I want to share with you an exercise that I made up for myself this year, as 2021 comes to an end, and we move into a new one.
I struggled last year even to want to look back. I was having a rough time with how 2020 went. I didn’t want to look back. I also kind of didn’t want to look forward, or maybe I didn’t know what I wanted to look forward to. I wanted just to pretend everything wasn’t happening.
I was feeling pretty lost, based on what was happening in the world. I was feeling a bit lost in myself, too, feeling a little out of touch with me, unsure of what I wanted from me.
There was a lot of uncertainty, some dread, quite a bit of darkness, and a huge craving for what I now recognize was love, connection, authenticity, honesty with myself on a new level.
Do you avoid looking back?
I’m sure you’re being inundated with info from your favorite resources about wrapping up your year, setting new goals, and reviewing and assessing. I know that my feed and my inbox are both full of them right now.
One thing I notice happening with my clients is a seemingly continual tendency to see only how they are failing and struggling. They seem only to see what’s not going right and what needs fixing.
I think this end-of-year assessment can feel like an invitation to bring the whole year of not getting to where you wanted to go to the forefront to look at it really closely.
That is an invitation that is pretty easy to decline.
This is true for me as well. I assure you. I usually just avoid the look back and focus on setting goals, objectives, and intentions for the next year. It just feels way more fun to look forward.
But that also then skips the part where I acknowledge my success, honor my progress, and celebrate how far I have come.
So, I decided to approach this differently at the end of this year.
My intention for myself and you, if you choose, is to encourage the recognition of what has gone well, what has worked, and where you have succeeded and shine a light on it. Of course, there’s a time to notice what we want to change or do differently and correct in all of that.
But, first, let’s build up a portfolio of success evidence that we can draw on as a reminder of what we are instead of focusing on what we aren’t.
We’re typically always prepared with a giant binder of evidence of how we suck in any given area. Our brains keep super close track of that, and they can usually recall every misstep, fault, or flaw.
This is a protection function, I believe. I think it’s our brains wanting us to be careful, prepared, and aware of what has happened and, therefore, could happen again. So it’s well-intentioned if you look at it that way though not always super helpful.
However, there’s plenty of research to suggest that it is possible to do the same thing with positive evidence.
What we look for, we will find more of.
If we think the world is a miraculous place full of goodness, we will be much more likely to notice the small bits of magic that happen around us. Likewise, if we note what we are grateful for every day, we will start seeing more and more to be thankful for.
If you’re used to being critical and seeing what’s wrong instead of right, you may notice some resistance to this exercise I am sharing.
That’s okay. It will just take some intention to shift your focus.
A new approach to looking back
1- Define success
When I sat down to compile my success evidence, the first thing I did was to clarify how I defined success.
When I asked myself what success meant or how to measure it, the first things my mind went to were money, accomplishments, and notoriety. We are conditioned to think of this as success – the externally observable metrics.
For so many of my client’s success equals perfection; however, they define it. This makes sense. It’s what we’ve been told success means or looks like. If you like that definition and it’s useful, keep it.
I don’t have a problem per se in using money or accomplishments as markers of success, but I don’t like those things being the only markers of success.
Success is so much more multifaceted than that; more layered, more expansive.
Success to me looks like learning, shifting, doing, growing, progressing as a human. Not just in terms of my bank account or the degrees or certifications I have.
Metrics like money are easy. Metrics like learning are much more nuanced, but I think in some ways more satisfying.
2- Write down what you’ve learned and done
So, you bet that is what I started with. Under the heading in 2021, I made a list with two subheadings, one titled “I Learned” and the other, “I Did.”
Notice I didn’t say I accomplished. I wanted it to be more nuanced and broader.
It was so interesting what came up. I thought about all areas of my life – my important relationships, my relationship with myself, my business, my spirituality, my body, my kids, my health, and I thought about who I was, where I was a year ago, and where I am now.
What has shifted? What is better understood? What growth have I experienced?
I filled the whole page of what I have learned, and I left space to add on as I ponder and remember over the next few weeks. I’ve learned so much. It’s amazing.
In terms of what I did, I didn’t list every single thing I did the whole year, but I did record some small things and some big things. For example, I brushed my teeth two times a day and took my vitamins and supplements every single day of last year. I did not miss one day, 365 days in a row.
Now, both of these things are small acts, but big things when you consider them as a whole pile of evidence that I can be committed and consistent no matter what.
I listed the places I traveled to last year. I listed fun personal things. I listed things like creating 52 podcast episodes that didn’t exist before and a new program.
Once again, I left space for more things to be added as I reflect over the next few weeks. It was so fun that I kept going.
3- Look forward
I started another list of what I am looking forward to in 2022. I already have some things on the calendar. I have some plans. I have some goals, so I made that list, too.
One of the things on that list was keeping a running list in 2022 of what I learn and what I do so that it’s even easier next year to look back and see how far I have come and be super proud of me.
Celebrate your success
If you want to wrap this year in a bright shiny bow, make your own portfolio of success evidence.
Give yourself some credit where credit is due. You made it through another year. Celebrate it! Celebrate you!
It can’t hurt, but it might help you see what you are capable of.
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