I don’t usually dwell on the past but I’m bringing this up because I’ve learned something I’d like to share.
Let it go.
2017 has been a very decent year. Lots of great things happened and very few shit things happened which is great. The problem is, I’ve spent most of this year holding on to the fear that 2017 was going to be a repeat of 2016. I’ve been more cautious than usual, I’ve turned down lots of wonderful opportunities and invitations because I’ve been too worried about work and ‘deserving’ these experiences. It’s been a big year of growth and putting myself in the driver’s seat of my own business and everything is chugging away and working. The problem is that I’m so terrified everything is going to fall to pieces again like it did in 2016, I’ve been in this shock state for most of the year. It’s not great and it’s something I really need to sort out.
As I’m reflecting on this year I realised I’ve been carrying a lot of shit around with me that I really should have left behind in 2016. I honestly thought I did leave it behind but ghosts of this trauma have been following me around and it’s time to get rid of them.
Here are few things you (and I) need to get rid of before New Year’s Eve 2018.
1. The goals you didn’t achieve
There are three ways to deal with unachieved goals.
If you’ve had a goal on your list every year for decades and you’ve never come close to achieving it or even starting it, it might be time to kill that goal or give it one more year and then kill it. It’s much braver to kill a goal than it is to drag its sorry ass around with you for years. Let it go and focus on something else.
If you had plans to go back to study for the career of your dreams but you got offered a great role in a job you like that takes you to places you want to go, just shelve the study for now. It can wait. This also isn’t a failure of a goal, it’s a simple readjustment and life is full of them so get used to it.
If life simply got in the way of you reaching your goal this year, cut yourself some slack and recycle it for 2018. This might just be the year you nail it.
2. Of the notion that everyone else has it better than you
I’m often very guilty of thinking other people’s grass is greener than my own. Like right now I’m thinking Meghan Markle’s life is looking pretty damn sweet. I’m so gutted that all the fuckable princes are now taken. Damn. Anyway, the point is lots of people have it better than you. That’s a fact. Most people have it worse than you and that’s a sadder fact. You also need to consider that the people who look like they have it better than you, probably don’t. This isn’t a new concept by any means but it’s important to remind ourselves particularly at this time of year that we shouldn’t compare our behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.
3. Health goals you didn’t achieve
Unless you’re a regular marathon runner or you have a natural taste palette that favours kale, chances are, most years you’ll have some health goals set. It can be pretty depressing to set yourself a health goal and not achieve it by the end of the year but honestly, you need to go easy on yourself. Sometimes you’re in a better place to get fit and eat healthy and sometimes you’re not. This is why you can sometimes stick perfectly to a healthy eating plan and sometimes you just can’t stay on the wagon. Remember you’re a living thing just like a plant and some years plants bloom and others they don’t and that’s just a part of it all.
4. Petty grievances
I loathe waiting. For anything. Post office queues, late friends, for shops to open. I even hate waiting for my headphones to connect to my phone. Instead of the traditional goals of losing weight and advancing your career, why not make a goal of letting go of petty grievances? Resolve to not get upset at sticky fingerprints on the fridge or when your work colleague says something thoughtless. It’s a waste of time getting worked up over little things, so why not ditch that habit for 2018?
When I was a teacher, I had a clean slate policy. If a kid had been particularly difficult, the next day was a clean slate and the day after that and the day after that. My students had endless chances to redeem themselves and this is something I’ve carried with me into my other lines of work and my life in general. If you work with someone difficult, give them a clean slate every day. This is a huge task, particularly if the person is a right douche but if you never give someone the chance to behave better, they never will.
6. The promotion you didn’t chase
If you had grand plans to climb your career ladder but then you got offered a likeable and comfortable job that pays the bills so you did that instead that’s awesome. Sometimes you just need an easy year that you don’t spend relentlessly climbing your career ladder. The path to success is never a straight line and having a year to float around is a gift.
7. Allowing other people to control your happiness
Goals like getting your partner to propose to you, convincing a particular director to cast you in a play or getting invited to an important event by someone influential in your field are very dangerous goals because you’re not in control of the outcome. You can work like a demon to get try to get these things to happen but it might not make any difference at all. It’s okay to desire these things but think of them as perks rather than items that must be completed on your goal list for you to be satisfied with life.
8. The concept of the perfect timing
There’s never a perfect time to start a health plan. There’s always birthdays, holidays or Christmas to thwart you. Things aren’t going ‘settle down later in the year’ and give you time to start that novel. The best time to start was yesterday, the second best time is now.
9. Criticising yourself
Self-critique is important for self-improvement, no one denies that but being constantly critical of yourself isn’t helpful to anyone. See number 4 and apply it to yourself. Give yourself a clean slate every day to start again. You deserve the chance to make positive changes every day and if you don’t manage to do it today? Try again tomorrow.
10. (Bonus!) The word ‘can’t’
I recently went to a gym in a city I don’t live in and the trainer noticed me doing step ups instead of box jumps like I was supposed to. He raced over and said ‘You’re more than fit enough to box jump! Now come on!’. Thing is, I witnessed someone at my regular gym break both their wrists box jumping. It was awful and I’ve heard other horror stories about people getting injured doing box jumps so I choose not to do them. I’m a freelance writer and online crochet teacher. My wrists are extremely necessary for all parts of my work. He said ‘We don’t use the word can’t in this gym!’. I told him I didn’t use the word can’t, I used the word won’t and it’s a totally different thing. I’m not going to be less fit by skipping ten box jumps once a week so I’d rather not do it. Chin ups and push ups are a totally different kettle of fish. I hate them, they’re awful and I’m very terrible at them but I try because it’s much harder to injure yourself in those exercises. I also use box jumps as my one free pass at the gym, it’s pretty much the only exercise I don’t go full pelt on. Understanding the difference can’t and won’t is so freeing. I never use the word can’t and I use the word won’t very sparingly and when I have a good reason to.
It’s so important to start the New Year with a positive attitude and free yourself from everything that’s holding you back.
Carve out an hour before New Year and take yourself on a nature walk. Sit by yourself with a notebook and pen and get rid of all the negative thoughts that are plaguing you. It could be anything – how your partner leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor, how that particular work colleague always dismisses your ideas, how you can’t seem to stick to a healthy eating plan – and get it all out of your head and on paper. Then take that paper, rip it up and throw it in the bin. Burning it would be more ceremonious but not in Australia in summer thank you very much. If you live in Canada, go for it! After you’ve disposed of your negative thoughts, take a few moments to think about some positive changes you’d like to make in 2018. Don’t write anything down or commit to anything, just use your clear, free mind to conjure up some amazing ideas and plans.