going to show how these are absolutely rational feelings, and how to cultivate them in the adverse climate of fear and anger everywhere.

 

How to be both positive and realistic

Being positive does absolutely not mean to be out of touch with reality. Viktor Frankl wrote Man’s Search For Meaning based on his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. It’s where he gained crucial insights about the purpose of his own life. He took something very valuable out of the experience, but do you honestly think this made the concentration camp a good thing? Of course not! Frankl never denied that the camps were horrific and should never have existed.

The point is, since they did exist and there’s nothing he could do about this fact, he focused on the positive that was also happening: His insights, his experience of compassion and cameraderie amongst inmates, etc.

The granddaughter of a good friend of mine has been battling leukemia since the age of 2. I can’t even begin to describe the horrors this family has been through. When the girl’s mother says that this experience has taught her belief in humanity because of the overwhelming support from friends and all the community including complete strangers, both in spirit and financial donations, she doesn’t for one second imply that her little girl’s suffering is a good thing or justified. All she does is accept the inevitable and find whatever is positive and uplifting about the experience.

 

Why this is so important

I don’t believe in anger because it creates barriers and distance and the world really doesn’t need any more separation. What it does need is openness, fearlessness, an absence of barriers. We don’t heal through hate, we heal through love.

Here’s where the title of this article comes in. Being relentlessly positive doesn’t mean lying down and letting bad politics, separation, violence and discrimination walk all over you (and other people). On the contrary, it means using the most effective weapon of all: The spreading of love, understanding, and communication. Wherever the situation looks bleak, invariably it’s these qualities that are missing, and those who are strong enough are called upon to provide them.

That’s right: It’s not weakness to focus on the positive. It takes a lot of strength to swim against the tide of negativity and refuse to give in to its pull, and instead radiate love, forgiveness, and understanding.

 

What it means in real-world terms

All these words sound beautiful, but what can we actually do?

I’ll give you some examples. If you…

– …are heartbroken over the fate of fugitives, or the homeless, volunteer for one of the organisations supporting them. You may find the extent of the suffering overwhelming, but remember: If you can provide just one child with a new toy or feed one starving person, it’ll make all the difference to that person. This is not insignificant “in the grand scheme of things”; indeed, one heart at a time is how change works. There are no shortcuts.

– …fear for the safety of immigrants / LGBT people / people of colour, reach out to them. Make them feel safe. It’s an incredibly lonely feeling to be fearful and on the constant lookout for potential aggressors; a word, a gesture, a friendly face mean so very much.

– …are worried about the situation in other parts of the world, find a reputable organisation (do some research first) or charity working there and donate money. Make it a small but regular donation. Even five or 10 quid a month make a difference.

The conclusion from all this is that positivity can be a conscious choice and an incredibly brave act of rebellion. It takes a lot of energy to uphold and often feels like pedalling a bicycle uphill, all the time. However, this conscious choice is vital to our world. As for your personal well-being, do not focus on things you can’t influence and rather spend your energy on what you can change. You will be surprised at how much you can do.

 

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Getting Through Dark Times

 

We are adults and can handle ourselves. We focus on the positive and choose to put our energy into what works, what we are good at, the light at the end of the tunnel.

And yet. And yet. Yet there are times when everyone (bar perhaps the most enlightened spiritual monk) goes through heartbreak, mourning, or otherwise challenging periods in life. Sometimes the hardest times are those when only minor things are off, so we feel silly spending a lot of time on it because “there are so much bigger problems in this world”. Then these little hurts are allowed to fester, untended, and can seriously undermine us.

 

Step one: Recognise what’s going on

Our reactions to hard times are as varied as our personalities: Some of us power through pretending all’s well, some withdraw, some pour their hearts out to friends. Some go off their food and others binge. Some go on shopping sprees, and some do several or all of the above.

The important thing is to learn how to recognise your warning signs and acknowledge to yourself that you’re not well. I spent the best part of six years in a state of mild depression, completely oblivious to it. When I began slipping again recently, I was much faster to catch on and managed to turn it around in just two months. It really is vital to know your pattern so you can react to it accordingly.

In the following, I’ll give you some techniques to help you get through a “dark night of the soul”.

 

A First-Aid Kit for hard times

1. Like I said above, you need to learn to recognise your warning signs. I just wrote an article on my personal blog about my own red flags; it was important for me to put this down in writing, so I can refer back to it if I’m ever in danger of slipping again. It goes without saying that this requires a lot of self knowledge, but if you are reading this newsletter, I think it’s fair to assume that you practise personal development and know the importance of studying and working on yourself.

2. Know that you don’t always have to “deal with” everything. When a relationship breaks up or someone close to you dies, there’s no recipe to “get over it” quickly. Emotional hurt is as real as a physical injury, and just like a bleeding wound, there are things you can do to ease the healing, but it’ll still take some time in any case. ALLOW yourself the time to be sad, to mourn, to feel awful. You’re not failing at positivity; you are simply experiencing life as a human being.

3. Allowing yourself the time also means taking precautions in the outside world. Many of us feel it wouldn’t be justified to take time off work because there’s “nothing wrong” in the sense of an illness. I say, take your emotions as seriously as your body and make space in your life. Listen closely to your needs: Work, or socialising with friends, can be a balm, but they can also be a way of trying to bury what’s going on, and that never works in the long run. Again it comes down to knowing yourself and recognising your true needs.

