I don ‘t know about you but since the start of December my inbox has been full of emails asking me what my plans are for 2017, offering to help me set my goals and achieve my ambitions. I’ve been bombarded with messages encouraging me to look forward almost as though what I’ve achieved in 2016 isn’t important and where I am right now just isn’t good enough.
Now there’s nothing wrong with this, personally I love looking forward but for some reason this year there is a part of me that’s crying out ‘Hold on, wait a minute!’ It all feels slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s because I have spent part of this last year exploring the concepts of mindfulness and spirituality, I really don’t know. What I do know is that after ten days of receiving these messages, I was driven to publish a post for people that might be feeling the way I am or who just want to take some time to reflect on where they are right here, right now.
So what has my exploration into mindfulness and spirituality uncovered? Well for me the biggest learning has been that in order to find real peace and happiness we need to live in the moment, revel in the here and now. It’s such a simple idea and yet the reality (at least for me) is difficult to achieve on an on-going basis.
Nonetheless I am determined to continue on this journey and what I can say is that I now have a much better awareness of my thoughts and feelings than I did previously. Those that know me well will tell you that I used to spend a lot of time living in my head (rarely reflecting on what had been but focussing far more on an imagined future) but I no longer do that, which means I’m fully present for those that mean most to me, my children, my partner, my friends and my clients.
Mindfulness and spirituality also encourages us to focus on being grateful for what we have currently. Sometimes when we are busy planning our future, we forget to enjoy those moments of success and happiness that happen along the way. We live in such a fast-paced world it’s almost as if we say to ourselves, ‘It’s done, we’ve achieved X, so lets’ forget it and move on to Y’. If that’s you I want to shout back ‘No, no, no don’t forget it. Package it up and put it in your back pocket so that whenever you need to you can get it out and remind yourself just what a remarkable, talented and wonderful person you are’.
Being grateful isn’t just about appreciating what we have but also those people who have a positive impact on our lives. It might be our husbands, wives, partners or our children, family, friends, colleagues. At this time of year we are busy showing our appreciation through gifts but actually the greatest gift you can give anyone costs nothing and it’s just two simple words ‘Thank you’.
In my opinion we don’t say these words enough. I am privileged to work with some fantastic organisations but without exception, the lowest scoring question in any of their employee surveys relates to the statement ‘I feel appreciated at work’. This is very sad because in my experience we make more of an effort to appreciate our teams and our colleagues than we do our family and friends.
When was the last time you said thank you to your loved ones for how they have supported you? Can’t remember? Don’t think you’ve ever done it? Don’t worry, you’re not alone!
So here’s my challenge for you instead of trying to set your goals for 2017, try this instead:
Identify your highlights from 2016. If you’re tempted to say ‘there haven’t been any’ DON’T because there will have been some moments that brought you pure joy. Perhaps you were playing in the garden with your children or just chilling in front of the TV watching your favourite film. Look hard enough and you will find them.
Once you have them, write them down and next to each one think about WHY it was a highlight. Take yourself back to that moment - how are you feeling? What are you hearing? What are you seeing? If it feels right for you, write down whatever you notice.
Now you have a choice – you can either keep the piece of paper or throw it away. Your mind is a remarkable machine – just doing the exercise will be enough for it to remember. No matter what you choose to do – you now have those moments to call upon whenever you need/want to.
Think of all those people who have added value to your life during 2016, those from whom you have learnt a valuable lesson (now this may not have been a great experience but the best learnings usually aren’t) and write down their names. Then ask yourself this ‘Have I said thank you? Do they know how much they mean to me?’ Perhaps you have and perhaps they do. If not, what are you going to do? If you were one of these people how good would it feel to hear and understand the impact you had?
Having completed both step one and step two all you need to do now is relax and enjoy this festive time. Revel in the moment, enjoy time with your colleagues, friends, family because before you know it you will be waving goodbye to 2016 and welcoming in 2017 and without even trying you will know what you exactly what it is you are going to achieve next year, no goal setting needed!
This is my gift to you.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year.