The New Year has arrived full of new opportunities and possibilities. During this time of year, it is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the future. Personally, I don’t focus on resolutions, but I do set aside time to take inventory of the progress I’ve made in both my personal life and my business and reflect on how the past year’s activities fit into my long-term goals.
Sometimes the year’s events require me to adjust and make changes. Other times they require me to refocus and double-down my efforts. The difficulty lies in understanding when it’s time to do either. The most important step I take during these moments of self-reflection is to be mindful.
Mindfulness is about quieting our inner thoughts and external surroundings to focus on the present. It is often tied to meditation or prayer. When we are mindful, we shift our perspective. We don’t look at what came before or what is to come, we only see the now. There is something paradoxical about having to slow down to move faster, but that is the underlying concept of mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness as you prepare for the new year is a great way for you to gain a better understanding of yourself, your intentions and the things that bring you joy. The trap we sometimes fall into when we focus on resolutions is that our goals become about process and tasks versus about intent, feeling, and experience. Mindfulness helps you pull back from your day-to-day actions and look at the bigger picture.
For example, if your resolution is to lose weight, you will probably have an eating and exercise schedule. Your feeling of accomplishment is going to come from how closely you adhere to your schedule because the process has become the goal. When you set your goals as intentions and look deeper into the experience you’re trying to accomplish through the goal, the feeling becomes the primary focus and the process by which you create that feeling.
Weight-loss is one of the most popular resolutions. However, what is really motivating all those new gym memberships is not a genuine desire to spend more time on the treadmill, but instead a desire to feel healthier or more confident about your body. Resolving to do things to feel healthier looks a lot different than resolving to lose weight or go to the gym more.
Mindfulness can apply to your professional world as well. Business leadership training is increasingly turning to the spiritual for ways to help people be more productive. For entrepreneurs and small business owners, the end of the year can be difficult especially if things have not gone as expected. Perhaps you’ve fallen short of projections or something didn’t go as planned. Don’t worry. It seldom does. If you only assess your business from the perspective of a cold list of tasks you either did or failed to do, then you are not getting the whole picture. Even worse, you may be setting yourself up for the same failure next year because you may be focusing on the process instead of addressing the real cause of the problem.
As you sit down to reflect on the New Year, I recommend doing the following steps:
Our breath is closely tied to our emotional state. It’s part of our fight or flight instincts. When we are anxious or overwhelmed, our heart rate and breathing increase. When we are angry, we can forget to breathe. Closing your eyes and taking deep breaths can help clear your mind, and help you focus on being present. Start by breathing in and out slowly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth with each breath taking approximately 6 seconds. Let your mind focus on the air as it moves through nose and deep inside your stomach. Relax your body including your shoulders, face, and jaw. Make sure your tongue is relaxed at the bottom of your mouth instead of touching the roof of your mouth. This moment of quiet focus on your breath will help connect your body, your thoughts, and your feelings.
Don’t Judge Yourself
We are often our harshest critics, and that is not always a good thing. Awareness of our strength and weaknesses is important, but this moment of self-reflection is about identifying how you feel and what you need to move closer towards your goals. If you experienced some setbacks, look at the circumstances around it and see what you can change. Use your accomplishments as a guide to help you identify the kind of environment or circumstances you need to be successful and productive.
Don’t be afraid to let go of something that does not serve you. Sometimes we can remain so committed to an idea, plan or habit that may have served us in our past, that we don’t realize how counterproductive it is in our present. Don’t be afraid to change and let go.