December. The last of your 12 tries to get everything right. You think snowmen and hot cocoa, or maybe pina coladas and a week in Boca Raton. Either way, you’re also thinking about recapping your year and maybe looking ahead to 2016.
Evaluating accomplishments and visioning for the future are worthwhile practices even for artists and us creative writing types. Ideally, this shouldn’t happen in a haphazard fashion. Nor should it happen while in a depressed reverie over a wilted noisemaker with confetti hair and a champagne hangover.
You deserve an hour. Your writing, or quilting project or [insert life goal here] that you wanted to accomplish this year is too important for you to ignore.
Likewise, it’s best to start out 2016 with an idea or two or ten of what you’d like to accomplish.
Here are some things I’ve found useful, inspirational or irreplaceable. Think of them as a place to start as opposed to an exhaustive list.
Treat yourself to a new notebook and pen or a new flavored tea or coffee as a reward for your commitment to yourself. Settle into a coffee shop or under a favorite afghan at home and consider the following:
Reflect on the Past
- What did you see through to completion in 2015?
- What was unsuccessful and nags at you?
- What was successful but ended up not mattering as much as you thought it would?
10 minutes should do the trick. Leave a trail of bread crumbs so you don’t get stuck reliving the year.
Envision the Future
A lovely writing friend with a successful coaching practice helped me with this today. You can do it on your own, but somehow, the energy of a partner/friend seemed to add something. These aren’t dreams or wishes. A vision is the mental map guiding your choices and endeavors for the year.
You can use these questions, or search online under visioning exercises. As an alternative, check out Playing Big by Tara Mohr. She offers a great introduction to the process. Likewise, Author and Coach Sara Connell offers a free visioning workshop (online and in person) and these questions are ones she suggested.
- What is the highest vision for your 2016 year?
- What are you called to do?
- What do you need to release to be able to realize the vision?
- What support do you require to realize the vision?
Sit still, close your eyes, breathe and listen to what’s most important to you.
Track Your Results
I had a goal to submit at least one thing each week this year. That’s 52 submissions. I won’t hit the target, but unlike most experts that recommend setting attainable goals, I’ve found that setting them really high allows me to achieve more than I thought I could.
- Pick one or two things that really resonate from your visioning exercise and consider focusing on them first.
- Apply a tracking method of your choice and record everything.
- Think of the 40% rule and NEVER beat yourself up for not hitting the mark.
Above is an example of the spreadsheet I used to track my submissions this year. If you email me or leave a note in the comments, I’m happy to send the actual Excel file.
Two Magic Words
So, how do you implement change and make it stick? I can only say what’s worked for me. Putting aside my fears and getting off my butt have been the result of a chain reaction. I’ve paid attention and like a research scientist, have duplicated the methods to see if I get the same result. So far, so good.
The first tool I used is the result of a renowned Stanford psychology professor, the second the result of a former heroin addict; both of them authors.
Carolyn Dweck is the pioneering doctor behind the concept of growth vs. fixed mindset. Her book is short, fascinating, readable, filled with entertaining anecdotes, pictures and virtually zero jargon.
The basic concept is we all have the ability to improve.
But you have to do these simple, basic things to get there. In other words, there’s no such thing as “I’m not a math person.” This short video can give you an introduction, but the book is magic.
You may be more familiar with the second author I mentioned, Cheryl Strayed. But the book I’m talking about isn’t her memoir, it’s a collection of advice columns she wrote for Salon under the pseudonym Dear Sugar. In language that will make you swallow your gum, she gives visceral examples of how expecting life to serve you isn’t serving you. Suck it up, Buttercup.
Moving into action and changing your mindset can be scary, hard, and at first, fruitless. Unless, you know these two magic words: Source and Support. I kept attributing my mysterious successes in reaching my goals to “setting things in place.” Author Connell gave me these words today.
Source and support whatever it is you’re trying to achieve; just like you would if your curly-headed six-year-old came to you today and told you she wanted to be a ballerina.
You’d drop everything and pick the right school, the sturdiest shoes, the prettiest leotard and enlist the most compassionate teacher. Next, you’d make sure family and friends turned up for each recital which you would then document on Facebook until everyone unfriended you.
Do the same for yourself. Set up classes, search for a mentor, buy treats when you hit a mark, treat yourself to something even when you miss a goal. Basically, source and support your vision. Celebrate everything.
As Janet Jackson famously sang, you’ve got one life to live, what have you done for YOU lately?
What rituals do you use to mark the ending of one year and the start of the next? What do you want in 2016? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section or via email.