New Year’s resolutions and I have a checkered past. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. When they don’t I end up feeling like a failure – and feeling like a failure is no way to start off a brand new year. I’ve found that writing down my aspirations for the New Year as opposed to making resolutions is a lot more effective and can lead to some amazing developments. New Year’s aspirations are, in a nutshell, resolutions that work. You can read more about it in this post but in a nutshell, an aspiration is a positively worded affirmation of something you would like to achieve. For example, instead of ‘I resolve to de-clutter and get rid of the mess I’ve accumulated’ (which is actually very critical) you might affirm that ‘This year I am making positive choices about the things I choose to keep around me, ensuring that everything in my home is either beautiful, useful or deeply sentimental’. ‘I will lose ten pounds’ might be ‘I am making healthy choices about what I eat’.
You get the idea. Affirmations should be worded kindly, in the affirmative and as if they are actually happening right now. Use ‘I am’ instead of ‘I will’ and don’t criticise yourself.
It’s also a great idea to think of a theme for the year’s aspirations to help you stay focused. For example, this year my theme was ‘An Atmosphere of Growth‘. Although some of the tools I started working with within this theme worked and some didn’t, others have been life changing. Keeping a daily gratitude journal has revolutionised how I look not only at my own life, but at the world in general. I’ve ‘increased my optimism’, ‘redefined myself in light of the changes in our family life’ and ‘nurtured existing friendships as well as reaching out to make new friends’. The woman I am today is stronger, wiser and happier than I was this time last year. Success.
So, how to set your own aspirations?
Brainstorm what you would like to achieve
Sit down quietly for about ten minutes on two or three occasions – if you can carve out a whole quiet half hour this works too – and brainstorm some of the things you’d like to achieve in 2014. Jot them all down, point form, in a notebook, computer, wherever (I use my iPad as it comes with me everywhere). Electronic documents work best as you can amend them easily and generally they can’t get lost.
Review what you have written
Look at it kindly, in a positive light. Think about what you’d say to a friend who wanted to achieve something similar. Transform your points (which you may find are surprisingly self-critical) into positive, affirmative, present-tense statements.
Look for a theme
See if you can find a theme developing within the affirmations you’ve written down. It may be blindingly obvious or it may seem that everything you’ve written down is totally unrelated. If the latter is the case, just start working with your affirmations. It took me three weeks of working with mine this year before I I was inspired by a quote from Gretchen Rubin and decided to use the theme ‘An Atmosphere of Growth’.
Create a master list
Put these affirmations into a document you can look at every day. If you know what your theme is, write it at the top of the list. If not, just leave a space for it – it will make itself known eventually. Keep your affirmations document on your iPad as I do, or print it off and put it on your office wall or the fridge. Just make sure it’s somewhere that it is easy to look at regularly, preferably first thing in the morning. Read your list every day.
Be open to inspiration
Keep your eyes open for tools that will help you achieve your aspirations – last year Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project was great inspiration for me. Books, seminars, online TED talks – be open to all the knowledge and support that is out there.
Review your progress regularly
Congratulate yourself on your successes and encourage yourself to continue with your tougher aspirations. You may find your aspirations evolve. That’s okay too.
You can’t fail when you are aspiring
While I may not have met all my aspirations from January 2013, the ones I did achieve have enhanced my life. I can definitely say that I have lived this year in an ‘atmosphere of growth’. Any aspirations I haven’t achieved – and that are still relevant – will go on my 2014 aspirations list. Some will simply slip away. We change a lot in the course of a year – some of the things I thought I wanted in January 2013 really are not that important to me anymore. That’s okay. In fact, knowing that is a really good thing.
Aspirations have been helping me grow personally, professionally and emotionally for a number of years now. I encourage you to give them a try. This year my theme is Abundance, Trust and Fun. What’s yours?
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