Making the Most of TwixmasMiriam Akhtar
Twixmas is the time between (betwixt) Christmas and New Year. For many of us this is a precious pot of me-time when the days are short and energy levels are low. We can give in to the keynote of the season, turn inwards and enjoy some hibernation. Pottering around is good relaxation but the risk with this unstructured time is that it can lapse into a wasteland of mindless eating and watching TV. Twixmas is a great time to reflect on the year that’s been and begin to plan the year ahead. A life review as a basis to a happy new you. So light the fire, make some tea, choose a comfy sofa (you may already be there) and try the following.
What were the high points of 2015?
Begin by running through your calendar to discover the high points of the year. You’ll have a head start if you keep some kind of gratitude journal as a record of all the positive events that happen. If you don’t keep one take the hint for your happiness and start one for 2016! Reflect on what the highlights have been month by month and savour all the details as you reminisce. Having a sense of appreciation for the year that’s been can help build optimism for the year ahead. Gratitude is a positive emotion oriented towards the past whereas optimism is a future-focused positive emotion. The glass half-full towards the past helps to build the glass half-full towards the future.
This form of life planning is based on Appreciative Inquiry, the organisational change process which begins with appreciating what already works well and building on team strengths to power forwards. You make more progress when you focus on what’s gone right but unfortunately we tend to spend more time analysing what’s gone wrong and take the triumphs for granted. So ask yourself first:
Now think about what strengths of yours contributed to those peak experiences? There are two types of strengths – positive characteristics such as perseverance, courage and emotional intelligence. These are your personality or character strengths. The other is your performance strengths – your talents which help you achieve. It could be anything, being a whizz at numbers, a starter-completer, a natural diplomat, a good communicator. Add to this by writing a list of other strengths that you noticed during the year.
You now have a list of positive experiences and strengths that make up the positive you in 2015.
What were the low points in 2015?
These seem to be so much easier to recall than the high points because of the brain’s negativity bias. Instead of ruminating over 2015’s setbacks, you can still find something positive in the lows by asking yourself what helped you cope? Your strengths can help you in the bad times as well as the good. What were the strengths that helped you be resilient and keep going?
Now you’ve completed the 1st step in the Appreciative Inquiry process which is to Discover. This gives you something to build on for 2016.
The Appreciative Inquiry Cycle
Image (c) University of British Columbia.
The next step is to Dream. What would you like for 2016? It’s good to get yourself into the mood to dream. Put on some music or go for a walk. This will produce positive emotions, which in turn will stimulate your creativity and fire up your imagination for the year ahead. Allow yourself to do some blue-sky thinking and let go of any restrictions on your dreaming. What do you wish for? How might you build on those high points of 2015? Look at the list of your strengths. How else could you apply them in 2016? Finding new ways of using your strengths raises your well-being.
Step 3 is to Design. What is the first step on the path to realising the dream? And the next step? Some useful questions to ask yourself. What has to happen in order to reach the goal? And what’s stopping you? These two questions will identify the obstacles that stand in the way and yield a plan of action.
Personally I prefer setting intentions over goals. The word ‘goal’ can sometimes provoke anxiety especially for those who’ve experienced depression. It can bring up a sense of failure attached to previous unaccomplished goals. The energy around ‘intentions’ is lighter and easier to hold. We have the intention and will put the effort in but can be flexible if something better comes along. Now there’s an optimistic thought!
The final step is to Deliver the Destiny. Have a look at your list of strengths and ask yourself how you could use them to realise the dream. These are your inner resources after all. How can they get you started and sustain your progress? Think of the bigger steps – what are the medium-sized steps and longer-term goals that will take you in a positive direction and get you en route to realising the dream.