A year ago this week, I took a day away from work, family and friends, and set to reflecting on the year that would be. This has been my practice for five years now, and as 2017 draws to a close, I’m beginning to reflect on another new year….
I begin by looking back across my calendar at the year that was, re-reading it week by week, and recalling the events, the meetings, the clients, and most importantly the people with whom I found connection. I list all those that stand out—the ones I remember viscerally. Sometimes, they’re the ones that make me frown and shake my head. Many others evoke a smile.
What always makes you frown? What consistently brings you joy?
Then I look for the common ground…. What repeatedly made me frown? What consistently brought me joy? Last year, I noted it had been the artists and the activists that stood out. The people whose lives were shaped around their creative passion or their commitment to make their world better. I determined that art and expression were missing from my life, and so I set the goal for 2017 to begin to learn guitar. I’ve started. I have no problem saying I suck. (Profoundly!) But I’m learning, and for now, that’s enough.
I also discovered that my sense of purpose had shifted—that I had outgrown the aspirations I had held through the years before. So I leaned back on a timeless question of philosophy: ‘What practices and teachers will help me live the good life?’ I set another goal, ‘Know thy self.’ And that in turn set me on a path to read more, to listen more, to meditate more in 2017 than in any year before. I also worked with a gifted coach, who helped me articulate my purpose anew. It’s been remarkable.
Are you ready to contemplate the year that will be?
Google ‘reflective questions’ or ‘journaling prompts,’ and you’ll get dozens, maybe hundreds, of questions. Some are deceptively simple. Some are deep and complex. All can lead to important insights and answers. Here are a few of my favourites….
How will you be?
It’s so easy to ask, ‘What will you achieve?’ Setting goals seems to be so important this time of year. And yet, as David Whyte far more articulately conveys, we cannot see the path that will unfold ahead. What we can do is choose how we’ll walk it—how we’ll ‘show up.’
Put another way, What’s the impression you want to leave on those around you? Years ago, at a leadership training, I settled on two words that have set the tone for how I’ve tried to show up in the years since: Generous. Intelligence. For me, a generosity of spirit, combined with considered (and considerate) awareness captures how I try to be. Sometimes, I’m successful. Sometimes I fall short. But I try to ‘show up’ purposefully. How will you be?
What do you need to set down?
Have you unburdened yourself of those things you’ve been carrying that no longer serve you? The woolly baggage of past trials and hardships? Not the lessons you’ve learned, but the resentments? The self-recriminations? The blame?
We cannot unfold into the person we wish to be by clinging to the person we once were.
Perhaps for you it’s enough simply to acknowledge them to yourself. Perhaps you need to speak them aloud to someone who will listen to you with a warm and loving ear. Or perhaps you’d do well to write them down, read them back to yourself, and then cast them into a fire. Do it. It’s important. We cannot unfold into the person we wish to be by clinging to the person we once were.
Of what are you most afraid?
Answer this honestly for yourself. It’s the thing that stands between you and your potential. Perhaps it’s failure. Maybe it’s losing love—or loved ones. Possibly, it’s fear of your own potential. It’s so easy to forget that each of us is made from limitless stardust.
To plan our lives around what we fear is to play a game of defense. To plan our lives to move through what we fear is to grab the steering wheel of life, courageously embracing a mindset of abundance and achievement. Brave up. You’ll be glad you did.
With whom will you dance?
No matter how bold our intentions, no matter how generous our spirit, none of us moves alone. A friend paid me a beautiful compliment today. He said, “His kindness and gentility are accompanied by a brilliant mind.” Grateful, I pointed out to him that any brilliance I exhibit appears so only because it’s reflected in him. As always, ‘it takes two to tango.’
To dance through life, choose your partners well.
If we are to dance through a lively, merry life, we must choose our partners well. With whom will you choose to dance, in 2018? Who inspires you? Who is your teacher, your mentor? Who is your jester? Whom do you love? Answer these with care—for to live in inspiration, in learning, in humility, and in love is to live the good life.
In one word, what will you live for in 2018?
Focus can be a powerful thing. It is at once determination and refusal. Determination, in that it absorbs our attention, our energy, and our time. Refusal, in that it leads us to say ‘no’ to whatever falls outside our focus.
The year ahead is finite. It will be gone before you know it. What will you live for in 2018?
All the very best to you, your family and friends, this season. May your 2018 be nothing short of magnificent.
Mike Rowlands is President & CEO of Junxion. He has been described as a “peace warrior” and thought leader on issues of social importance. This is one of a series of letters he’s writing as he seeks to embrace transparency, step in to courageous conversations, and be in service to a new era. You can reach him via [email protected].