At this busy time of year, the last thing we’re probably thinking about is New Year’s Resolutions and setting goals. Every November I personally resolve to be more prepared and less REactive about Christmas however that rarely comes to fruition. This hectic season often feels like a fast flowing current that we get swept up in and can’t get out of. It becomes more about getting ‘through’ Christmas than simply enjoying it. By the time we feel OK to relax, it feels all too soon to compile a set of task oriented goals for the coming year. And perhaps if we failed to achieve what we set out to do in the previous year, we’ll be a lot less keen to list a whole new set of benchmarks for the following year.
So what are our options? To aim high and commit or to not aim at all? The former might involve listing some things we’d like to change or improve about our lives and setting some measurable outcomes as per the SMART method of goal setting. The latter might be to not aim at all and hope to be happy with whatever outcome befalls us. Certainly there is less pressure that way, but also a loss of direction and perhaps satisfaction.
This dilemma has got me to thinking that perhaps we’re missing a step. That being the all important stage of reflection. Unless we take some time to reflect on what has worked or not worked in the previous year, or perhaps be honest about what our gifts are (and are not) we may be moving forward unwisely. In order to do this step authentically, we need to move from our brain to our soul. Here’s an acronym for SOUL that I’ve created and sincerely hope to use over my summer holiday:
S: Still – there’s an old proverb that says “muddy water, let stand, becomes clear”. Imagine that old bottle of muddy water you brought back from the creek, hoping to find tadpoles in? It was hard to find them when the bottle was all shook up; but slowly, as you waited for the silt to sink to the bottom, the water became clearer and you could find what you set out to catch. In other words, when we sit awhile, and let all that’s going on around us simply settle, things in our life usually become clearer.
O: Overview – once we’ve sat still for a while, it might be time to take a look at the year or the season of our life that has just passed. What went well? What values seemed to grow within? What relationships opened up? What was there to be thankful for? It’s probably best to create your own questions in this section.
U: Under – Many of us would accept that our lives have many layers. This section is about reflecting on some of those under layers. Not being content to just live life on the surface, but to explore what can sometimes be hidden away underneath. What tugs at your heart but can’t be felt in the normal day to day? What cries out from within but can’t be heard? What longs to see the light but struggles because it lies so deep down? We may be talking about identity, longings, deep emotions or even hurts. This is an opportunity to stop and take a look in a moment of solitude so that we can come to an acceptance of who we are and why. If you sense that this is a fearful exercise, it might be wise to have a trusted friend or professional alongside you.
L: Look – This implies that our eyes need to be open. Open in a metaphorical sense in that we are prepared to look at ourselves, our relationships, our purpose and meaning in life and our future. Looking works on many levels: Look up (perhaps to the stars or a higher power you believe in?) Look out (to a beautiful horizon or simply outside yourself) and Look within.
As a result of this time of reflection, you may decide to do something differently or even set out a plan. Whether it prompts action or not, there’s nothing lost in taking stock of our soul.