4. Reach out to others. Any true friend will be happy to lend an ear or a shoulder when you’re down in the dumps. A “wallowing” session can do you a world of good, being held while you’re crying is an almost miraculous medicine sometimes. Make use of your support system, but at the same time be aware of what is happening. The goal is not to make a habit of complaining or always sharing negativity.

Deal with things as they happen; if you are in the middle of a longer process (such as mourning a deceased loved one), let your friends know that this will likely take a while and allow them to take as much or as little of it as they choose. Continue reaching out, but don’t forget to also do this at times when you feel better – and these always occur in longer coping processes – so your friends will see you smiling, too.

 

I hope this list will help the next time you are in a bad place in your life! It might be a good idea to save this article for future reference. Above all, cut yourself some slack. Nobody has perfected dealing with hard times. It’s why they are HARD times. Self-Love and Care will get you through.

 

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  • A free worksheet and the valuable “One-Year Goals Workbook”

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3 Steps To Get Into Action Mode

 

Here’s a confession: I’m the uncrowned queen of planning. I make to-do lists and write down visions and goals, I define and outline and determine steps to take. Seriously, if I got paid for my planning skills, I’d be a millionairess several times over.

That’s as it should be, isn’t it? After all, I am a Coach and I’m always going on about the importance of written goals and getting clarity and all that. The issue is that clarity and planning need to be followed by concrete steps in order to be successful, and that’s where I often fall down. It’s all good and well to outline the future, but unless we take action in the present, right now, nothing will ever come of all the planning.

This is what I love most about Coaching: the way it gets people into action mode. An article can never replace this, because by its nature it is a monologue, rather than the exchange between a Coach and a client with its inherent magic and the transformative results it brings. I can, however, outline steps for you to take, and give you techniques to avoid some of the most common pitfalls, and this is what I’ll attempt to do in the following.

 

The “Monday Diet”

Don’t worry, I’m only using weight loss as an analogy for any goal you might wish to achieve. Dieting is simply an example most people have heard about. We all have either been there, or watched someone else struggle with their weight.

One of the most common mistakes people make is that they plan to take action “starting Monday” or “after the holidays” or whatever else is convenient to put the action into the future. This does two things: It gives people a perceived license to eat unhealthy things or two much of everything for the time being, which is counterproductive to their goal, and it puts the desired behaviour into a clearly defined exceptional state, which will always contrast with what’s “normal”.

Other goals work exactly the same way. If you plan for the future, your goal will always be in the future. And if working on your goal will be an exceptional state, it will by definition never become the normal way of doing things.

 

Stop thinking and start doing

Here are the promised steps to take in order to move from theory into practice.

1. Start now. This may seem to run contrary to what I usually suggest about goal planning. Indeed, I don’t recommend dropping the planning, I only recommend a slight change to the order in which you do things. Start by determining your goal, and then before you figure out the details, take action immediately. In other words, if you want to lose weight, start by making healthier choices with the very next meal. If you’d like to start yoga, look up a yoga for beginners video on YouTube and do your first exercises NOW. If you want to start saving money, phone your bank and set up a savings account straight away.

2. Take action every single day. You may be busy, you may be tired, you may be sick. You won’t always be at your best, but to keep up the momentum after getting started, you need to do something every single day. Save your change every single day. Do five minutes of gentle stretching if you are too exhausted for a full workout. The point is to create a habit, and this can only be done by consistent action.

3. Keep planning. This is where my usual suggestions come in: Write down, clarify, review and modify your goal. Determine the next steps to take. All I’m saying that you should do this AFTER the first step(s), when you are already in action mode. Don’t be afraid of modifying goals or throwing some of them out altogether; as long as you are clear on what you want at this particular time, and keep taking action towards that goal, you are good. Change is part of life, and you never “waste” action just because your goal might change. The action you take is doing you good and makes you grow, which is far more important than the goal itself.

Promise yourself that after you finish reading this newsletter, you will get up and take a first step. Anything goes, as long as it is action. You’ve been thinking about it for long enough, it’s time to get up, get going, and get your goal.

 

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  • Insider “behind the scenes” info about Wild Spirits Coaching
  • A free worksheet and the valuable “One-Year Goals Workbook”

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The One About Goals

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where…”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

A friend posted this except from “Alice in Wonderland” on Facebook, of all places, and when I saw it, it hit me like a brick. You see, I’ve always struggled to explain to Coaching clients, friends, and acquaintances why goal setting is so very important. People tend to yawn and roll their eyes at me, the “self-improvement nerd”.

Sure, there have been studies which found that the 2% of people who have written goals are the ones who reach their goals, but hey, there are so many studies about so many things… It’s easy to simply dismiss it and continue as before. What I love about the example from “Alice” is that it’s so wonderfully graphic. It speaks to your mind and your imagination alike.

In a way, having no goals is like turning up at the train station and asking for “50 miles straight ahead” at the tickets counter. It just doesn’t work that way. If you don’t know your destination, or if you are unclear about it, you won’t make any progress as there simply are no tickets to “somewhere in the North of the country”.

Life, of course, always moves ahead and changes. We get older, we experience things, every day passes and becomes irretrievable the next morning. In other words, we are on a moving train anyway, but in order to get on a train of our own choosing, we must be clear on our destination.

To continue reading, sign up for the free Monday Sparkles newsletter, 100% spam free! You will receive:

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  • A free worksheet and the valuable “One-Year Goals Workbook”