I introduced the concept of "starting the new year in February" a couple of years ago and it got an overwhelmingly positive response. It seems that letting go of the concept that January has to be the month to atone for everything you didn't accomplish the year before, resonated very deeply with you, my faithful readers. The relief at taking the pressure off January and having a "gap month" - a month to simply "BE"...feels really good.
December is always a monster month of constant social engagements, family, friends, over-indulgance in rich food and beverages, and for many, emotionally exhausting memory-filled moments. It seems counter-intuitive to think we could possibly be mentally and emotionally ready to leap into action when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31st.
So let's officially make January our "R & D" month. (Reflection and Dreaming). Let's use this precious time to recuperate, replenish our reserves, and expand our minds to explore the possibilities of the upcoming year. I think you will prefer this easy, smooth set-up for your best year.
The R & D phase of your annual visioning and planning, just like the R and D phase of any project, involves exploration, creativity, mental space and possibility-thinking. You need to create the mental bandwidth to explore new concepts and to dream new dreams.
To give ourselves that mental space, it is first critical to complete the year that has passed. And, in order to complete, we first need to reflect and remember.
R - REFLECTION PHASE
Reflecting and remembering the good, the bad, the happy and sad experiences of the past year will help you "complete" the year and leave you unencumbered as you move into a bright and joyful new year of possibility. As you reflect, be careful to release any self-judgment. This exercise is just a simple acknowledgement of what was. All of your experiences in 2011 will help shape your 2012. Be grateful for them all. "Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melodie Beattie
I always recommend writing your thoughts down as you reflect- in a journal, on a scrap piece of paper, or even on a dinner napkin.
10 REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
In what areas did you grow last year?
What did you learn?
What inspired or moved you?
What surprised you?
What disappointed you?
What worked and what didn't?
What were your biggest challenges?
What were your biggest "wins"?
What still feels unfinished?
What are you willing to let go of now?
When you are finished answering the questions, read them over, and reflect. Take time to fully acknowledge and celebrate your "Woo Hoo!" moments. Take time to fully acknowledge and feel your disappointments or losses. Sit with your lists for as long as you need to. And then say goodbye to them and move on to creating your brilliant 2012 year of possibility.
D - DREAMING PHASE
This is the fun part. This is where you get to dream about your magnificent possibilities for 2012. Don't get caught up in the "HOW" in this step, just keep dreaming.
Unplug, grab your journal, put on some music that inspires, sit in a comfy chair, close your eyes and let your mind go. Ask yourself this question: "If anything were possible without limitation... What would this year hold? What would I do? How would I feel? What words of images float through your mind? What is there for you? Keep yourself in the "Imagine" state for this exercise.
As you jot your thoughts down in writing, keep them in the present tense - imagine that it is Dec. 31, 2012 and you are describing your life as it IS right now. (I am peaceful, I am doing a lot of laughing, I am spending my weekends outdoors in the mountains, I am healthy and filled with energy etc.) You get the idea! Amazingly, the Universe seems to respond to even the simple energy created by naming a dream and writing it down. If you can share your dreams aloud with a partner or a friend it will add another level of energy to that dream.
That's it! You are ready for our Feb. 1 New Year when it will be time to put your dreams into actionable incremental steps to achieve your vision!
Photo Credit: Noah Drew Special thanks to Noah and friends for their creative ringing-in of 2012!