Closing the Books for the New Year
When I was in my 20s, every New Year’s Eve, I would make a resolution to do something big in the upcoming year. My resolution was usually to quit smoking, a habit that I’d unfortunately picked up when I was just 16 years old. But once my resolution was made, I’d go into a panic. My resolve to quit smoking usually lasted no longer than a few hours into the next day and I would feel that all too familiar sense of failure, failing to achieve my New Year’s resolution.
I finally did quit smoking when I was thirty-one years old, nineteen years ago. I quit on an arbitrary day, a day when I’d simply had enough and felt strong enough to do something about. The thing with New Year’s resolutions is that they are set at an artificial time. For most people, changing a long standing habit or adjusting one’s entire lifestyle has to happen when a lot of stars align. It requires emotional strength, often the support of others, and the right mindset. For all of these things to be ready to go on a specific day at the end of, what for most people is a taxing and emotional holiday season, is just bad timing, maybe the worst timing. I’ve achieved so many things for which I can be proud, and shed so many unwanted pounds, as well as habits, but never have I done any of these things until I was personally ready. So, I gave up making New Year’s resolutions many years ago.
Because I keep a notebook and paper planner, I would mark each new year, by “turning over a new leaf,” which basically meant setting up my notebook for the new year. But it was not until this year, when asked by one of the followers of my Instagram feed, Writing Warriors, which focuses on inspiring others to keep a notebook/journal that I host an online holiday workshop, that I began to research actual alternatives to making New Year’s resolutions. I couldn’t find one that exactly suited my needs, but I did find one that provided a good jumping off point. The article by Thomas Koulopoulos is titled “Thinking of Making New Year’s Resolutions? Do These 5 Steps Instead. At first, I’d planned to structure the workshop around this article, but even as I did that and shared them with participants, I began to reshape the list.
I refer to this new process as “closing the books,” an accounting term that refers to balancing the books/accounts for the new year, so one can start with a clean slate and, hopefully, with a positive balance. When we balance our books, we want a positive balance. More and more, perhaps thanks to social media, I see people using a great deal of exaggeration and negativity in response to the new year — dramatically ridding it goodbye and labeling it as the worst year ever. This seems to happen to every year. Every year is the worst year ever. While there are years in which we might experience hardships and tragedies, usually, even in our darkest hours, there is light. To me, this light and hope, is probably one of the most awe-inspiring phenomena I know. This process of “closing the books” will, hopefully, enable you to see that light, as well as shed the burdens of the previous year, as you move into the new year.
Closing the Books
You will have two sets of pages — one that you will keep and one that you will discard.
- This is to keep. Write a list of your accomplishments and moments of joy in 2017.
- Go through the list and take the time to describe each moment in detail, recalling it and cognitively reliving it. These types of memories are the best memories that we have to ensure our own mental health and keep our inner light aflame. Often people are surprised by how much they have to be grateful for, but even if your list isn’t long, it might be powerful. When you are done, put it aside.
- Write a list of all burdens, troubles, fears, negative relationships, and problems of 2017 that you do not want to carry with you into the new year.
- Go though the list and take the time to carefully process each item in detail to better understand why these things are burdens and why you wish to let them go. This will further cement your desire and intentions to do so.
- Get your positive balance sheet back out — the one on which you put your list of accomplishments. Make a new list of “lessons learned.” Go through your list of hardships and ask yourself “What have I learned from this?” Much of our strength and wisdom actually grows out of the challenges that we experience in our lives. This is a positive thing. It signals growth and change.
- Next, think about your relationships, your relationship with yourself and with others, for some, you might want to also consider your relationship with a higher being. Relationships are more important than the events in our lives, even though too often we focus on events and things. Here is where I give you, what one of my personal training clients gave to me, and I consider it to be the best gift I got in 2017. It’s called H’Oponopono and it is an Hawaiian prayer or meditation.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Research may show the phrases in a different order. It was passed down through oral tradition and so there are some variations, all of which are powerful. Speak them with a single person in mind or yourself in mind or your God in mind. Or, as in my case, do some writing, using each short phrase as a heading for deep written reflection.
You are welcome.
I write this on the pages I’m going to discard. As powerful as it is, it is intended to help me let go of negative feelings.
7. Back to the positive tally. Write a list of things for which you are grateful. There is no prescribed length for this list. Lengths always result in forced gratitude. Whether you have one thing or ten things for which you can feel grateful, you have something that will shift your perspective.
8. Take the time to review everything that you’ve reflected on and written about. Start reviewing your positive sheets first and then review your negative sheets. When you are done with this review, let go of the things on your negative sheet, either by physically burning them or destroying them, as these things you will not be taking with you into the new year.
It is my hope that this alternative to setting a New Year resolution provides you with a way to reflect on your life and your year in a productive and meaningful way. I wish you all the best in the upcoming year.
With much love and gratitude,
Trina Chance O’Gorman