For many reasons, I’m content to put the year behind me.
On the one hand, it’s been a year to remember but, on the other, one to forget entirely. I choose the former.
Each year I print out my 12 Reflections, find some quiet, warm coffee shop to reflect on all I’ve achieved and remind myself of all I am grateful for. I like the consistency of asking myself the same questions each year – and observing how the answers change.
When my first daughter Ava was born in 2008, I was in the midst of massive work projects when I had a moment of clarity. I decided to work fewer days and to avoid if I could working beyond reasonable boundaries. The decision was a simple one – you know you are right when you can physically feel a release of tension. At times, sticking with the decision was difficult as my nature was to seek perfection and to say yes to everything. Busyness had become a badge – still is. But I remember to take it off now.
Since that moment, I became more aware that being efficient and productive coupled with setting boundaries and focussing on what energises you are a potent combination. I’m becoming more conscious of how I invest my time, energy and focus – and the interplay between all the areas of my life as a whole system.
Despite all this, life throws us challenges and 2021 was no different. I’m no different to anyone – tired of restrictions, tired of lack of freedoms. But I know mostly I’m better off than a lot of others.
There may seem a lot right now we cannot control. Going with the flow is a valuable skill. And yet, there is plenty we can control – and it doesn’t require particular talent or technical skill.
All it takes is one moment of awareness – as I’ve only learned since that decision to put my wellbeing and family first in 2008.
We can control our mindset, our response to challenge and change, what we eat, how we move, how we manage our emotions, how we respond to stress, the boundaries we set and how we think (or judge) ourselves (and others). We can build routines and habits to serve us better and ditch old ways of thinking and doing that no longer do.
This year will ask more questions of us. I want to have some answers ready.
If you implement just one ritual above all others, let it be the Ritual of Reflection. Take the 12 Questions available here, print them out – and view the year ahead as a blank canvas on which you will paint your best work yet.
James Parnell is the founder of The Wellbeing Gym, which provides online wellbeing, performance and productivity programmes to individuals and corporates.
The AWE Programme is designed for motivated people to make the most of this year, together. Applications open.
12 Annual Reflections Download
The 12 Reflections below is a simple exercise to try annually if not more often.