Gearing Down & Building Up

gearsIt’s that time of year. As the old year fades away, we spend time making resolutions, creating New Year’s intentions, or setting goals. I’m big on goal-setting with the added detail of creating action steps toward reaching those goals. At first it seems like more work, especially when those action steps seem to lengthen the to-do list, but the end benefit is a sense of satisfaction in seeing the steps toward a goal accomplished. I like the gratification of crossing an item off my to-do list (or when I click the “done” button on my List App).

In addition to the goal-setting, I spend time in June and in December assessing progress on those goals. One method for tracking progress has become a holiday tradition. Something similar may help you in  setting writing goals for the new year.

fullsizeoutput_daYears ago, I was given a blank book ornament as a gift. With my love of journal writing, I turned it into a holiday journal. Each year when I decorate the Christmas tree, I make an entry that includes a list of favorites: new authors found that year, current favorite TV shows, movies I’ve enjoyed throughout the year, hobbies I’ve taken up or enjoyed. Then, when I take down the tree and pack away ornaments, the last is the journal ornament. Before returning it to the storage box, I record a New Year’s entry that includes a few goals and intentions for the coming year. It’s eye-opening to read old entries—both the “favorites” at the end of each year, and the “goals” at the beginning of each year.

Reading through old entries is a fun way to conclude the year. Sometimes the favorites list are books or programs long forgotten. A few have prompted new writing projects. Sometimes the goals lists from the beginning of each year repeat, year after year, often simply in different wording. When this happens, it provides a greater push to find the action steps needed to accomplish that goal.

So tonight I’ll be gearing down the old year, re-reading past entries in that journal ornament, and then thinking about my goals for the new year.

Wishing you all a wonderful and productive new year!

New Year’s Gratitude Walk

With the same eagerness and excitement that sends me to the foot of the sparkly, light wrapped tree on Christmas morning, I wake on the first day of a new year eager for my gratitude walk. It’s simply wandering through my home and giving thanks for everything in my life. It’s about taking time and allowing photos, knickknacks, and other mementos to trigger gratitude for the life I have today.

I begin outside, and move indoors, then eventually to my journal and reviewing past entries. Sometimes I need to begin with strong coffee (if my celebration to ring out the old was exuberant). Clasping the hot mug of black coffee, I sit on my lanai watching the steam rise into the crisp air and am grateful that my condo has this spacious screened porch. I notice how the rising sun slowly brightens the long wispy needles of the white pines. I’m grateful that the air is chilly here but not enough to bring snow. I’m grateful for the birds I hear squawking at each other and the relative stillness of the morning as my neighbors sleep off their celebrations. White Pine

As I move inside, I wander from room to room looking at photos and cards, trinkets and keepsakes on shelves and recall the experiences and memories behind them: the career-changing conference, a vacation that involved riding Harley motorcycles, excursions to obtain swan photos, a arrowhead found in a Michigan sink hole. I give thanks, whether uplifting or simply constructive, in these experiences; they’ve shaped the person I am today.

I even express gratitude for the furniture and decoration: how I found a favorite torchiere lamp, how I acquired each painting on the walls and other artwork, why I selected the office desk I use. I silently give thanks for the beauty and joy all these “things” add to my life. They represent my past goals and what “achievement” meant to me at that point in life–and they make my current life comfortable. For that I am grateful.

My journey draws to a close as I settle in my favorite journal-writing chair and begin to flip through last year’s entries looking for pages I’ve marked, reading partial chronicles, and reflecting on how all my past experiences–good and bad–shape my future. I find bits and gems of new ideas in the pages and make plans for which to develop and which to allow to “simmer” longer.

I’ll admit, my gratitude walk itself is one of the things I am grateful for. It evolved out of heartbreak, when I took down a Christmas tree after a long-term relationship ended. As I wrapped each ornament I thought about where it came from: a trip to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth, Michigan in the middle of summer, the crystal unicorn ornament from my college roommate and the others she and I exchanged for 10 years, the annual 24-carat gold-plated ornaments from my first post-college employer.Image

I realized that each held a memory–mostly pleasant–that were a part of me. They could not be erased but they did help shape me. That annual reflection was recorded in my journal and eventually evolved into my gratitude walk. It’s a great way to begin the year because it focuses on the experiences of the past and how they’ve shaped the present. It’s a means for reflection and positive thoughts in moving forward into a new year. A fresh new year, with no mistakes.

I’m looking forward to my journey. I hope you are too. Happy New Year! May 2013 be the year all your plans and dreams come true.