Holiday season reflections – 5 ways to start 2016 well

25 Dec

The end of year festivities and accompanying holidays are a great time to reflect on the year and think about the new one to come.  What will you do to start 2016 well?

Everyone needs a holiday – a break from routine – to recharge the batteries and refresh your outlook. In the southern hemisphere we are able to incorporate the end of calendar year festivities with days off, morphing into annual leave for many. The sultry summer weather lends itself to relaxing beachside, poolside or couchside – to recuperate from the year’s successes and excesses.

Plans for 2016
ln these laid-back poses and reunited with family and/or friends, there is often a tendency to reflect on the year, assess it and consider what the new year may bring. Not everyone is into new year’s resolutions – but making plans for the year ahead has value. Planning on its own has limited value, unless you have an action plan to accompany it. What plans do you have for yourself, and your own development in 2016?

The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. 
~ John Dewey

We thrive on goals
Establishing a goal to work towards, helps to give focus to effort. Having determined a goal to achieve helps give a sense of meaning and purpose to activities directed towards its fulfilment. The flow-on effect is engagement and pleasure as well as a sense of accomplishment in achieving it. We all like to see progress, which builds confidence and encourages us to continue. Here are a few things you can do to keep on track with your goals.

1.  Write your goals down

The act of writing your goals forces you to articulate them. The benefits are three-fold:

  • seeing written goals encourages you to refine them – make them clear and succinct
  • brevity and clarity means they are easy to remember and easily shared in conversation
  • writing formalises them – giving you something to refer back to, point to or check
2.  Share your goals

Sharing your goals with others usually means they will ask you about your progress. This social approach provides an in-built, informal accountability system. The informality means people may ask you about how you are progressing, in an ad hoc way. There are no scheduled milestones to report on, but a friend can drop a question into a conversation at any time. The only caution here is that you have to be up for that. If you get defensive when you are asked about your goals, it can kill sociability.

3.  Make goals mutual

Making a mutual goal with a friend can help you commit to engaging in the effort to achieve it. Let’s say your goal is to participate in an event like a fun run. It is great to have a partner to join you and to commit to training with. A mutual arrangement provides another layer of insurance that you will turn up to training on those days when you don’t want to go. Knowing you will be letting someone else down usually increases the likelihood that you will go.

4.  Create a visual reminder

A picture that reminds you of your goal(s) and shows your progress is very encouraging.  Pictures convey a lot of information at a glance which the brain processes quickly. Some ways you can do this:

  • A vision board – images of what you want to achieve or what success will look like
  • a target – like fundraising target images using a thermometer and financial increments instead of temperature intervals
  • a simple list of check boxes to indicate progress (I put something easily achievable high on the list to tick off quickly – for an early sense of accomplishment to set you on your way to the bigger goal!)
5.  Celebrate successes

Setting the right goal can be like a gift that keeps on giving. As you work towards it you keep getting positive benefits from it. So what’s the right goal?  One that you can visualize achieving and make connections to where you are headed. These goals take a solution-focused approach rather than one focused on problems.

Our brains like success.  When you are learning something new, if you break it down into its component parts and work on mastering each part before progressing, you are continually building on success. Component parts are the connections to the bigger goal. It is important to master each component before moving on and to acknowledge this achievement. These parts form an overall map to your goal – you can see your learning in context and your progress in perspective.

Celebrate your milestones – with a simple “I achieved that today”. This acknowledgement is important for your brain to close the loop on that learning stage. Acknowledgement can be purely personal or more social, sharing progress with friends or family, or for more complex goals with a mentor or coach. Discussing the changes you are trying to make, brings your attention back to your learning. Focusing and refocusing on this increases your attention to it, deepening your learning and growing new neuron circuitry. That’s right – new brain cells!

What are my plans for 2016?
I haven’t made them yet! The days of reflection lie ahead. Rest assured there will be something – a list or a plan of some sort that will evolve, in collaboration with Monsieur Controleur of course!

What about you?  What will you do? Any tips for me? Do let me know.

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