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End of year ‘pause and reset’ reflective practice

I have an intense dislike of the “new year – new you” messaging that always floods my social media feed at this time of year.  This year I noted with dismay, that the first hot-cross buns in Coles coincided with my first sighting of a discounted package for some brutal-looking, punishment-focused personal training programme.

For those of you counting, that was Boxing Day.

I also detest the very concept of a ‘new year’s resolution’.  Not because I’m not a fan of behaviour change – I am a fully-fledged believer in that – but honestly there’s no sound psychological research that suggests you are more likely to be successful in changing unhealthy or maladaptive behaviours on the 1st January, any more than the logic of starting a diet on a Monday.  In fact, quite the reverse.  Plus, for me there’s a strong sense of white-Anglo privilege in the idea of new year’s resolutions, but I’ll save that rant for another day.

What I do love though is a plan.  And by ‘plan’ I mean set of guiding intentions that are regularly revisited and updated so as to remain current and useful.  I don’t mean a rigid set of goals that I stubbornly refuse to deviate from.  Honestly there’s nothing greater sometimes than taking the scenic route somewhere, or the lessons we learn when we follow a path that we weren’t anticipating taking.  If 2020 has taught us anything, surely it’s that we can’t hold too firmly to our expectations of what life might look like!

I love to spend a few days during my holidays at the end of the year reflecting on what the previous 11 and a bit months taught me, what surprised me and how I can learn and grow for the year ahead.  This approach is grounded in one of my core values – curiosity – which is reflection of the part of me that loves to question whether I could do things better, what I could learn next and how I can improve.  And over the last six year’s I have refined my own year-end practice into something that I cannot wait to get into once the last mouthful of pavlova is scraped from plates and most other people in my house are busy sleeping-off their culinary excesses.

I sat down on 27th December this year to work through my practice and as part of that work I chose to restart my blog writing – I used to diligently write as part of my own love of word-craft, something I had sadly fallen out of the habit of doing in recent years.  What better place to start than sharing my year-end reflective practice?

  1. Review your core values: I will share more on why I think being clear on your values is so foundational later in January, so if you’ve never done any values-work I urge you to check back then. I like Russ Harris’ approach to understanding and aligning with your values; values as distinct from goals but important to ensuring that goals are achievable and are qualities of desired behaviours that can, and do change and evolve over time as we do.
  2. Unravel your year: This workbook from Susannah Conway is the next part of my practice. It’s a beautiful piece of work that Susannah lovingly creates and renews every year and shares freely from her website.  It comes in three parts: a reflection and closing off of the year that has been (super important for year’s like this one!), a future-focused dream-space and then a month-by-month section to help you keep on track.  For me, this helps me tangibly connect to both my big wins, and learning opportunities from the previous year as well as start my juices flowing for what will become my specific goals for the year ahead.
  3. Full focus planner: From Michael Hyatt is my personal favourite planner – and I’ve done A LOT of research here! Honestly it’s not super-cheap and it requires a little bit of forward-thinking as it comes from the USA so you have to wait for delivery if you’re in Australia, but it’s a 90-day undated planner that I have used consistently for probably three years now and it’s the tool that I believe has helped me keep on track and continually achieve not only my personal (habit) goals, but also my business-focused (achievement) goals.

That whole process probably takes me half a day and for a contemplative, organised, planner-type of human like me it is far more exciting than the Boxing Day Sales!  It helps me get empty my mind, let my creative juices flow and book-end my year perfectly.

(I’m not sponsored or endorsed by any of the organisations I’ve mentioned, they’re just places I’ve come across that I love and love to share about.)

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