January holds so much promise. Here I am, in the wintery woods of the sunny boreal forest, in Alberta, Canada, smack-dab in the middle of our deep winter: this is January. The days are short (but get longer, longer, longer still), the snow is deep, and the air is crackly cold. The temperature is generally around 20 below zero (-4ºF), but it can get below -40ºC (-40ºF) for brief periods. As a result, our time outside is limited, and I need time outside. But the promise of January is that it’s a perfect time to set resolutions, do some goal-setting, and start planning our year. And sometimes, our lives! Year-planning isn’t unique to those of us in cold weather climes, but I know that *I* use this exercise to distract me from buying a plane ticket out of here. The snow just keeps on falling, so we might as well make the most of it!
The beginning of a new year is just that: a beginning. It’s a chance to have a do-over, to start out on the right foot. I am not a big fan of resolutions, but I am a fan of both reflecting and looking forward. It is common knowledge that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Suppose that your life continued on its present course, and you kept doing what you have been doing? What will your future be like?
What will your life look like a year from now? Where will you be in five years? In ten years?
Let’s start by looking at where we’ve been. At the end of the year I brought my family of four together and invited them all to reflect on the past year and share what they felt, accomplished, or wanted to acknowledge that was significant about the year. I wrote down what my husband and kids said in a crispy new journal dedicated to this soon-to-be yearly event. (I got this idea from Kate Northrup’s blog post on Owning Pink.) They spoke of some fun-tastic things (some of which I didn’t even know happened): learning to do a 180º turn off a ski jump, diving to the bottom of the lake, first black eye, not puking, pulling an all-nighter, and learning to drive were some of the things my 11 and 13 year olds shared. Mountain Man and I shared holiday memories, work accomplishments, and some pursuits like riding horses more, learning to slalom water ski (*me*), and do scorpion pose (again-*me*)! It was a great way for all of us to connect and to jostle up some of the memories from the past year and share them again.
To stretch a little further, when I look back over the past five years, I see that I was able to accomplish a fair bit, and I am proud of what I have achieved, despite only really setting career goals. And even those were sketchy—I didn’t really want to set them in case I couldn’t achieve them. Meanwhile, back at work, I have a personalized program where I guide my clients to complete goal-setting exercises, and *I* had only completed part of the exercise! So, this year I have set out to practice what I preach! I am setting goals in all areas of my life, over both one and five years. To start, I looked at my present day situation and reflected back over the past few years: my age, what am I earning, what is my job, where do I spend most of my time, what are my hobbies, what I do in my spare time, what is my social life like, what clubs and organizations do I belong to, how is my health, what is my happiness quotient, what do I like most about my life, what do I dislike about my life, what significant accomplishments did I make over the past five year. This gives me a good snapshot of where I’m at, and will help me to look forward and start setting some goals.
Are you interested? Then sit down and try the “looking-back” and “present-day” exercises. Turn off the phone, get your pen and paper (or word document) ready. On Monday, I’ll be back with some goal-setting and “looking-forward” work. This will be worth it!