With the new year approaching – and this year it’s a big one – it comes naturally to many of us to take stock of where we are, how far we’ve come, and at least ponder how we could make things better when that symbolic first day of January comes around.
Though it may seem silly to some, as we can certainly self-evaluate and commit to resolutions any month we choose, something has to be said for the feeling of a fresh start and its effect on our motivation levels.
The Life Audit
That being said, I encourage you to evolve from the regular resolution-making this year and to delve into a full life-audit. This means a complete evaluation of how your life is going – what is going well, what needs to change, and how you can improve.
Far from a chore, this process should be a therapeutic and self-affirming exercise. Self-improvement is self-care after all – this perspective shift could be all the motivation you need to make this year really count.
Choose a day over this festive period where you have few distractions, set up a quiet working space, play some calming music and take the time to truly reflect.
What’s going well?
It’s always good to start positive. If you keep a regular gratitude journal, then you will be no stranger to identifying and noting down the positive aspects of your life. What is it that makes you feel happy, appreciated, or proud? It could be a one-off achievement, experience or compliment. Or it could be a long-term blessing, a hobby, a person, or a talent you possess that you perhaps need to appreciate more.
Either way, it comes with many benefits to actively point out what generates positive vibes in your life right now. And the act of physically writing them down forces you to pay them the attention that they deserve, shifting your focus and encouraging within you a deeper sense of gratitude and joy.
To begin your life audit, you should carry out this gratitude process for the year. Take it month by month if that’s easier. What good things have happened? What did you enjoy? What can you be grateful for? However big or small, if it makes you smile when you look back on it, then write it down.
What could you do without?
Just as it’s important to recognise what is going well for you, you must train yourself to identify sources of negative energy in your life. This may sound simple enough. Sure, there are instances when a toxic person or habit is undeniably causing you harm. But sometimes it’s less obvious what’s draining your energy and holding you back. Whether it’s an unfulfilling job, a toxic partner or a false friend, if something causes you any amount of unease – add it to the list.
I am not suggesting you then dismiss all of these items straight away! You don’t necessarily need to quit your job or cut anybody out, but you need to identify what exactly about this person or thing is bringing you anguish. Maybe it’s not the person or thing itself, but your current approach to them. How could you make it better? Now is the time to figure that out – so that whatever is dragging you down doesn’t continue to do so for another year!
And it goes without saying that sometimes quitting that job or cutting out that person really is the way to go…
How could you do better?
Most of us make resolutions each year along the lines of “eat healthier, work out more, learn a new skill…” Sure, these can be great resolutions – but there’s a reason why they don’t usually last into February. Rather than plucking a generic resolution out of nowhere, I challenge you to go deeper this year. Based on these lists of positive and negative energy sources, construct your own action plan on how you want these lists to look in 12 months’ time. What “positives” do you hope to see there? What “negatives” can you work on striking through?
If it is your health that’s at the top of your priorities list for the new year – then that’s great. But don’t just settle for “eating healthier” or “working out more.” Be more specific. Maybe try Veganuary, commit to cooking from scratch more, or try a new form of exercise. When it comes to learning new skills, don’t make a false promise that you will speak Italian or learn to code by next year. As a part of your life audit action plan, incorporate time to develop these skills as a gift for your future self.
Maybe it’s confidence or inner happiness that you are seeking. If you are naturally on the quieter or more sensitive side, then pledge to adequately care for yourself and adjust your lifestyle to suit your temperament. That could mean learning to dismiss the opinions of others, putting aside more time to be by yourself or with your closest friends, or simply learning how to say no.
Where are you going?
Here’s the thing: not everyone knows what they want to do in the next year or even in the next 6 months – and that’s fine. Life is unpredictable and should be exciting. And whether you prefer to plan or love to live spontaneously – then you do you!
The life audit merely serves as a way to gasp clarity of how the elements of your life are affecting your overall wellbeing. You don’t necessarily have to plan everything out, but evaluating on a basic level what you want and don’t want can have a profound effect on your life satisfaction and state of mind.
If you’re on the more spontaneous side, set goals based on your inner yearnings rather than on job titles, numbers, or certificates. Pledge to find a job that you find fulfilling or which enables you to be financially stable by next year rather than pining for a specific ranking or salary. Commit to healthier choices, not a number on the scale. Specific milestones can be motivating for people on specific paths, but for most of us, chasing overall health, happiness, and wellbeing is where true fulfilment lies.
2020: New year, new you?
Okay, I admit – the new year’s resolutions thing can get kind of old. And we are lying to ourselves if we pin too much on the year ahead, which only sets us up for more disappointment and irrational self-criticism
Instead of focusing on an endpoint or outcome, focus on the bigger picture: what changes can you make to feel happier and motivated day-to-day? It shouldn’t be about setting rules or punishing yourself, but rather a positive lifestyle re-balancing. It shouldn’t be a “new you” that you are chasing, but rather new opportunities which can make you feel more like yourself than you’ve ever felt.