With the new year just around the corner I thought I’d share a practice which I find helpful for setting my intentions for the new year. I’ve found this practice useful for harvesting the learnings of the past year and catalyze new actions moving forward.

As I glance over my shoulder at the months gone by I assess the positives and negatives.  What was great about this past year – and what was less than stellar? What worked and what didn’t? Did I like what I did and how I was being…or not so much?  What was within my Circle of Influence that I might have done differently? And what fell beyond my Circle of Influence and into my Circle of Concern rendering me powerless?

These questions bring to mind the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” For me, this powerful little reminder always has a way of putting things into perspective.

Let’s face it, there are things I can change and things I can’t – so what are they?  

With that in mind I make a list of all the things that didn’t work so well, things that fell within my Circle of Concern.  These are things I care deeply about but they are beyond my control to change. I note the things that have a sore spot associated with, things I find disturbing and hard to accept. I jot those down in my journal under a column titled Acceptance / Forgiveness.  Between now and the new year I envision releasing these through acceptance and forgiveness practices.

One mindfulness practice from the Insight Meditation community known as R.A.I.N. is a powerful tool for working with the things we have a hard time accepting.  And, while I’m all about staying on the positive side of life, the fact is if we don’t acknowledge what is disturbing us, and give it some love and attention, chances are it will follow us into the new year.

Next I move to the Circle of Influence.  What were the things I did have control over making a change around but didn’t? How did I do the things that build my practice? Was I as present with my family as I would have liked to be?  Perhaps it’s the New Year’s resolution that didn’t make it past February.

As I ask myself what are the things I could have changed, but didn’t have the courage to do so? I do, to the best of my ability, free from judgement or criticism of myself.  Then, digging a bit deeper, I ask a most important question – Why? And, what was it that I choose to do instead? And Why?

A word of caution: this is not an exercise in self-flogging… rather this is a self-reflection exercise with self-compassion and loving kindness, free from blame, guilt, judgement and shame (BGJS).  Paying attention to the sore spots these questions touch, the places within myself where there’s a sense of regret that I didn’t live up to my intentions? This is a sensitive place for those of us who dare to go there, and this is the birthplace of “the courage to change the things I can.” Touching into these sore spots I ask what is it I most need – right here, right now? Bringing kindness and compassion to this place within.

Once we’ve engaged the heart it is much easier to shift the mind…

With a fresh new perspective I make a list of these things I would like to have done differently and go about making a plan for what’s next.  Reviewing my list I consider, “What are still important to me, and what are not?” “What am I committed to doing differently in the new year?” “Who do I want to BE in the new year? And, how do I go about “being” the best version of me?”

Between now and the end of the year I explore this list through journaling, meditation and conversation to discover for me, what are my intentions for the new year?  What is it that I’m committed to doing… how am I committed to being.

I’ve heard two women I admire deeply for their lives of commitment and service say something I try to put into practice.  They both said in so many words, I live my life by my commitments. I wake-up everyday and I recommit to my intentions. I let my commitments guide my actions and my life.

This is a practice that helps to cultivate self-awareness, forgiveness, gratitude, and loving kindness…and the wisdom to know the difference. I invite you to give it a try this year and let me know how it goes?