Happy New Year!

New beginnings can be exciting and daunting all at once, can't they? Some, like the start of each new year, represent another try, a fresh go at activities and relationships we're already engaged in, while other new beginnings are weightier. A new marriage, a new job, or a new educational direction can carry the yoke of deeply held hopes.

In my town there is a New Year's tradition that I quite appreciate for its symbolism even if I can't bring myself to participate in it. It's not unique, maybe you have an event like this near you: The first day of every year, hundreds of people take a run in the crisp cool air (this isn't the part I eschew) and then they change into their swimming suits and jump into the frigid water of one of our lakes, immersing themselves completely. They baptize themselves into the new year!

I get a kick out of watching such craziness, but I like to start my new year with a little more reflection (by a warm fire with a cup of tea):

The first two weeks of every January, I spend some time writing about the previous year and crafting my goals for the next. Below are the questions I use for journaling this process. Why not give them a try now? Here are my journaling prompts:

  1. What are all the things from 2012 I’m proud of? What did I get done? (Write down everything that comes to mind, big and small!)
  2. What did I learn in 2012 that I’d like to remember for 2013?
  3. What do I want to accomplish in 2013? (Write down everything that comes to mind, big and small!)
  4. Which of the above items are most important to me? (Circle up to five, but no more. We don't want to get overwhelmed before we get to February!)
  5. What steps do I need to take in order to complete each of these priorities? What are my deadlines for each of these steps? (I make a spreadsheet with the months of the year across the top and the goal along the left-hand side. Then I fill it in with benchmark objectives I plan to reach. Check out a printable version of the table here: 2013 Goal Planner. And here's one just for writers.)
  6. How will I celebrate or mark the completion of each step toward progress? (Don't skip this step. Celebration and rewards for progress are crucial.)
  7. Who/what do I need to support me in this goal?

As you can see, this is a simple process. But it works! It works because the focus is not on changing anything essential about yourself. There is nothing shaming or condemning about these questions. There is no need to go back and look at your failures or to decide there is anything problematic or pathological about you. The key is breaking down the goal into bite-sized, achievable steps.

If you have a specific goal you’d like to work toward but feel stuck as you go through this process, stay tuned here. I'll be offering encouragement throughout the year. We're in this together! Besides, we're not getting any younger, so let's seize the day and reach for our dreams in 2013.

Happy New Year, Second Wind-ers! I look forward to hearing from you as you report on your successes and wins!

About the Author

Cami Ostman, M.S.

Cami Ostman, M.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Washington State and the author of Second Wind: One Woman's Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents.

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