With two weeks still to go in 2016, it is impossible to open your email at this time of year without receiving a flood of content and offers around helping you "clarify your vision!" and "create your action plan!" and "finally unleash your gifts in 2017!"
And, as much as I appreciate the good intentions behind these invitations,
I find it alarming that at this time of year, the need for stillness, rest and reflection -- things we routinely deny ourselves at every other time of the year -- goes largely ignored and un-talked about.
This overwhelming focus on MOVING FORWARD RIGHT NOW HURRY UP IT'S ALMOST HERE, without a corresponding attention to the opposite kind of energy, leads us to skip over a vital step in the process that makes renewal possible -- which is, of course, the death phase.
2016 has only just begun to die, and yet we are already looking past it to new life on the other side. And although we have no problem coming up with big visions for 2017, few of us realize:
It is this refusal to honor the death/dying part of the process that causes us to perpetuate the same limiting patterns that held us back LAST year.
If you've ever arrived at the end of another year only to find that you didn't fulfill your vision from last year, you know this to be true. And in my view, this is both symptom and outcome of a much bigger societal sickness that Americans in particular tend to suffer from:
The fetishizing of productivity, constant busy-ness, and movement for movement's sake.
For reasons that are beyond me, we live in a world that wants to pretend that zestful extroversion, targeted action, and perpetual forward motion are completely sustainable and desirable at all times always; and that if you ever find yourself feeling tired or scattered or not as effective as you'd like, this is somehow a flaw in YOUR design, rather than an indicator of flawed thinking and unrealistic assumption about how human beings function.
Reality check: humans NEED regular time and space to rest, reflect, and go within. This is the only way we can come back stronger and more badass than before.
I am reminded of a dear friend, a talented entrepreneur and all-star problem solver for the many people who come to her for assistance, advice and support. She is an absolute champion when it comes to making sure everyone else's needs are met -- which leaves her, as you might imagine, with "never enough time" for herself or the projects that would really move her business forward.
And this inner chaos shows up everywhere: Sitting across the table from her in conversation, you can tell that although she is physically present, she's not reallythere -- inside, her mind is spinning on a never-ending hamster wheel of tasks and emails and duties and diligence.
Because she so rarely prioritizes her own human need for reflection and restoration, she operates in a state of perpetual reactivity -- constantly reacting to the fires that spring up, leaving her little opportunity to be proactive, creative, and intentional in her life and business.
Make no mistake: This constant doing-focus happens at the expense of true awareness, general effectiveness, and intentional growth.
Here is the truth: Before we can take on a new shape, we must first shed the parts of our past that no longer serve us. Before new life can begin, we must figure out what has to die.
Although it can feel arbitrary, the calendar year -- one full rotation of our Earth around the Sun -- does give us something by which to measure our lives. And just as 2016 is in the final weeks of its life; so you are in the final weeks of this particular version of you.
This week, I suggest you set aside at least one intentional hour to make two lists: one, "To Celebrate in 2016," and the other, "To Leave Behind in 2016."
Ideally in the early morning or on the weekend when your time is free and your mind is open; make a cup of something hot and sit down with your year.
I made these lists for myself yesterday, while en route from New York to Rhode Island, and they came out pages long. On the first I chronicled lessons learned and victories earned this year -- which showed me how much further I've come than I'd thought. On the other, I listed aspects of my business that I've outgrown, strategies that have outlived their purpose, and stories about who I am and what I'm doing that no longer fit with who I am becoming.
You can think of this exercise as a celebratory memorial service for the past year -- which served you as well and as generously as it could, within the confines of who you were at the time.
If you'd like, you can burn your lists when you are finished to release the things you have outgrown, and to make room for the new growth that awaits you in 2017.
PS. If you can relate to my friend on the hamster wheel of reactivity -- if you are hungry to bring more intention and personal power to your experience of 2017 -- I've partnered with an amazing fellow coach to bring you a 3-day storytelling and nature retreat in the redwoods of California to kick off the New Year in transformative style. Sorry guys, this is ladies only -- and there are only 8 spots available. Plus, the first 5 to sign up receive an incredible bonus... go here for more details!