Put down the pen, cut the typing, and stop clipping images out of magazines (if you create a vision board like me)! Don’t create another goal, intention, or resolution until you read further. Attempting to set goals or resolving to do something new without this secret is like trying to draw without a clean slate. The secret is… COMPLETION! You must complete the previous year before you can create the new one.
Now, you might be saying, this year is over – of course I completed it.
What is Completion?
Completion is the process by which we leave the past in the past and bring forward the blank canvas on which to create. Without bringing some intention to this process, most of us will bring an array of “should have,” “could have,” “didn’t,” and “still need to” conversations with us into a fresh new year. In addition, as I see a lot with my clients, we often do not own and celebrate our successes. These will then also come with us as a background view for our new year in the form of “nobody appreciates me” or “I never do enough.” We must individually take responsibility for celebrating our success. If we don’t, any degree of kudos we receive will simply roll off our back.
I heard a story recently about the response of martial artist Bruce Lee when someone asked him how he learned so much about martial arts. To demonstrate, he picked up two glasses of water and said that the first represents what you know about martial arts, and the second represents what I know. I know a lot, and I’d be glad to share it with you, but until you let go of what you already know, there is nowhere for it to go. Completion is like emptying our glass so that it will be ready to receive the gifts of the upcoming year. If we don’t do it, we significantly increase our chances of having this year look a lot like the last one!
How do I do it?
There are several ways in which to approach the process of completion. In general you want to decide a couple of things. Do I do this on my own or with a trusted partner? Do I prefer writing or talking? Then choose to either work with someone, sharing aloud or in writing, or on your own, journaling or even speaking into a recorder to begin to process what occurred last year. I personally highly recommend working with someone else, a friend or a coach, who is able to hear your victories and challenges in a way that you cannot from inside your own box. In choosing a friend, however, be sure it is someone who is committed to your growth and will not feel threatened by it, and someone who is skilled at staying “out of the box” with you – in other words, who won’t say “yeah, you’re right, that really does stink!”
To complete the year, reflect on the following questions:
- What were my major accomplishments last year?
- What issues or problems occurred last year? (And what did I learn?)
- What were my major “recurring conversations” last year? (i.e. What did I repeatedly notice, complain about, struggle with, or find myself saying to myself in my head?)
- What did I expect to do or have happen that didn’t occur? (Disappointments)
- In what ways was I making myself, or others, wrong last year? (Judgments)
- What were/are my biggest fears?
To Really Complete – Validate
After all of your thoughts about the prior year are out on paper, the next step is to validate the heck out of your year. HOWEVER your year went, it was the perfect year to lead you to where you are today. OK, and even if you can’t quite get so far in your mind as to appreciate your year, some part of you knows it does absolutely no good to carry around the baggage from the past in the form of regret. (That is like carrying around the full glass of water and trying to learn martial arts!)
Some tips for validating your experience are listed below. It is very helpful to have an outside party (e.g. a good coach!) validate you, though we can become quite skilled at self-validation as well.
- FOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Why was that important to you? What did you learn from that? What difference did that make for you? for others? OWN AND CELEBRATE WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISHED! Allow it a moment to sink in, take a breath and truly congratulate yourself on being so phenomenal.
- FOR LEARNINGS: What did you learn from that? How will that be important to you in the upcoming year? What would life be like if you hadn’t learned that? How are you now different because of it? OWN AND CELEBRATE YOUR LEARNINGS! Even a “negative” experience brings new light to life. Owning and incorporating the learning from it allows you to move on.
- FOR RECURRING CONVERSATIONS: Why do I continue to (think about/ complain about/ ruminate on) this topic? What am I getting out of it? (Hint: We are always getting something from everything we are doing.) What is it costing me to keep this conversation around? Where did it come from? VALIDATE EXACTLY HOW YOU ARE ABOUT IT! You have this recurring conversation for a reason – you were perfectly normal to think the way you did and it makes perfect sense! Now, if you really let the validation sink in, you will be ready to let it go.
- FOR DISAPPOINTMENTS: Why do I think this didn’t happen last year? What was important to me about it? What really wasn’t that important about it? What thoughts got in the way? How can I accept that this didn’t happen and realize it really is OK? VALIDATE THAT IT DIDN’T HAPPEN, AND THAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY OK, EVEN THOUGH IT DIDN’T HAPPEN! And, that whatever got in the way was perfectly normal, human behavior. And just because it got in the way before, doesn’t mean it will happen that way again. Note: It is important to be really honest with our self when answering these questions. Sometimes things don’t happen because they really aren’t what we truly want, but rather what we think we should or must do. If something doesn’t happen, there is something we are resisting about it. It could simply be fear of success, but it could be that deep down know that we don’t want it.
- FOR JUDGMENTS: These also often begin with something we think we, or someone else, should or shouldn’t do. Ask: What am I getting out of making myself wrong? What am I getting out of making them wrong? (i.e. judging) What is it costing me? What would it take to bring forgiveness to this situation? What would I get by granting forgiveness, to myself or someone else? VALIDATE THAT IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE THAT YOU WOULD BE UPSET OR BE JUDGING BECAUSE OF THAT SITUATION, ANYONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED WHAT YOU HAVE MIGHT FEEL THIS WAY. Now… are you ready to forgive?
- FOR FEARS: What am I really afraid of? Why? What am I getting out of keeping this fear around? What it is costing me? VALIDATE – IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE THAT YOU HAVE THIS FEAR, BASED ON THE THOUGHTS YOU HAVE ABOUT IT. ANYONE MIGHT. Now, what would be possible if that fear were not longer there? Are you ready to give it up?
Release… then create!
After you’ve inventoried your prior year, and validated that you are a perfectly normal human being with normal thoughts, feelings and actions based on all of you’ve experienced in life, you are almost ready to create! Take a few minutes (or however long it takes) to release anything from the past that you feel has been holding you back. You can do this by writing it and tearing up or even burning the paper. You can do it mentally with visualization, or breath work. You can release something symbolic like tossing a rock that represents those things (thoughts, feelings, or behaviors) that you’d like to release. My girlfriends and I walk a labyrinth at an annual retreat, and we leave our “baggage” in the center, in forms like rocks that represent worry, or the need to be right, or little slips of paper with words like “not good enough,” and even a business card when it was time to leave a job.
When the release happens, you’ll know it! We always feel ten times lighter as we depart the labyrinth, and the creation automatically begins. For me words immediately pop into my head, which become my new mantra for the coming year. Last year brought “light, love, and abundance,” and that was well worth dropping my baggage for!
What will the New Year bring? I’d love to hear comment below!