Looking back, to happily move forward

It’s that time of year for plans and resolutions.

I’m sure many of us are familiar with writing a list of optimistic resolutions during a burst of energy and inspiration. Do any of these sound familiar; get super fit, achieve success at work, learn an instrument, start painting, connect with old friends, make new friends, support those in need?

My track record of following through on these plans and resolutions is…. well, no need to do a detailed performance review for this blog, so let’s stay positive.

I do feel like I achieve things each year. However, they tend not to be the same things that I intended to achieve at the start of the year.

I’ve read articles that suggest forming a single new habbit takes over thirty days of consistency. I’ve aso read articles that say changing miltiple things in life at the same time doesn’t work. I don’t 100% agree with those viewpoints, but I do agree it’s difficult to make change and it’s difficult to stick with new things.

I’m quite an organised person. I like taking notes. I like planning. My default tendency is to invest energy in planning. My usual thinking, “If I can just create the perfect plan I’ll follow it easily and at the end I’ll achieve my goal”.

However, over the years, I’ve embraced that I’m not a machine and I won’t always be able to stick to my perfect plan. Distractions may appear, I may get unexpectedly busy, I may get sick, I may lose interest.

I’ve discovered that rather than investing mostly in planning, it’s better to invest mostly in my ‘state of being’.

Rather than wake up with a strict plan of activities for the day. I’d rather wake up with the right energy and mood to take full advantage of the day. I find this to be more effective.

If I do the things to set myself up well, then I find my concentration and decision making tend to be better. My chance of succeeding will be higher even without a good plan.

Investing in ‘state of being’ is about investing in physical and mental health. There are a lot of things that can help. To give some examples I’m interested in natural foods, herbal medicine, qiqong, and pranayama.

But today, I wanted to focus on one activity that replaces annual planning or resolutions setting.

These days I don’t make a list of resolutions at all. However, I do one things and create one document.

This is a habbit I picked up several years ago when I was reflecting on the past year and thinking about the many good things that happened. It felt natural at that time.

With this habbit, the end of December and start of January becomes a process of celebrating the last year rather than setting expectations for the new year. This works well in a few ways:

  • By thinking through the past year and considering what went well I get the opportunity to process and enjoy everything that happened. It consolidates my memories of all the good things;
  • I avoid the trap of starting the new year by weighing myself down with a list of things I have ‘to do’;
  • By looking at past activities and considering what I enjoyed and what I felt good about. I’m unconsciously setting some principles of how I want to behave going ahead.

For example; I’d enjoyed a certain genre of fiction, or I might have enjoyed visiting a place, or I’d had a good time socialising with a certain person or group of people.

Traditionally, when we set plans and resolutions I think there can be a tendency to set those based on the goal, not the process. For example I want to be great at piano. Not, I want to enjoy practising Piano. Or, I want to switch career as I want to be a graphic designer. Not, I want to work on graphic design projects.

By focussing on what made the last year good it tends to be more about the ‘in-process’ moments rather than about the end points.

Creating my review of 2022

During the last week of the year I’ll start thinking over the past year. I normally do this with a coffee while listening to music.

I tend to make rough notes in my notepad. I revisit it a few times during the week. I only spend about ten minutes at a time.

I take these notes in the format of a mind-map.

Mind-maps have been very helpful for me. They help me in two ways. They act as an ‘easy to order’ storyboard. They also let me explore topics by association. What I mean is that structuring by category and having everything visible on a page tends to help explore associations in my brain.

After I have a rough sketch in my notebook I like to put it into a document on my computer. I simply use PowerPoint or Google Slides. It’s very simple and flexible.

Here’s my 2022 mind-map:

Looking back to 2022

During early December I didn’t feel I had achieved a lot in 2022. In previous years I had travelled more and worked harder. Perhaps in previous years I had more ‘instagrammable’ or ‘bloggable’ moments. But looking back after completing my ‘thank you’ exercise I was surprised by the number of things that happened. I also found myself proud of and satisfied by some of the achievements.

On the other hand I realised I had read less than usual. I have also written less than usual.

Coming out of my review of 2022 I feel quite good about the past year. Plus, I’ve clarified the principles of the person I want to continue to be as well as the person I want to be.

And of course I’m resisting the temptation to produce an excel gantt chart plan for the year ahead!

Even though we are in early January, I recommend looking back on last year and revisting all the good things.

I’ll end this post with a few photos of me playing with classic cars which was a big theme in my life during 2022.

And a little TikTok I made of the struggles of amateur car restoration

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