Reflections, not Resolutions
I’m a big fan of the New Year – and in some ways, I very much view it as any other day of the year. Just the first of 365. You don’t need an excuse of it being a new calendar year to make an effort to improve your life, but if you need an excuse, it’s here. It’s January.
This year, my biggest “resolution” is to focus on reflection, not resolution. Reflection, as opposed to resolution – is dynamic and always happening, as is life! To resolve, is to set out to solve a problem, whereas to reflect is to understand the factors that lead to the problem. Resolve – denotes that you can “solve” something – and stop, where reflection is more critical, open ended and may change as we do.
As we head into a new month and a new year and we embrace our ability to create change in on our lives (or finally admit, like I had to, that change is necessary) keep in mind the following ways that focusing on reflection may help drive more change and take some tips to help reflection work to help you make or keep your New Year’s resolutions.
1. Change is often driven by our world being rocked hard enough by something to turn it around. 9.9 times out of 10 this doesn’t happen on January 1st.
2. Reflecting requires processing what is, figuring out what you really want, and making a plan to capitalize on it. Often times, you need to try on solutions – because not every solution will “fit”.
3. Reflecting is internal – make sure that you give yourself adequate time to tap into yourself before you choose to vocalize what you want and need to other people. Reflecting should make you feel confident in your decisions, not make you question them.
My world has been “rocked” a few times in the past five years. In the beginning, it was rocked in the most positive and unexpected way. Those are the easy times. For many of us, it’s the experience of meeting someone new or starting something new that shifts your thinking enough to change you. Sometimes, you don’t know it’s even happening until you reflect back enough to see how much you’ve changed and how much closer you are to being the person you dream of being.
Meeting someone who became a positive influence on my life, quitting my full-time job to try and make it on my own, and losing over 80lbs – they were all positive events that changed me – reflecting wasn’t needed to change, but reflection was needed to understand what changed and what was causing it.
When I started Blend, it was a blank slate – I was finally back into creative mindset of building something all of my own, with the understanding that in my career, I have to always be building toward something to feel like my career has purpose.
When I lost weight, it improved my confidence and the way that I felt about myself because I was experiencing some kind of daily accomplishment just by making it to the gym or saying no to a food I didn’t need.
Reflection means tuning into your needs and wants – and at this point, I wanted to continue to be confident, I wanted to continue to build, so I wanted to continue to embrace the healthy lifestyle and embrace working on my own because I realized how critical the action was to leading me on a path to being the person I wanted to be.
Reflecting on positive things means asking yourself:
1. What am I feeling that’s different? Example: I’m feeling more confident, I’m feeling more purposeful, I’m driven out of bed in the morning, I’m happy…
2. Why am I feeling this way? Example: I’m accomplishing something I never thought I could, I’m taking an uncertain risk, I have a friendship where I’m not afraid to be real and be me…
3. What do I want? Example: I want to continue feeling this way or, I want to reduce my risk, or I want to make sure my friend knows that they are appreciated
4. What do I need to do? Example: make health and fitness a central part of my daily life, work on other income sources that are more certain and secure, send small gifts of appreciation, be supportive of people that mean a lot to me…
My world was rocked in September of this year – in a more negative way. Those are the harder times. For many of us, it’s experiencing some kind of impactful loss of something physical or mental. It’s not natural. It’s something that you have to wake-up and pour your energy into everyday – energy that’s taken from other places. But you do because working on this something is the only thing that is going to bring you closer to the person you still dream of being.
In the late summer, I lost a lot of motivation when it came to my career. I lost time somehow. I lost focus and efficiency and purpose. I was stressed, but wouldn’t admit it – not even to myself – because I didn’t’ want to be seen as weak. I wanted to do it all – I knew others were “doing it all”. And I lost a relationship that was really meaningful to me. Failing to reflect would be critical in these situations too. Failing to understand what was happening, why it was happening, and not finding a way to improve the situation would have left me still stressed, with nothing to look forward to.
Tuning into needs and wants allows to you understand that there is a major disconnect between the life that you want to be living and the life that you are living. I wanted to be motivated, I wanted to achieve more, I wanted to slow down my work, while still feeling like I was accomplishing something. And furthermore, I didn’t want the impactful relationships to end.
