How to Clean Up the Past and Create Lasting Change
Reflecting over the past year creates a unique opportunity for growth. Whether it's the New Year or the middle of June, assessing the past transforms your life because when we're willing to look at ourselves honestly, real change can happen.
By taking an inventory of the past year, you can assess what you've done well and areas to improve. This blog shows you exactly how to do just that.
When Assets Become Liabilities
This exercise consists of identifying strengths and areas to change. Every trait can be an asset or a liability. The difference is determined by the degree it's expressed.
Susan is always helpful. She's the first one to volunteer at her children's school and church events.
When she gives too much she neglects her own responsibilities and doesn't have time for herself.
Brian works 70-80 hours a week and his work means everything to him.
Because Brian works too much, he has trouble relaxing and has no personal life.
These examples show how assets can become liabilities. Both strengths turn into liabilities. The goal becomes moderation. You don’t need to stop the behavior completely.
When doing this assessment, be gentle with yourself. This is not an exercise in beating yourself up. Everyone has weaknesses but learning from the past increases awareness so you can make healthier choices.
Writing an Inventory
I suggest writing this exercise in a notebook instead of electronically. Research shows that handwriting engages your brain differently than on a device. There is something about the physical act of writing that feels cathartic. If you've never tried journal writing, it's a powerful way to gain clarity.
Here are the steps for assessing your past year;
- Write down a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest because what you resist will persist!
- Identify the areas below as a strength or area of growth.
- Self-care- attending to physical, emotional and spiritual needs
- Coping skills - managing anger and stress
- Physical and emotional health - getting regular check ups, emotional support
- Social life - spending quality time with family, maintaining friendships, not being too dependent on one person
- Career - job satisfaction, professional and financial goals
- Spiritual - having a faith or belonging to a community that comforts you?
3. Pick ONE THING to improve on in the next year.
Don't tackle all of them at once. Choose one area that will make a difference right now. If you’re not a goal-oriented person, commit to making one small change. Believe me, that’s a great start! Growth occurs when you learn to live in the grey. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Acknowledge One Accomplishment and One Goal
Part of growth is acknowledging progress. Name one thing that you’re proud of accomplishing this year. Take time to acknowledge the work you've done. I cannot emphasis this enough. Glossing over your accomplishments short changes them. I've heard many clients downplay their successes but then wonder why they struggle with self-esteem. You need to acknowledge your own accomplishments before trying to get others to see them. Giving it to yourself empowers you more than waiting for others to notice.
Think of one area that you’d like to improve. I do this every year by focusing on a word or phrase as my goal. Here are some examples I've done myself:
- Telling my truth
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Being more authentic
- Handling conflict
- Letting go of perfectionism
How to Stay Focused on the Goal
Pick something that you really care about - not what you think you should do. Goals are no fun if you don't have the motivation to complete them. It has to mean something to you.
It doesn't matter how long it takes. Concentrate on your goal and the universe will provide opportunities to learn it. This means that you'll be tested. For instance, the year I choose handling conflict as my goal I was presented with lots of little conflicts as opportunities to grow. I learned a lot and gained confidence by the end of that year.
I learned how to prepare ahead of time (and go in with a plan) which skyrocketed my communication. The universe gave me what I asked for but it wasn't easy. I had to be willing to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Make Effective Repairs
Sometimes in order to move forward, you need to clean up what's unfinished. Ignoring old hurts and resentments leaves a mark. Those feelings leak out in resentment and create distant relationships.
Go over the last year. Is there anything that you need to go back and repair? A repair could be an apology but really it’s an acknowledgment of your behavior. You don’t have to fix or agree with the situation but acknowledging your part can release the tension and restore trust. Click here if you'd like more information about making repairs.
Learn to Let Go
Is there an old resentment or expectation that you need to let go of? Letting go doesn't happen without a fight. That's why pain is the ultimate motivator. Surrender only happens after you've exhausted every possibility.
Letting go means that you stop expecting a different outcome. You can accept what happened despite the pain. In fact, the pain is what ultimately strengthens you.
What are you ready to let go of right now? Write it out and set an alert on your phone as a reminder. Keeping the focus on the goal is key.
Wouldn’t it be great to walk into the new year (or new month) without carrying that pain around?
Moving Forward Takes Time
Moving forward often requires dealing with the past. The inventory helps you take stock of where you've been and where you want to go. It can also highlight unresolved pain and grief.
In 12 step programs this exercise is called the 4th Step. It takes time to complete. Sharing this with a trusted friend, counselor or sponsor (if you're in 12 step programs) is recommended. Pain witnessed leads to pain healed.
Get support if friends and family aren't enough. Al-Anon provides amazing support for anyone struggling in relationships.
Set your intention and the lessons will come. Repair the past and relationships will heal. Let go of old hurts and create new energy for the future.
So what's that one thing you want to change? What do you need in order to get there? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.
Want to connect more?
Click the image below to get private access to my resource library which includes:
- A Confidence Guide
- The Four Relationship Killers
- 10 Tips on Transforming Anger
- My 5 day Email Course on Anger
- Short videos and worksheets