The new year is upon us and right about now my heart is swelling with anticipation at what the air, pregnant with possibility, holds for me.
Regardless of the fact that 2017 was a year of absolute heartache that broke me in places I didn’t even know existed, the reality is, every year that I’ve made a loving appointment with myself for a life review, I bear witness on paper the changes that I’ve made and I can’t help but feel hopeful, even giddy with anticipation, for the future. This year is no different and if anything, it has been a year of my biggest triumphs in that, I followed through with action towards my intentions IN SPITE of the friggin’ heartache.
Keeping My Head Above Water
Some days felt like I had anvils attached to my ankles and wrists and getting to the end of my morning self care felt like I climbed the highest mountain. Arriving to that little bit of feeling sane by the end of it, was as good as it got for a long time. In a season of “regularness” in my life, the end of my self care morning routine would have me feeling a degree of lightness, focus, delight and strength. For the bulk of this year, the best I could look forward to was my routine giving me the wherewithal to keep the basics of my life going like meals, laundry, bill paying and doing my job at work without bursting into uncontrollable sobs.
Getting Personal Alert
Before I dive into the three things I learned from having regularly done a life review and offer it to you today, I will give some context behind the challenges I experienced this year and how those challenges have made my life review all the more satisfying.
First Of Many Life Altering Circumstances
Before the 6 people in my close circle passed, before I almost lost my husband in a car accident that totaled our only car, my marriage had reached an apex of struggle when some major truths came to light that seemed un-compromisable and created a gap seemingly too big to bridge. This struggle had me deeply questioning who I am, what I value and what my life has been up until now. I was wrestling with very big fears regarding our whole life as a family.
The Storm Was Stirred
While in this state, the waves of life altering surprises kept coming one after the other and it seemed I could barely catch my breath in between. With every loved one’s death, my usual feelings of delight, strength and focus at the end of my morning self care routine kept getting farther and farther away.
Definition of Kindness to Self Widens
Thankfully a friend reached out to me and gave me the good advice to get support through therapy to help navigate it all and I had enough sense to take it. I waited until now to share because it was all too fresh and I needed to process it more before I could offer anything that may be of help to someone else going through the same thing.
Biggest Lesson Learned so Far From 2017
Before I move on, I will share one of the biggest lessons that has come up for me while doing my 2017 life review.
Regardless of how hard life can get, I can always take a step towards love no matter how small and I will be taken care of. Any action taken that is kind to myself, kind to others, brings me closer to clarity, pleasure, purpose, health, makes things just a notch more enjoyable when their not, inching along if need be, towards good in whatever shape or form works in the current situation, will always show me the next right step to take, that will give me what I need to keep going.
This may be a nice paragraph in writing but this message is now more in my heart than ever before because I lived it and relied heavily upon it day after day, week after week for months this past year. Having kept my loving appointment with myself for a life review this past week, this gem of wisdom flowed out of me and I am humbled. Just one more reason why I can honestly say, there is less I am disappointed about with every annual review and more I look forward to.
Top 3 Things Learned From Regularly Doing Life Reviews
Without further ado, here are the top 3 things I have learned from doing a life review every December for the past 8 years
- Resolutions Don’t Work Without A Review
- A review done before making resolutions is foundational for deciding what changes are worth pursuing. In the same way you wouldn’t go to the grocery store without having first taken inventory of what’s needed, making resolutions without having taken stock of what is and what is not working in your life is useless. Having done this myself unknowingly for years I always made resolutions that didn’t fit with my schedule or energy and so inevitably I set myself up for disappointment and feelings of incompetence. A review helps me be real with where I’m at and what I am, and am not willing to do for change. Once that’s accepted then change has a chance.
2. The First Time Can Be Overwhelming But It Gets Easier
- The first time I did the review and honestly wrote where I stood with all aspects of my life, I was overwhelmed. There was so much to do but like the saying goes, the journey of 1000 steps starts with one. Being honest in the review created a familiarity with my truth and every year it became easier to make resolutions that were customized to where I actually was in terms of time and resources.
3. Small Steps Add Up to Big Wins In The Long Run
- Because I was honest and made resolutions that met me where I was at, I was able to commit to taking small steps throughout the year that at the end added up to big change. Taking this approach, there is less I judge myself for and more I’m excited to change. Taking stock of my small wins throughout the year by writing them in my journal, calendar and planner gave me the motivation to keep going and shortened my detour time when I slipped
The Yearly Review
There are two parts to my yearly review. The first part entails taking inventory of all that drains and nourishes in 5 different areas followed by a burning ceremony to let it all go. The second part is my favorite part in which I use the “drainers” from my review as fertile ground for my new desires and plans for the year.
Today I will share the first half of my review
To begin you can light a candle, get something comforting to drink, maybe play your feel good music playlist in the background and let yourself feel as good as you can. Take out some paper and a pen and your most unapologetic, bare bones honesty. Fold a paper in half making two columns. One top of the left column we write “Drains” and on the right column “Nourishers”. Draw 4 lines across the columns with enough space in between each, creating 5 sections. These are each of the life sections comprising of 1. work, 2. loved ones, 3. home, 4. fringe time and 5. food. To clarify fringe time means time spent in between things for example commuting is a big one, waiting time in doctors offices.
I made a downloadable sheet as you can see below.
You can download it for your own use here
To continue, take a deep breath and look at each section and write immediately the things, situations and people that come to mind that drain you. Whatever drains you creates anxiety, anger, confusion, doubt and or defense. This shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes, if it does you’re overthinking it. In the right column write what nourishes you, as in all that has you feel stronger, more confident, comfortable, loved etc. Again, I emphasize the need to write quickly.
It can be startling to see whose names and what situations you ACTUALLY don’t enjoy and drain you, but I promise as hard to digest as it may be to see your life in black and white staring back at you, it’s that much more of a fertile ground with which to sow new beginnings from them that are more aligned with your heart’s joy.
Here is an example of the sheet filled out to give you some ideas
What I know to be true is that I can’t think about my future until I fully let go of what was. I cannot fully let go of something until I have first fully owned what it meant to me. Many times in a review there are things that unexpectedly bring up a lot of feeling in me. When that happens I know there’s more behind it and so there is more needed to let it go. My way of doing that is to write it/him/her or whatever is the source, a “letting it go love” letter in which I write out all I have to say before I proceed to burn it.
Here is a an example of one I made and an option to download it below.
Using Fire as The Catalyst
There is a satisfaction that is real and long lasting after having poured my emotion onto a paper and then physically watched it burn. I have designated a steel bowl I purchased at Goodwill only for this purpose. I have written about the power in burning a “letting this go” letter in this post
Once I feel all I need to feel regarding it and most importantly thank it, even if I need to exert a herculean effort to see even the smallest amount of reason for gratitude towards it, then and only then can I fully begin to look forward to what is in my power to change. Don’t be surprised if you feel like you need to write and burn a few “thank you and good by letters” until you feel a weight has lifted, that is perfectly fine.
In the next post I will share my process and worksheets in the dreaming and planning part of the review.
If you found this post helpful take a sec to like, share or comment below. Until then, sending you love, a reminder to take care of yourself and a big thank you for stopping by!