Intentional and tactical end of year practices for you

Many of my coaching clients have asked me, over the last few weeks, to share best practices for closing a year, and setting intentions and goals for the new year. I have personally tried a number of practices – some very ‘out there’ in women’s circles out in the red woods with shamans, and such. All of these experiments have helped me in some way, but there are three core practices that seem to stay true and impactful no matter the circumstances.

I don’t expect that the same exact rituals will work for everyone when it comes to marking the end of a year – specially a year like 2020, or for setting the intentions of the new year ahead. But below are my go-to practices that have served me and dozens of clients in creating a ritual that, if nothing else, feels deeply intentional and is highly tactical.

1. Forgiveness – I start my end of the year practice with a broad and in-depth look of the people, and  circumstances that need forgiveness. Forgiveness here is about my capacity to let-go, and to change my perception of the past so that I am not a hostage of it. There is a fine line between learning from past mistakes or difficult situations, and being held hostage by them. My exercise on forgiveness is simple. I list situations that I feel I am still hooked by (and I know that to be true, because when I think of these situations or people I feel resentment, or guilt, or one of these yucky feelings) and I choose to find gifts (what I learned) and to replace my beliefs around these situations such that I am no longer hooked. Some things will require much more than a one time practice, but the end of the year is a good time to start…

2. Gratitude – any end of the year practice should include a gratitude moment. I like to list my gratitude around three areas:

a. what I am grateful for, that happened for me (such as a promotion, a raise, re-connecting with an old friend, being healthy, the extra time I was able to spend with my daughter, etc…)

b. what I am grateful for that is who I am or how I showed up (my empathy, my focus, my commitment to helping others, my goofy dance moves that make my daughter laugh out loud, or speaking up my needs even if that meant being uncomfortably vulnerable, etc.)

c. the things i can genuinely say I am grateful for even if the delivery was more like ‘tough love.’ This is where the forgiveness and gratitude practice sometimes merge. I may feel resentment toward a particular exchange with someone, but can at the same time find gratitude for what I learned because of (not in spite of) that exchange.

3. My future self and my top three priorities – after “cleaning the closet” with a forgiveness and gratitude practice, I set myself up for creating the future I really want. This is a more involved process – I write a detailed vision as if I am describing the end of 2021 (in other words, I write what I have already accomplished at the end of 2021 in my ideal vision). This future self helps determine my top three priorities for the year. These three priorities become real organizing principles for setting my to-dos (and what not to-do) on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis. If we do not set these priorities then everything in 2021 will feel important and we will likely get little of what truly matters done.

And, by the way, speaking of “cleaning closets” that’s another one of these end of the year practices that I love. It really gives me a real sense of renewal and making space for new things to come. I clean my office, my garage, my daughter’s toys and clothes, and my closet, one by one, every day leading up to New Year’s Eve. This mindless task is a great way to let your mind wonder about your future self, before you sit down to write your vision…it really works like magic!

Regardless of your end of year practice, if any at all – I hope you enter 2021 with real optimism and some strategies to help you achieve what truly matters most to you, from your health and well-being, to financial stability, to relationships, or the work and self-expression that most resonate with your deepest values.

With love and gratitude,