Looking behind, looking ahead.

Welcome, 2016!

The new year explodes with expectation, hope, pain and regret, and wishes for the future- a chance to "erase" the problems of our past year and move on. But without making space for reflection and an honest look at our accomplishments and mistakes, we can become prisoners to our own rigid expectations.

There are ways to remain focused, yet flexible.

You can turn your attention to what you already love about yourself, and want to love more about yourself. This doesn't mean ignoring your pain, but it does mean making room for all of you.

The new year can be an opportunity to create space to reflect on your mistakes and your accomplishments, and find the ways in which you were stronger than you ever could have expected. I would bet you've done more in 2015 than you can even imagine.

Try this exercise with a friend, or on your own:

  1. Set aside two to three hours. Get a piece of posterboard (or a piece of cardboard from a box) and some magazines, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick. You will be making a vision board (a collage of pictures, words, and drawings that call to you, consciously and unconsciously). Turn on some music that is relaxing and fits your mood.
  2. Pull out your annual calendar. I love using a paper calendar made by Moleskine for the very reason that I can take notes of my experiences during each week, and reflect back on it at certain points during the year. If you use an electronic calendar, try to view it from week to week, starting from January 1.
  3. Take a piece of paper, and write down your major professional and personal accomplishments, events, traumas, life changes, decisions, and failures for each month. Did you meet new people? Try a new food? Travel to a place you've never visited before? Get a new job? Leave a job? Lose a friend, partner, child, pet? Visit the hospital? Write it all down, month by month.
  4. This is where you can mix it up, depending on what feels right to you. You can either start creating a vision board with the magazines, scissors, glue, and posterboard- or, you can start writing a list for the upcoming year of things you'd like to accomplish. I sometimes like to choose the vision board until I start to feel stuck with it, then move to paper. I find that starting with images helps my unconscious creativity start to flow, and then I can begin to find language for my desires as I write them on my list. You may work differently from me, and you might move between the two as you get inspired.

    To make a vision board, think about your intentions for the new year, or the next six months. Look through magazines and cut out pictures you like, words and phrases that jump out at you. Put them in a pile on the posterboard. When you feel ready, glue each piece wherever feels right to you. If you end up not liking something, you can always glue another image on top of it! Feel free to draw, color in a coloring book and put that picture on the board, and add glitter or other mixed media- whatever is fun and makes you feel good. The final piece will be more representative of you than you may know right now!

    To write your list for the new year, think of some big and small things you would like to try. Be very aware that this is a list for inspiration, not for punishment. If you decide something's not right during the year, don't do it! Stay away from rigidity. Notice when you're trying to make rules for yourself- are you feeling self-punishing? And notice whether you're packing in too much in one part of your life, or whether one part of your life needs more attention than you're offering. Which of the larger ideas can you break into littler pieces? Which ones will you need help with, and from whom?
  5. At the end of the exercise, you will have a working list of things that excite you for 2016 and a board full of images and words that you can hang somewhere you can see it every day. If you're feeling stuck, that's totally okay. I often stop and start my vision board, and add to/remove from my list throughout the first month of the year as I think of things I want to try.

Try this exercise on your birthday, or on New Year, or on the winter and summer solstice. What a beautiful opportunity to treat yourself to visioning your own desires, wishes, and needs, stimulate your creativity, and let yourself really know what you want!