Well it’s December 24, 2013. Tomorrow is Christmas Day and for those who celebrate, it’s filled with hopes, expectations, anticipation and if we’re to believe all those Hallmark cards, we’ll be surrounded by friends and loved ones.
Tonight many people will hang their stockings by the fireplace, or perhaps just lay them on the couch or chair, and go to bed trusting dear old Santa, Father Christmas or St. Nicholas to fill them to the brim with treats and goodies. And as those stockings hang there overnight, many will go to bed with dreams of sugar plums dancing in their heads; or what time the turkey needs to go in the oven and whether there’s going to be enough carrots and mashed potatoes for everyone depending on one’s age!
And while these thoughts are swirling around, others will come and go, in and out of consciousness throughout the night, the next day and maybe up until the new year is upon us. Those other thoughts may include some kind of assessment of how the year has gone, what has been accomplished and what is left undone for yet another year. It’s like John Lennon sang in his classic song, Imagine when he said, “And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun”.
Funny how many of us can’t recall what we had for lunch six days ago, the name of someone we may have been introduced to at a party just a day or two ago, but somehow as the year draws to an end, many will recall resolutions they made almost a year ago. Was it to lose weight, be nicer, spend more time with family, get a job or promotion? Maybe you were going to be more charitable. So how have you done?
While taking stock is a great exercise when you have accomplished your goals, it can be depressing to look back and realize nothing has changed. You haven’t lost weight, you’re still single, maybe unemployed, still not talking to your mother, never did take that trip you promised, still haven’t started exercising… Now if you did accomplish your goals, I applaud you! Good for you! And if you didn’t, maybe more commitment and resolve is what is needed but don’t beat yourself up over things now.
It’s a good idea to look back if looking back will help you isolate and determine what errors you’ve made or situations you’ve found yourself in that kept you from reaching your goals. But once this is done, come back to the present instead of living in the past. The past is, well…past isn’t it? Nothing will change what’s been done, but you do have the power to change things in the here and now and the future and you can’t do that if you’re stuck in the past.
One of the greatest gifts we have as humans with brains and intelligence is that every single day we have 24 hours to do whatever we choose to do. And it is a life of choices. So instead of lamenting choices we’ve made, think about the 365 days of choices ahead of us that we have to set things right, start something anew, repair a relationship, extend a hand in aid, find a satisfying career.
But some of us detest choices. It seems preferable if someone else would make our decisions for us; find us a job, approach us to start dating, buy us a gym membership, etc. Usually the people who wish others would make decisions for them are the people who can look back easily and find lots of poor decisions they’ve made. And so the prospect of another year with many choices yet to be made doesn’t offer any comfort.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We all make decisions every day. Some of those are small decisions that don’t really matter too much in the end; such as choosing between two breakfast cereals. However, the big decisions (and they differ from person to person), these are the ones that cause us anxiety fearing the trouble that could come from choosing wrong. And doesn’t it seem that sometimes the fear of choosing is the greatest anxiety?
One good exercise to help out is this. Take stock of things now and decide in what area you want to see a difference a year from now. Write down on paper your two or three big things, two or three medium changes, and perhaps even five or six small things. Okay, now under each item, write down what has to occur to make the goal a reality. If you need to do some research – as in deciding on a career, then list where to go to do that research, who to talk to, and how to get the information you need. Then write down a deadline to do these things by so you allow enough time to check these things off which by doing moves you closer to your goal. Post this in a space you’ll see daily, like your fridge, and read them out loud once a day. Reinforce your goals, and the steps, and feel good about checking off your list.
Smaller goals will build momentum, and you need momentum and positive inner feelings to tackle bigger goals that take more time and effort. “And what have you done?” will be one line in the song, ‘Imagine’ that will hold special meaning to you next year when you hear it on the radio.