“New year, new beginnings – what now?”
As is customary for my family, we spent New Year’s Eve in the coastal town in Lorne, Victoria, Australia together with our extended family and friends. The events of the evening were thus; dinner at a nice restaurant followed by watching the midnight fireworks from a friend’s balcony.
In the last few years an addition to the NYE events has been the advancement and involvement of social media. Leading up to and during NYE I read as my friends and followers wished one another a happy new year, posted photos, got engaged, prophesied about the future, predicted a great 2017, and so on.
Over and over again I heard and/or read the statement: “2017 is going to be your best year ever” or “Farewell to a horrible 2016, and welcome to an awesome 2017” or something similar to those thoughts.
I got thinking about this and the reality that I had an extremely tough 2016; I do hope and pray that 2017 will be fantastic, but can I really declare with such confidence that all will be well? Last year I lost people I loved, my work life as I had known it for the past 24 years dramatically changed, and some things that I thought were forever suddenly did not exist, and my list can go on and on. Therefore, I am heading into 2017, like many of you, with gaps in my world.
So how will I personally handle this?
1. Choose to see the rainbow in the rain
I have always said that if you want to find demons then that is what you will find. If you look for bad, you will find the bad. But so, it is also true, that if you choose to see the good in every situation, you will begin to train your mind and your heart to see the good. Changing this perspective is not always easy, but it is a life-changing concept if you grab a hold of it and believe in it.
2. Choose a theme
Near the end of the year I listened to a live feed in Facebook from Sharon Pearson, Founder and CEO of The Coaching Institute. She spoke at length about how she prepares for a new year, and one area grabbed my attention was which she said to set a theme for your year. Choose from the outset how you wish your year to progress. How do you see it? What sets it apart from all the years previous? Remember that you are not necessarily the same person of years past, you have changed and you have grown, so ensure you choose a theme that will make this year different to those long gone.
3. Make plans
Plan times when you can refresh. Plan for breaks, holidays, and catch-ups. Plan walks, swims, movies, and dinners. Plan to do nothing. Or plan to do everything. Plans are there to guide the way you want your life to go, so ensure that you add in times to relax as well as times to work, times for play (which we largely underestimate the psychological benefits of) as well as times for motivation and action. Remember that the world is your oyster (for the sake of over-using an old saying), however it is true that you can do whatever you set your mind to do. So, put the plans in place early, and watch how your life can develop to something of your choosing.
4. Prepare to be flexible and adjust
It would be wonderful if everything we did went as we planned (as mentioned above) but we all know this is not the case. Being flexible and prepared to adjust is a very powerful characteristic to possess, and it can help us avoid a lot of disappointment and heartache. Plans are fantastic to make, and do not underestimate them, but what is even more important is the ability to go with the flow when they do not quite work out as you expected. I am yet to meet a person who has had every plan go exactly as they had intended it; those that are most successful are those that do not see it as a failure to have a plan not work out, but rather see it as an opportunity and a launchpad for something even greater.
5. Surround yourself with great people
The more I travel through this life the more I am convinced that the people you have in and around you make a massive impact for either good or bad.
As I continue to try and surround my life with positive and generous people I am noticing my own countenance becoming more of those qualities I hold in high regard.
The opposite is also true, if you spend all your time around those with traits that drag you down, or negatively influence you, you will find in time that they are likely to start negatively impacting your character and your belief systems. I cannot emphasise this enough, the people you spend the most time with are those you are most likely to end up like. In this way, you actually have a strong influence in deciding the kind of person you will become – just look at your closest friends. Choose wisely, it impacts you more than you might realise.
6. Live for others and a cause
Too often we get caught up in our own worries and challenges, which can often overwhelm us and cause us to see only darkness. I have found that living for others and living for great causes can really influence me to see my life in a whole new perspective.
One of the reasons I love to travel to a third-world country every year is to ensure I keep my heart soft and my own challenges in perspective.
It is unfortunate that the generation we currently live in is almost taught to be self-involved, and self-focused – get a great degree, get a great first job, earn a lot of money, get a great house, have a perfect partner, have the “2.5” kids. There is this perfect stereotype that no one can ever actually meet, and so we have a generation striving for perfection instead of finding ways they can help those less fortunate. Keeping your eyes and heart on the rest of the world keeps you soft, and keeps giving you a purpose which is completely beyond any kind of selfish desires, and at the end of the day you can rest knowing you made a difference – even if it was just to one person. That is enough.
7. Walk, Ponder and Pray
Amongst all the good and bad that 2016 brought, it was also a year of incredible discovery. In the midst of everything that happened for me, I found myself falling in love with walking. It became a beautiful simple pleasure where I would walk, ponder my day and all of the good and bad it might have contained, and then I would offer up a prayer covering that situation or even simply offering up my thankfulness over it all.
This one seemingly simple discipline has had a profound impact on my life physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Come the end of 2016 I had walked over 920km! I recommend finding that special place for you, maybe it is walking, perhaps swimming, or maybe you find your quiet times knitting, or cooking. Whatever it is, I recommend resting in those moments, leaning on His Presence, and surrendering your life to prayer.
So, welcome to a New Year, 2017! I do pray that it is an excellent year for you, not because of magic, or fate, but because you took deliberate steps to being the best you that you can be.
I think our loved ones who have left us, would want that for us.
By Steve Morrison