December. It's that time of year for reflecting on the year behind us and contemplating the one ahead of us. Often, we are confronted with questions of past accomplishments and future goals. We see a surge in advertisements that tell us how to be our best selves in the New Year and hear a great deal of talk about resolutions. I'm going to lose ten pounds. I'm going to learn Spanish. I'm going to be better at... You know how it goes.
Despite all of this lofty goal-setting, most people don't keep their New Year's resolutions. Most of us fall into old patterns because we don't have the motivation necessary to follow through. And you know what? That's not at all surprising. For many of us living in the Northern Hemisphere around January 1st, we find ourselves smack in the middle of a freezing cold winter. And while it may sound silly, it's harder to get yourself to do, well, anything new when everything is frozen and you have to wear a million layers simply to walk out of your front door.
So if you thought it was you, don't worry: it's not. Everything in nature slows down around these times. That's why many animals go into hibernation. It's why plants don't grow and bodies of water freeze. Winter is a time to hunker down in our caves by the fire and hope we gathered enough food to get us through the season. (Ok, so we're a bit beyond that, but you get the picture.)
While, like in any other season, finding balance is key, winter gives us a special opportunity to engage in introspective thinking, particularly reflecting and visioning. I've found that visioning is a much more effective way to think about ourselves in the New Year because unlike setting resolutions, we allow: a) the visions to come to us organically and b) our thinking to be limited only by our imagination. Thinking this way allows us to step into a vision that embraces our full potential and wildest dreams.
While visioning can take as fancy a form as you’d like (e.g., creating vision boards or boxes, hosting a visioning session for your family and/or friends, a meditative walk through the woods, etc.), at its most basic level, visioning just requires yourself, a comfortable seat and a few quiet moments – pen and paper optional. Want to try it? Here's how.
Begin by reflecting on patterns and events of the past year, giving yourself space to feel however you may feel (check your judgment at the door!). Then, imagine the year ahead, a year that you want – personally, professionally, whatever. Notice what comes to you. There is no right or wrong. There are only your dreams, your visions. (If you’re getting creative with this activity, this is a great point to jot some notes, pin magazine clippings to a board, etc.)
When you’re done, close your eyes, focus on the visions that have availed themselves to you and create affirming mantras. For example, if I saw myself being more patient in the New Year, I’d recite, I am patient, bringing the vision into the realm of reality. Then, after letting these affirmations swirl through your mind and heart, let them go (I often open my palms to face the sky to symbolize this). The ones meant to return for the New Year will make their way back into your mind and heart, and through both passive and active focus on them, your visions will materialize.
Give it a go. See what parts of this exercise resonate. Hold onto the parts that you feel serve you best and release the parts that don’t. Be kind to yourself throughout the process and honor what seems mundane just as you would what seems lofty. Have faith that your visions are showing you what you need. And...for some inspiration, watch Dan Pallotta’s moving TED Talk about the dream we haven't dared to dream. Happy visioning!
Originally published in The Spark on 12/13/2017.