January is named for the Roman Janus, the god of beginnings and endings and transitions, and he’s often depicted with two faces, one turned to the future and the other to the past. The new year is a time to set goals for the future, but as we begin a new year, take time to look both ways. Reflect on what is ending as well as dream about what is beginning.
What are your goals and dreams this year? Start by looking back.
But wait, you might ask. Shouldn’t I let go of the past? Isn’t it problematic to keep revisiting it? If you get stuck in rumination and let it bog you down, yes. But I believe our past, our experience, our stories have a lot to teach us about who we are, what are strengths are, how we get through hard times, and how we achieve great things. When we look at the past, we can understand where we struggled and why, what we’d like to release or have less of in our lives, and what gave us the most joy.
So look back at the past year—all 12 months. I know that in the bustle of the end of the year, I often forget some of the things that happened earlier in the year (even if they were significant). I love to flip through my pictures, skim through my journal or gratitude lists, even take a look back at my calendar to remind me about what happened. Often just the trigger of an image or a note brings back a detailed memory.
Then I love to go for a walk and let my mind play with questions even if I’m not actively thinking about them and then come back to my notebook to get thoughts down on paper. Writing things down really makes a difference.
Take some time to think about these questions:
- What were the highs and lows of last year?
- What did I accomplish or feel proud of?
- What were moments of great joy, wonder, or contentment?
- What did I struggle with?
- How did I overcome challenges or get through hard times?
What aspects of the past year do you want to pull with you into the new year? Don’t be too quick to decide. Perhaps what gave you joy has changed. And while you may look away from hard times, maybe you found you have more grit or perseverance than you thought. Maybe you know which friend you can turn to or how to tap into your own compassion better. Notice what the joys and challenges of the past year have to offer you.
Looking Ahead for a Great New Year
Like Janus, we should look both back and forward. Are you already thinking about goals and resolutions? Dreams and plans? Resolutions so often fail, but getting clear on core values and really focusing on what you want in your life can have a big impact—especially if you think of it as a 90-day focus rather than a year-long commitment.
Consider these questions along with what you’ve already discovered from thinking about the past year:
- What do I want less of in the new year?
- What do I want more of?
- What change do I anticipate, expect, or hope for?
- What challenges is the new year likely to bring?
- At the end of this year, what do I hope to celebrate?
What do you want in your life in the coming year? What does that actually look like for you? What can you do in the next three months to have more of what you want? You don’t need resolutions, just little steps you can take each day that move you closer to a life you love.
The process I suggested starts with looking at your own stories. If you’d like to dig deeper into how to start creating a life you love, my free guide, 3 Steps to Having a Meaningful Life You Love, is a great place to start designing your future —a life with more energy, engagement, and clarity.