I’ve been seeing a photo circulating around the web that basically says that the days between Christmas and New Year are a nebulous period where you forget any concept of time and spend your days in varying stages of food-comas. That’s definitely me, but in case you forgot, Sunday is the very first day of 2017. Whether you’ve got a lot of fond memories from this year or can’t wait for it to be over, whether you’re gearing up for your New Year’s Resolutions or haven’t given it a single thought, here’s an idea: let go of some things on your way out of 2016. It doesn’t require extra effort, it’s just simply an exercise of thought that might open you up to the possibilities of next year. Letting go of these things might take the form of a physical ritual (writing things down and burning/burying them/throwing them to the wind/etc.) or a simple reminder on your mirror or phone. Once you’ve let go of these things, they’re no longer you. And that can be a marvelous thing.
Let go of the bad memories from last year. You can (and should) let go of bad memories as soon as possible, but the new year gives us an extra excuse to leave the past exactly where it belongs—the past. How long are you going to let a bad breakup, a lost job, or a missed opportunity affect your present? They already did the damage they did when they happened—only you have the power to let them continue to wound you to to accept your losses and move on. Of course, really difficult events may need to be processed through with a therapist, but most often we are holding on to anger or resentment from events that no longer affect us.
Let go of your resentment and failed expectations—from others and yourself. Once again, this year has proved that people are and will be extraordinarily human. If you’re anything like me, you are a master at setting sky-high expectations for yourself, and inevitably those around you. Even though we rarely speak these expectations, we become angry and bitter when we are disappointed by those around us or ourselves.
Extend grace—grace to those who have injured you, grace for your own mistakes and shortcomings. Our disappointment is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if we believe that expectations will continue to be unmet, they will be. Stop mourning the way things should have been and instead remain curious about the way things are.Let go of your constant need to prove yourself to others. Since graduating college and trying to find a job, I’ve found my need to prove my worth to the world almost crippling at times. Our employment, relationship status, bodies and more are all on constant display for the world 24/7 to judge, assess, and analyze. Nobody deserves to be under that kind of scrutiny.
Gently remind yourself in those moments when you feel uncomfortable in your own body that every single person you meet—your seemingly perfect friend, the person who left a nasty comment on a photo of yours—is going through the same struggle. No matter how we disguise it, each one of us just wants to be accepted and loved for who we are. Take a moment to remember that and you’ll find that not only are you more loving to yourself, but everyone around you.
Let go of self-destructive thought patterns. If you’re even introspective in the slightest, you’ll recognize that our brains have an unfortunate habit of creating compelling, yet untrue stories about ourselves and our world. For example, seeing your friends post a photo that you’re not in and responding internally with “I’ve never fit in or belonged with them. They don’t really care about me.” Or perhaps going on an unsuccessful date and thinking “I am literally going to die alone. There is nobody who really finds me worth loving.”
There would need to be a MOUNTAIN of evidence to make these things true (and in fact, they never will be) yet we use these lies to justify and explain what is more often than not a misunderstanding or one bad experience. The world is tough—you need to be your own best ally. Don’t let negative thought patterns make dealing with disappointment that much more difficult. Let go of fear. How many dreams do you have sitting in the back of your mind that are just going to collect dust in 2017 because you are too afraid to reach out and grab them? Anything worth having requires an investment on your end. An investment requires vulnerability. Vulnerability is uncomfortable. But let me lay out two scenarios.
Scenario #1: You remain exactly the same. The business you want to start, the relationship you want to have, the trip you want to take remain tucked away in a safe space in your heart, but you make no attempt to move towards them because you’re afraid. You see others around you pursuing their dreams—some succeeding, others failing. Eventually, you reach a point in time where the window of opportunity for your dream has passed. You never lost anything, but you never gained anything either.
Scenario #2: You decide to set aside your fear and take a baby step towards your dream. Maybe it’s talking to an investor or calling an old friend or saving up some money. You begin to actually consider what it would take to make your dream a reality. At each step, you are prompted to say yes to faith and no to fear. Maybe you take a big leap. One of two things may happen: you may fail or you may succeed. Success may be blissful, and failure may be crushing. But either way, you will have learned and grown as a person.
That is life in its simplest element: we either risk and move forward, losing things along the way, or we try and hold tight to preserve something that we will inevitably lose. Life is finite and so are we. Accept that everything in your life is temporary and you can either use it or lose it.
This next year holds both incredible adventures and enormous challenges. We will gain some things and lose others. I hope that you’ll join me in taking some time to thank this year for what it has been, both good and bad, and leaving some things behind, where they belong.
You’ll be glad you did.
Wishing you peace and grace this coming year…