The new year is a great time to reflect on the past year's accomplishments and celebrate all that you have achieved. Here's what to do with your old resolution list.
Trade Your NY Resolution List for an "Already Accomplished" List
How many of us have made New Years' resolutions? How many of us have broken those resolutions?
If we asked these questions to a crowded room, nearly every hand would be in the air. According to Psychology Today, just 10% or fewer of those hands would remain down, as those were the only resolutions carried out.
It's not to say that New Year's resolutions don't work or that they were made to be broken. It indicates that we may not be considering our successes from the previous year, which are undeniably significant.
Additional reading: Make Sustainable Lifestyle Changes Instead of New Year's Resolutions
The Past Year's Accomplishments
The world made it through yet another year while dealing with the effects of a pandemic, which is to be applauded. We've gone through loss, unemployment, and levels of stress we previously thought unimaginable. The world's landscape doesn't look the way it once used to. Regardless of how you've weathered the storm, you're still standing. That's a huge accomplishment.
Let's begin by thinking about all of the accomplishments you've made throughout the year and start by writing them down. Have you finished the book you've been working on? Have you started your fitness routine? Did you get selected for employee of the month? Did you boost your team's morale during a challenging acquisition? Make a list of everything.
I did, and what I discovered astounded me for someone who felt they had accomplished nothing. I'm confident that you'll feel the same way once you put your successes on paper. But don't stop there; keep going with your list until next January, when you'll be able to reminisce about all of your victories.
The Power of Our Negative Bias
We get stuck in negative thinking, and it's not just a theory but proven. According to this study, we remember negative events more accurately than positive ones. Our selective memory is strong when it comes to adverse effects. All of this suggests that our brains are programmed to remember and focus on negative events.
So while you remember all the things you didn't do, this is the power of memory and the influence of negative emotions. As a result, your brain is deceiving you regarding this past year's accomplishments — and you just don't remember them as well.
Can We Overcome Negative Bias?
So, if our minds are wired to be negative, how do we get rid of the nagging feeling that what we accomplished wasn't good enough and that we need to try harder? The answer lies in what years of research tell us and what we can practice.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great idea. You can reflect on the positive moments when the memory has faded and negative thoughts flood your mind. When something positive happens, live in that moment and write it down.
Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a well-known method for reshaping thought patterns. According to scientific studies, people who participated in this type of therapy had a 70% higher probability of eliminating negative bias.
By amplifying the good, you can break your negative bias. Negative thinking is ingrained into your brain. However, if we keep at it and make it a habit, repetition will change our mental pattern to a more positive one.
Goals vs. Resolutions
There's a distinction to be made between resolutions and goals that we want to keep in mind. A resolution is a firm choice to do or not do something, whereas a goal is the desired outcome.
On January 1, at 12:01 a.m., there is no magic. No sudden shift. Sometimes we make hasty decisions and proclaim our commitments before the New Year arrives, only to be confronted with the repercussions of our poor planning.
And what's worse? We have the feeling that we have failed. Resolutions leave us focused on failure rates instead of success rates for the past year's accomplishments.
Focusing on Accomplishments With Self Reflection
Humans are adaptable. Otherwise, we wouldn't have survived as a species. Since we understand that our minds will bounce to the negative and how we can counteract that, we're going to focus on what we've accomplished. Eventually, our thought patterns will have adapted too.
The amount of time we have to think outside of the hustle and bustle during the holidays is limited. However, we tend to put ourselves last on the list throughout the year. Just because the calendar says it's a new year doesn't mean we have to start working on our goals on January 1. Instead, we can set up times for self-reflection, and our new year can begin when we decide it will.
What Is Self-Reflection?
Self-reflection is the process of thinking about, focusing on, evaluating, and considering your actions. It's the process of analyzing these thoughts and determining why they exist.
Without thinking about our goals and why they exist, we live in the same robotic ways every day — on auto-pilot. We're not questioning why it matters to us, if it makes us happy, if it fuels our passions, and we're not daydreaming about what can be. When was the last time you made a list of your goals and dreams and then spent time thinking about making them a reality? You're probably too busy and tired, like the rest of us, to add anything to your already overflowing plate.
The same can be said for self-reflecting on the past year's accomplishments. If we don't thoughtfully contemplate our achievements, our brains surely will not do the work for us without our intentionality backing us up.
Additional reading: Exercise to Clear Your Mind
15 Self-Reflection Exercises to Try
Here are some ideas to get you started the next time you sit down to undertake some thoughtful reflection. Spend as much time alone as you need, whenever and however you choose.
1. What have I overcome?
2. What knowledge have I acquired?
3. What's important to me?
4. What am I most passionate about in life?
5. What holds me back?
6. What is the most positive experience I've ever had?
7. What's the bravest thing I've ever done?
8. What keeps me grounded?
9. When was the last time I said "yes" to myself?
10. When I wake up, how do I feel?
11. When I go to bed, how do I feel?
12. Do I know my personality type?
13. Do I know my love language?
14. How do I show myself self-love?
15. What negative beliefs do I have about myself?
Your To-Do List = Done
It's easier to perceive what you think you haven't accomplished when you're locked in a cycle of negative bias. But, if you look back at your life and previous years' accomplishments, this year was only another step on a journey that has seen many successes along the way.
Every human experiences periods of difficulty and hardship. Another of your victories is that every challenge provided you with an opportunity to grow stronger as a person (and you have). That's how you've been all throughout your life. You've accomplished incredible feats. You've achieved extraordinary things. And that's just one more thing you can, without hesitation, cross off your to-do list. As for your life's successes and this past year's accomplishments — there will be plenty more where those came from.
Additional reading: Setting Resolutions During a Pandemic