There are a few life lessons you should consider before making your list of New Year’s resolutions.

I recently took a poll on my Instagram asking my followers: What’s something you learned about yourself during the pandemic?

I was surprised by how vast the responses were:

  • “Sometimes, healing happens organically when all our distractions are removed.”
  • “I learned how much I value casual conversations with strangers and have missed this.”
  • “I learned to have hunger cues again.”
  • “I learned that it’s ok to ask for help from others even though it seems hard.”
  • “I learned I like my own company.”

If there’s something this pandemic taught me—and the responses to my Instagram poll validated— it’s this: We are all interconnected by our shared experience of what it means to be human. We must lean on each other.

I don’t know anyone who truly loves uncertainty or thrives when the world is filled with chaos. But I do know these life circumstances have important and beautiful lessons that we can learn and grow from if we take the time to process, reflect, and look inward.

While our world seemed to have collective chaos, it also seemed to reach a halt: a demand for stillness. Perhaps that’s one of the main invitations this pandemic gave us.

It may not always have felt like this with kids at home, work changes, being unemployed, or being overworked — but it’s especially during those times of extra demand and hassle — both in our world and in our homes — that our need for restoration and stillness is of even greater importance.

As the year comes to an end, I find myself thinking about my goals for the New Year a little differently. I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on new intentions for 2021 and processing the growth of this past year. I’m coming back home to myself from a place of deeper acceptance.

Acceptance of myself; acceptance of life circumstances; and acceptance of my limitations because I am only human.

While I am excited to set my focus on new goals for the New Year, I want to share how I plan to go about setting my intentions with 6 lessons I learned from this past year.

1. Practice acceptance.

“Trusting the process” can be hard to embody but if I never face the challenges of difficulty and uncertainty, I miss out on the opportunity to learn to surrender and trust–something I call “radical acceptance“.

As someone who thrives off of routine and predictability, 2020 threw me for a loop. But I realized that learning to trust is an invaluable skill.

Actionable step:

One of the first steps in learning to trust the process is by practicing acceptance. Take a moment to sit down—even if it’s just for 2-3 minutes—to acknowledge your experience of the present moment, as it is, despite the discomfort or fear that may arise.

Acknowledge whatever it is that comes up, without judgment. You may find that merely allowing your emotions to rise to your awareness weakens the intensity. You may even realize: I am ok; I can breathe; I can trust.

2. Let go of striving.

Something that has repeatedly come up for me this year is this never-ending motor inside to strive-strive-strive. Achieve. Work towards something.

While this may sound like a good trait to have, when taken to the extreme—or thrown off course from a global pandemic—it leaves me feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, tense, and unable to focus on what truly matters. Finding rest feels lazy and unproductive. Can you relate?

Actionable step:

As you make new intentions, focus not only on how you want to feel—whether it be calmer, or more energized, or have more confidence—but also on the process itself and less on the “objective” or end goal.

For me, this looks like coming up with a clear goal, evaluating my expectations, and moving forward from a headspace of “I don’t need to change or fix who I am; I am choosing to work towards a greater version of myself”. As cliche as it sounds, there really is no destination. Let go of perfection.

3. Find the beauty.

new year life lessons

An important part of growth is acknowledging when things suck. Pretending things are better than they are holds me back because it’s a form of denial. That being said, mulling over and dwelling on life’s disappointments won’t move me forward either. I have to find the beauty in all seasons.

Actionable step:

There are many ways to “find the beauty”, but I think one of the most powerful ways to do so is by “creating the beauty.” Pick one day a week to extend an intentional act of kindness. Send a letter. Reach out to an old friend. Compliment a stranger.

Finding appreciation in others not only enriches our lives but also those around us. If you’re feeling a need to connect more inward, seek the beauty by writing a gratitude list, walking in nature, or listening to music.

Taking time to celebrate life’s ordinary magic builds a greater sense of meaning. You may realize that there isn’t just beauty around you but also in you and in others.

4. Learn to feel.

I have a tendency to live robotically. What I mean by this is I live by a checklist: Do the right thing. Do it perfectly. Check it off. Repeat.

If I don’t “do the thing” or “check it off the list” I feel like a failure. It really comes down to this: I have to get out of my head and into my heart; I have to feel. This is transformative.

Actionable step:

Ask yourself: How do I feel? Do I want to change the way I currently feel in life? Then ask yourself why you may feel the way you do. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? Are you listening to others’ opinions rather than your own? Are you judging yourself?

Grab a journal and reflect on these questions as you set your New Year’s goals. You can even write a poem or find another way to put your thoughts into words or some other form of expression. Part of learning to feel is learning to express yourself.

5. Align your goals with your values.

Reality check: My life purpose isn’t to have a six-pack. However, I often put pressure on myself to strive for something “better.” I end up putting too much effort and energy into things that don’t align with what’s truly important to me.

During quarantine, I felt like I should always be accomplishing something since I finally “had the time.” But if I could go back to the beginning of it all, I’d tell myself this: it’s ok to slow down.

So, in addition to practicing acceptance and letting go of striving, I’m also choosing to align my goals this upcoming year with my values.

Actionable step:

What are your values (for example, health, compassion, authenticity)? How do you want to incorporate them into the bigger picture? What are your goals (feeling stronger, being more connected to others, joining a cooking class)?

For example, if you want a greater sense of well-being, focus on getting outside every day for a 30-minute walk or run and less on losing 5 pounds. Being healthy is valuable; 5 pounds isn’t.

Realizing that your goals are part of a greater sense of well-being can help take the pressure off of being perfect or having a certain outcome. Write down your values and goals and refer back to them monthly. You may even find your goals evolve as you connect more deeply to your values.

6. Be specific.

I love the idea of being zen. You know, I’ll light my candle, steep some tea, think deep thoughts, and write them down in my journal.

I sound profound, right? Joking aside, in order for me to move towards the direction of where I want to go, I have to know where I’m going and be specific about how I’m getting there.

Actionable step:

Perhaps you’re somebody who, when you think of setting goals for the New Year, knows exactly what you want. Maybe you aren’t there yet and that’s ok. That’s what this entire process is about!

Regardless, in order to move in the direction of your goals, you have to be specific as to how you’re going to get there. Break down your goals into bite-sized pieces. Be realistic about how much time you can put into said goal. Be specific as to what you want. And go chase those dreams!

I hope you found these tips and tricks helpful! I’d love to hear from you! Comment below one of your goals or something you learned this past year.

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