2020. The year that many of us spent more days alone than we are used to doing. The year that many of us spent holidays and important days in our lives alone. The year that we didn’t travel to foreign places but figured out how to vacation at our home, or in nature alone. 2020 seems to be a year that being alone became natural for some of us, became startling hard for some of us, became mentally unhealthy for some of us, and became the norm. The year where connecting was more through technology than in person. The year that hugs were no longer a commodity but something that we relished when we could. A hug lasts a little longer than they used to, there are so few.
2020. The year that many of us went inward and worked harder on ourselves. The year that some discovered new passions and new patterns of thinking. The year that some of us realized what we need and what we really do not need. The year where divisiveness caused riffs in families, in friendships, in towns and cities across the world. The year that found people renting RVs and traveling cross country to see family. The year that brought new opportunities in the midst of terrible situations and sadness. The year that brought many of us to our knees, to pray, to thank God, to believe in God.
As we reflect on the year, we may find there was more opportunity to grow than we thought. Perhaps new ways of thinking having taken over as the old ways don’t work any longer. Maybe we released some things that were hard to let go of before. Maybe, as we adjusted things we found new passions, new ideas, new ways of going forward. Maybe we figured out that the old way was okay and we didn’t have to change everything.
If there has ever been a year that reflection and self-inquiry were important tools to enhance our experience, and create more in the next year, this may be it! Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I use a tool to reflect on the year that I learned from my coach and spiritual advisor, Gina. This has had a profound impact on me year in and year out and I share it with many of my clients. It is a way to assess the year from your heart, and gut, less from your mind. You mind tells stories, the heart and gut get to the truth. To recall, you sit quietly somewhere with a timer, and pen and paper (or your journal, your laptop, whatever is easiest for you). At the top of the first page, write Successes. Set your timer for 2 minutes and just write a list of your successes. They can be anything, this is your list not to be shared, unless you want to share. A success can be that you lost weight, you didn’t gain weight, you tried something new, you got a new job, you learned how to deal with that difficult person differently, you broke off a toxic relationship, you realized a toxic relationship. It is whatever feels like a success to you. At the end of 2 minutes, you move on. The next piece of paper should say Failures, and do the same. The next says lessons and the last says surprises (my personal favorite). This tool really helps you to assess the year from your perspective, with little thought and more love.
I use this as my basis to begin to ask myself a number of questions to get at what worked for me, what didn’t, what got in my way and what do I want to dream about for the next year. This exercise grounds me in the current year and helps to propel me into visioning the new year. I have now added a number of questions to ask myself as I prepare for the next year. I ask myself about challenges I overcame, obstacles that got in my way, character growth, positive shifts, etc. Then I begin to dream about the new year. What are some of my desires? What could get in the way of those desires, that I control? What are some solutions for those obstacles?
All of this work helps me to dream, and then create my vision for the next year, which I do through a vision board. There are a lot of different thoughts about a vision board. Some people think it is a hodgepodge of pictures that describe what you want to do in the year. Some people think the idea is silly and they would rather have a spreadsheet of goals with dates, etc. To me, the vision board is the place where your desires and intentions get to be said, pictured and put into the universe. They do not need to be shared with anyone and they don’t need a spreadsheet at this point. This is the dreaming part, day dreaming, or even dream state of sleep. How you achieve this vision or intentions that are on your board are up to you? How you manage doing things (i.e. spreadsheet) is up to you.
My belief though, is that we all need dreaming time, we don’t do enough of that as adults. Society has engrained in us a thought process that the only productivity is by doing, therefore dreaming is wasting time. I disagree and believe that dreaming and visioning allows us to think bigger, to get to the root of what we want not the how of getting there. So I recommend we all spend some time dreaming. Do it while you walk at the beach, hike in the woods, meditate on it, journal your dreams.
Through self-inquiry and self-observation you will begin to take these dreams and form them into intentions. And that is what you focus your board on. What are your intentions for your life, your work, your relationships, your growth? Allow them to be the cornerstone of your vision into the next year and see what comes up for you. You may be surprised. And don’t put barriers on it, “I can’t do that,” or “my plan was to that in 5 years.” Allow yourself to be more open, the universe’s timing is not the same as ours. Had I listened to my head and not my heart, I wouldn’t have left my very good job 3 years ago. I would have stayed because my plan was different. I realized that my plan no longer mattered, my heart was ready to go. My desires for a happier life were more important than the money I would have made. I have never looked back at that decision. I am a happier person, a healthier person and a better person than I was under the stress of corporate America.
Some of my revelations? I learned a lot about how I react and changed those to responding. I honed many of my spiritual practices, and allowed them to truly be who I am. I enjoyed my alone time more than I thought I ever would. I did not date the way I thought, I did not create the relationship I hoped for. I learned that I can accept people for who they are, still love them, but maybe not like them all of the time. I learned that I could ask for help. I surprised myself by creating a bit of a meditation following and enjoying helping others discover the most transformational tool I have ever encountered. I also figured out that I am okay with the ebbs and flows of life, relationships, work. I can navigate as I allow more things to flow and don’t try to control it all.
Take your time with these exercises. Allow yourself to dream. Spend this alone time really learning about yourself, the self that is its truest form, not the self your ego told you are.
Use the alone time you have to get to know the real you. Use the time to get to know what you truly desire. And when you are ready, dream, and put those intentions out into the universe.