The image here shows many of the things that might be on your mind and on your calendar for New Year’s Eve; and while there is nothing wrong with any of those things, I going to share a short exercise with you that will be fun, informative and might be the most valuable 90 minutes you’ve spent in a long while.
It is possible you could take longer than 90 minutes, and you could perhaps spend a bit less time, but if you will look at your calendar for New Year’s Eve and give yourself 90 minutes to do what follows, you will be very glad you did (and it will give you one more reason to celebrate).
Find a quiet comfortable place to do this activity. You will need a pad of paper and something to write with. You might want your calendar and a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage. You won’t need the internet or other technology, I promise. In fact, part of the value is to disconnect from your stuff and connect with yourself.
Here is how I suggest you spend the 90 minutes you have set aside.
1. Look back at last year (20 minutes).
Take some time to look back over the complete year. Think back over the events of the year, the accomplishments and the disappointments. With your pen and paper handy, make notes of what you think about. Write down the key memories of the year, the new friends, and the friends you lost or drifted away. There needs to be no real process here, just spend time thinking and writing about the past year. Your calendar might be helpful in spurring memories, and if so, use it.
This is pure review – not everything in your year was perfect, so capture the fullness of the year – the glad and the sad, the joys and struggles, the achievements and disappointments.
2. Spend time in gratitude (20 minutes)
Next, focus on the great things in your life, the things you are grateful for. The year in review exercise should give you many things to be grateful for, and even if you had a particularly challenging year, you likely have identified a number of things to be grateful for. But don’t stop with the last year! There are things large and small to be grateful for, all around us! Write them all down, allowing yourself to look for and notice things, people, situations and emotions you are thankful for.
This time is meant to provide perspective and buoy your emotions as you prepare for the rest of the exercise. And if you put yourself into these 20 minutes, I guarantee you will feel great as you move to step three.
3. Look forward (20 minutes)
Think forward to the year in front of you. Make note of the things you are looking forward to, whether a dinner with a friend, or the vacation you have been planning for years. This can include both what you know the year holds and a list of things you would like to happen in the next twelve months. This is a chance to let your mind, heart and soul be free.
Use this time to project and describe the year you want to have. Take off the limitations and let the pen run over the paper. This list doesn’t have to be perfect or complete. After all, we are only taking 20 minutes. Write down what comes to you in whatever order the words come to you.
4. Pick your focus word (10 minutes)
With the three inputs of your last hour (which will have likely flown by!), now think about the coming year in a more intention way. Your goal now is to find a word that will encapsulate your thoughts and feelings for the coming year. What word will move you and remind you of the feeling you have now? What word will help you create as much of the New Year as you have just described? What word will help you focus on how to best create the year you want to create?
There are no perfect words here; just start writing words down as they come to you. At the end of the ten minutes, pick the one that is calling to you. You will want to “try this word on” and live with it for a day or so. Chances are if it doesn’t quite fit, you will identify a new, better word (whether from your original list or not) within a couple days. Just make sure that soon you do pick your focus word for the year.
5. Write a letter to yourself (20 minutes)
This might sound strange, but please do this last step. Take out a fresh piece of paper, or move to a computer if you must, and write yourself a letter. This is a letter that you are writing as if it were written about 360 days from now. In other words, you are writing a letter to yourself about the year that you are about to live!
Write this letter describing your accomplishments and things that you have done that have brought joy to you and others. Make this the most positive letter – a letter you love to receive. The goal is to receive it one year from now and make it part of your reflection process next year. There are two ways to make that happen:
- Literally put the letter in an envelope address it to yourself and stamp it, then give it to a friend and ask them to mail it back late next December. Write on the outside of the envelope, “Do not open until New Year’s Eve.”
- Send an email to us at newyear@KevinEikenberry.com with “My Year in Review” in the subject line. In the body of the email, remind yourself briefly about the letter – and this is important – where you put it. We will send your email back to you in late December so you can find and read your letter.
As I said at the start, the times are approximate. In the end, this is your exercise and my hope is that even if you adjust it, that you will try it. By now you have also figured out that it wouldn’t have to be done on New Year’s Eve, but I really suggest you do it then – psychologically it is a perfect time to do it!
You might have expected me to mention goal setting, and while I am a big fan of it, I didn’t suggest it specifically in this activity. This activity will however be an excellent starting point for goal setting for the coming year. Take your notes from this activity and you will have a big head start as you think about setting specific goals for the coming year – and with this head start, finish the job soon.
One final thought. If this exercise and the entire idea of getting intentional about your future excites you, I hope you will consider joining me on January 8th when I present a very special teleseminar titled, Start Today! How to Make Your Next 12 Months Your Best 12 Months. You can learn all about it, and register here. I look forward to “seeing” you then.