I'm going to be really honest now. I think the whole 'New Year' thing is a bit over-hyped. It is after all one day in 365. The idea of planning huge changes which, more likely than not, will not come to fruition (see previous blog) is alien to me. How many people really stuck to their gym plan, were nicer to people, stopped procrastinating or were less angry simply as a result of pledge made on the 1st January?
However, I do always get a feeling of nostalgia, a need to reflect on the year gone by at the end of a year. It's a funny mixture of looking back at what I have experienced and feeling both excitement and a touch of apprehension about the future. After all, the future brings change, this is inevitable and I don't know what those changes will be and how I will face them.
What did I learn about myself over the last 365 days? I learn a lot about myself from my work with clients. I work alongside such brave people who have decided to make changes and are actively engaged in making that happen. My clients are facing up to their fears, their strongly held beliefs about themselves, they are uncovering those aspects of themselves that they don't like; the parts which have been buried so deeply for so long as a way of protecting themselves. We work together to explore their sense of who they are and to navigate different paths, as yet unexplored. It sounds ever so trite but my work is truly a privilege.
It also inevitably holds up a mirror to how I am myself and what I have learned about myself. What do I want to change? These are not resolutions - I saw someone refer to them as 'gentle movements I would like to make', a concept I much prefer.
I asked myself two simple questions.
What part of my character have I really worked on? Have I changed?
I am by nature very impatient. Once I have decided I want something to happen, I want it to happen now! Impatience can lead to irritation and I am definitely guilty of projecting this onto those around me. I am well aware that this rarely ends well and I have become much more aware of my impatience. When I get 'that' feeling I really make an effort to talk myself through it - does it need to be done now? Is this important to others or just to me? Why do I feel like it needs to happen now? Will it really matter if I have to wait a bit? Often this allows me to stay calm and take a step back. This is still a work in progress but I feel there has been movement.
What part of my character did I resist changing? Why?
I will freely admit I find it ever so difficult to give up control - I am a bit of a control freak. Maybe more than a bit. This is great as it means things get done. But it's not so great as it can take control away from others. It also means I feel very anxious when I am not in control. So knowing this, why haven't I changed? I have made some progress in recognising it is an issue. I know when it is happening. I am aware of the negative impact it can have on others. It's just that last piece of the circle that is sometimes missing, the bit where I let go without feeling anxious. Part of my solution lies in improving my 'internal control', control over my thoughts and feelings. What does this mean? It means being aware of what I am experiencing in the present, the here and now. It means being aware of thought patterns and choosing whether to act on them or not. It means allowing those thoughts to come and go without being overly critical. This is the basis of practising mindfulness. I have read a lot about mindfulness but I have at last enrolled on a course which I hope will encourage me to incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. I am tackling my need for external control head on. I will let you know how it goes.
If you want to reflect on 2018 with a view to making positive changes here are some reflective questions you can ask yourself. For each question ask why? What does that tell me about myself? How would changing make me feel happier?
What made me proud last year?
What am I grateful for?
How did I challenge myself last year?
Who made the biggest difference in my life last year?
What is going well in my life?
What don't I like about my life?
Try to focus on the positives and negatives. Be honest with yourself but don't beat yourself up. Try to be realistic - remember its about 'gentle movements' not huge sweeping changes. I wish you well with your personal growth this year.
If you think counselling may help you to make those changes, or 'gentle movements', please get in touch. It might be the start of a happier new year.