With all the focus on making resolutions for a ‘new year, new you‘ there is one crucial oversight.
Progress doesn’t happen if we are stuck in a pattern, and patterns happen when we don’t resolve past experiences.
If you find yourself setting the same New Years resolutions every January without ever truly achieving them – then it’s time to take stock.
How to manage the past year so the next one actually brings change
1. Drop the self-judgement.
“New Year, new you” might sound great, but it also implies the old you was not good enough. If this is your mindset then your self-criticism will mean you tend to deny rather than manage with things.
To move forward you have to be able to see and accept what you are actually dealing with, including seeing and accepting yourself as you are and where you are (and not making it worse than it is).
ACTION STEP: Start this process with gratitude. Write down five things that happened in the last year that you are actually proud of, and five things you actually like about yourself lately.
2. Now take an honest inventory.
Telling yourself you are ‘putting things behind you’ sounds great – in theory. If you haven’t processed your emotions around an experience, then your unconscious mind will still be affected, and in turn will continue to affect your behaviour and decisions indefinitely.
If, for example, you left a relationship this year where you were emotionally abused and try to just ‘forget about it’, you might instead continue to attract abusive people, find that you are criticising yourself in your head, and act in ways someone with low self-esteem would.
ACTION STEP: Sit down and make an honest list of what you experienced in the past year that you found upsetting. The things that hurt, the things you wish didn’t happen, the things you feel ashamed of or confused about. These might look like problems, but they are about to become gifts.
3. Ask good questions.
Forget positive thinking. Too often it is just denial. Replace it with good questions that mean you actually learn from what happened.
ACTION STEP: For each item on your ‘difficult’ list, ask useful questions that begin with ‘what’ and ‘how’ (why questions tend to be rabbit holes or lead to self-judgement). For example:
- How did I find myself on that situation?
- What could I have done differently?
- What would I rather have happened instead?
- What assumptions did make here about myself and others?
- What were the steps that led to this event happening?
- What did I learn from this that is useful for future choices?
4. Give up the victim act.
While it is tempting in life to blame others for everything, it puts us into victim mode. And the problem with being a victim is that you have no power.
Taking responsibility for what has happened in your life is not about blaming yourself. It’s about freeing yourself up to take a stand and make better choices.
ACTION STEP: Ask yourself these questions now:
- What boundary did I need to set here that I didn’t?
- What did I say yes to when I really wanted to say no?
- What part of this experience did I actually choose?
- How was I responsible for this?
- What one small thing can I do now to ensure I don’t repeat this experience in the future?
5. Spot your values.
One of the most useful gifts of difficult times is that they clarify what we really care about – not what we think we care about, not what we want to care about, not what our parents and friends care about, what we ourselves deep down simply must have in our lives.
These are your personal values. And if you learn to identify and claim them, then your life can truly start to change.
For example,are you still furious at yourself because you said no to paying to go on a volunteer mission in the summer – because your parents said it was a waste of money when you could be searching for a better job? Then it’s time to admit your value is charity, even if your parents’ might be security.
ACTION STEP: Look at each experience. Identify what made you see it as so awful. Why do you care, when others wouldn’t be bothered? What value does that show you you have?
6. Mourn a little. Go on.
The more emotion you can let go of, the better your chance of actually moving on.
ACTION STEP: Spend an evening an home letting yourself have a little funeral for all the tragedies of the year. Write it out in your journal, cry it out, dance it out, punch a pillow, whatever it takes.
7. Identify the pattern.
When you look at what went wrong for you this year, are there things that you honestly have experienced in many years before this one, too? Does it seem that you can’t seem to stop repeating certain experiences or behaviours?
ACTION STEP: Consider therapy. Pattern spotting is really at the heart of many forms of counselling and psychotherapy. A good therapist helps you see how things that happened in your past have had a domino affect in your life, causing you to make similar choices again and again. They then help you find new ways of behaving that can mean you can finally break new ground.
Harley Therapy connects you with highly experienced, friendly therapists in three London locations. Travel too much? We can also put you in touch with great therapists via Skype counselling.