Reflecting on the negative things means asking yourself the same questions, but finding the answers isn’t always as crystal clear or easy. Here’s an example:
1. What am I feeling that’s different? Example: I’m feeling like there isn’t enough time in the day for everything I want to do, I’m feeling like I’m not accomplishing what I should be during my workday, I feel like I’m wasting time, I feel like I’m not motivated to do my work and it feels like I’m going through the motions and unengaged…
2. Why am I feeling this way? This is hard. It may take trial and error to figure it out – and you may not know. Or you may even THINK you know, but it’s not the case. I thought there wasn’t enough time in the day to do what I needed to do – and I thought that was because there was too much on my plate – but that wasn’t what was actually stressing me out. I was trying to do too much in one day and stick to too rigid of a schedule to make time for other things that weren’t work. Shopping, spending time with a friend, getting an hour workout in before the gym crowds and at a time where I can have caffeine and still fall asleep, shower, put on a full-face of makeup. I had to set boundaries. I didn’t want to admit I was stressed or that such little things were causing it – who would?
3. What do I want? This is also harder – because what we want, sometimes drastically changes. I spent the last 7 years of my career wanting to work my way to becoming completely independent financially, to achieving career success and prestige, but that’s not a forever thing for me – and that was something the stress was present for me to learn. I wanted to put more focus on relationships than I have been – because I didn’t want to continue down life feeling so alone anymore. I came out to California to build a new life and that building had taken importance as well. My wants and needs were changing.
4. What do I need to do? Hard, harder, hardest – see? Because sometimes the answer is not what you want to do and like trying to figure out the “why” – it may require a lot of trial and error before you figure it out. If you look back at my issues with not feeling like I had enough time, I enacted a few things I knew from experience would help. I cleared my weekday schedule, I forwent my need to get to the gym at a certain hour and didn’t commit to plans after work for more than 1 day during the week. I pushed my core hours back from 7-3pm to 8-4pm so that there wouldn’t be as much “time” available to me after work for planning anything and I started planning out my days the night before, to the hour, so that I had an idea of how I could better use my time to accomplish things. It just so happened that my first try on this, helped improve my situation dramatically. But I wasn’t so lucky in other categories. It took me months of more reflecting and trying out ideas and mindsets to deal with the impactful relationship I didn’t want to end. I had processed the why, understanding that – for as much as I had said, I never really told him why he’s impactful or important to my life. I had built up things I hadn’t said. But saying them, didn’t change anything. Not for him, but not for me either. For another length of time, I had built up an argument – because I thought that what I needed to do was allow myself to see all the negative between us. I thought perhaps if I realized how right I was and if I justified everything I was right about, maybe it would build up enough resentment to make me forget about him. I thought that perhaps I was just being blind to the fact that it wasn’t impactful anymore, and I was too “jaded” to see things for what they really were. Trying to place the blame anywhere else didn’t feel right either. There’s a factor of authenticity that comes into this particular piece of reflecting – that whatever you choose to do, has to be a reflection of you and your character for it to feel right to you– so sometimes people’s advice about what you should do, doesn’t particularly fit. And sometimes, what you need to do is that one thing you don’t want to do. Which was the case here. And because it's the LAST thing I wanted to do - it really was the LAST thing I tried to do - after realizing how other perspectives, other tries, were simply failing me. It’s much harder to let GO of the good things in our life and have faith that everything will (eventually) be okay and it’s also hard to admit when you were wrong – but they were both required. Eventually over time, you find what works to help feel like you again.
Both times, reflecting took more than just a week between Christmas and New Years for me to really scan every inch of my life. It took almost 3 months for me to process what is, figure out what I wanted and then make a plan to either continue capitalizing on the good or to address what needs to be improved. But I'm better because of it. Putting in that work was the only reason I’m so hopeful when looking ahead to 2018 – it’s the reason I’ve had that same “New Year” feeling a little before December rolled around. It’s the reason I was able to feel mentally present during the holiday season and that dealing with the ups and downs got a little easier. While it’s healthy not to live in your past, if you are looking to drive change and progress it’s good to have some tool in your box that will help you make better sense of where you are and how you can move forward – learning to reflect, not resolve can help create new opportunities for change year-round.
Wishing you the best year in 2018 and beyond!