Twenty-eighteen is upon us — it’s time to look ahead to the new year. But first, let’s look in the rearview mirror. What were the highlights of 2017? Did you have goals or intentions for this last year? If you did, how did you do? Did you make progress in those areas that you wanted to nurture?
It’s easy to look back with a critical eye. I fell short in a couple of areas. I wanted to change several of my less-than-desirable eating habits — eating too quickly, eating more than I needed and grazing after 8 p.m. I started out with strong motivation, but as the year progressed, I returned to my lifelong ways of eating.
These long-lived habits are so hard to change! These well-worn paths, etched deeply in our minds, drive our behavior. Everyday life, with its many distractions, disrupt our best intentions. We slip back into familiar patterns without notice.
In less measurable departments, I did better. This year I worked on listening more, talking less and being more openminded, particularly in my role as an administrator. I made some progress, although I still have further to go on this journey.
I also wanted to be less defensive when my wife has something to say to me of a critical nature. I tend to jump in before she finishes talking. I’m working on listening, pausing, reflecting and then responding — rather than reacting. I have a feeling I will be working on this in 2019, too.
So how can we use the last day of December to prepare for the new year? Consider:
What qualities do I want to nurture in myself? I know — these are hard to measure. But they are the foundation of who we would like to be and who we can become. First, consider what qualities you would like to develop. Write them down on a 3-by-5 card and put them on your bathroom mirror so you will be reminded every day. We can never be short on kindness, compassion, honesty, generosity, patience or listening. Pick qualities where you have room to grow.
What’s truly important to me? Sure, work is important — but what about the people you love and who love you? Your family and friends come first. How do you want to nurture those relationships in the coming year? Do you want to expand your friendship circle?
How can I help my community? There is so much that needs to be done locally. How can we contribute to building a caring, connected community where we live? Volunteering or donating to good causes will help you fill your cup while filling others’.
What are my goals for 2018? For some of us, taking better care of our loved ones may be first on our list. For others, self-care may need some tending. Taking time to smell the roses, walk on the beach, listen to music, read more, exercise, start a new hobby or interest or further develop an old one, more time for prayer or meditation, or simply just doing nothing.
Is your life crazy busy? Or maybe not busy enough? Perhaps in this new year, we can turn off our devices and take some quiet time for ourselves, wherever we can find it, to celebrate and experience this mystery called “life.” When we do, we will experience a deep sense of gratitude that we are alive.
Have a happy, healthy, and loving new year!
Paul Schoenfeld is director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. His Family Talk Blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.