What Have You Done?

It’s 2013 – a new year. Over the Christmas holidays I love listening to the music – I am still playing many of my favorites. One of the all-time most inspiring songs for me is John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas”. The lyrics have the line, “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun.” Every single time I hear those words, I stop to think, “What have I done?” Have I been kinder? Have I been more compassionate? Have I shown more patience toward others? Have I put my own needs aside in favor of someone else’s? Have I been the kind of person I really want to be?

Unfortunately, every year the answer is the same: “no.” I haven’t done these things as much as I would like to. In honor of this new year, and new beginnings, I thought it might help to look at how we can make shifts toward being the kind of person we really want to be.

  1. Know where you want to go. This involves taking the time to set goals, actually writing them down in specific terms. I did this over the weekend and found it very helpful to crystallize what’s really important to me. For example, I have a goal for my business in terms of revenue, but I also have lifestyle goals. I don’t want to compromise my family time in favor of taking on larger projects just for more revenue. When setting goals, be sure to think about all of the components of what matters to you.
  2. Identify the obstacles. I started to think about why I don’t always take the time for kindness and compassion. Oftentimes I am feeling overwhelmed and worried about how I will get everything done. When I pause and let myself breathe, I realize that I just need to take it a step at a time. Getting caught up in the frenetic pace is a big obstacle for me. It’s important to know this, because now I can recognize the next time it happens and start to breathe earlier than before and center myself accordingly.
  3. Know what makes you happy. We are often chasing things that we don’t really want – “be careful what you wish for” is a true adage. I’m happiest when I have quality time to spend with my children and I know what’s happening in their lives. I’m happiest when I am volunteering my time and talents. I’m happiest when I can spend time with my aging mom and dad. When I can carve out time to do things that fill me, I have so much energy left over for kindness and compassion for others. I need to organize my days, my weeks and my months throughout the year to allow for the things that increase my energy.
  4. Take little steps. For most of us, our calendars fill very quickly. There is always something demanding our attention. It can be too easy to just give up on our new goals because we can’t find a way to fit things onto an already overflowing plate. When we break things down into smaller steps, and then put those steps on our calendar as a commitment, we are often more likely to do a small bit each day. Each small step takes us closer to the larger goal
  5. Note what you do well, and shake it off when you stumble. We have a tendency to note the things we aren’t doing well and ignore it when we have taken a positive step forward. Learn to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start over again as many times as you need to.

Let this new year be the year that you move in the direction of your desired goals. You can do it if you take the necessary steps to get there. Happy 2013!