The new year is fast approaching. As the celebrations start to wind down, many of us begin to think about our goals and resolutions for the coming year. You can already hear people talking about plans for being thinner, healthier, more productive, more organized, more financially secure, etc etc etc in the coming year. And if you don’t have enough ideas of your own, the media and magazines are brimming with suggestions for how to be new and improved.
Don’t get me wrong, I think setting goals and positive intentions for the coming year can be very useful tools in helping us to move in the direction of our dreams and desires. But it seems to me that many of us, in our efforts to grow, focus too heavily on what we think we need to do better, or what we need to change about ourselves. We can find ourselves in a constant critical state of focusing on where we fell short, or highlighting the personal “flaws “that keep us from being comfortable in our own skin. We begin to look through a lens that eclipses our accomplishments and positive traits, and highlights what we “need” to do quicker, faster, better.
As an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) counselor, I have the great privilege of meeting a wide variety of amazing people who are experiencing a challenge or difficulty in their life. People just like you and me. In hearing their stories and getting to know them, I am frequently struck by their critical attitude toward themselves. Where I see courage, resilience, wisdom, compassion, and strength, they see shortcomings and character flaws. In their efforts to address their concerns, they turn a critical, laser-focused eye on what they did “wrong” and/or what they need to “fix” about themselves. They miss the good stuff; those wonderful qualities and strengths they possess that help them get through tough times and show-up for the people in their world. They don’t see the big picture.
I once worked at an organization that was very focused on evaluation and improvement – of everything, all the time. This sounds like an impressive focus until you realize there was no balance; no looking at what was going well or identifying our accomplishments or focusing on our strengths and building on them. It was all deficit-focused, and we spent tremendous amounts of time planning, implementing, tearing apart, and reinventing our processes. We didn’t give plans enough time to succeed without making more changes. Staff became quickly overwhelmed with always being in a state of change and striving to do better but never quite getting there. As can be expected in such settings, morale began to suffer. I remember sitting in one program improvement meeting after a very challenging year and asking if we could have a moment or two to reflect on what went well, and what we accomplished before launching into the critique/improvement phase.
That is my wish for all of you as the year draws to a close. Before setting your goals and resolutions for 2015, take a moment to look at the big picture; take time to reflect on what you accomplished this year and notice how far you’ve come. Think back for a moment to last December; are you the same person you were then? What has changed? How have you grown? What have you learned? What are you grateful for and what are you passionate about? What would you like to build on and enhance in the coming year? What brings you joy and what would you like to experience more of? What personal strengths do you possess that helped you meet your challenges and goals last year? Take some time to appreciate the uniqueness of you; see the big picture and get comfortable in your own skin. Don’t miss the good stuff! These are the qualities and resources you want to be mindful of and consciously take with you into the next adventure that is 2015. Wishing you all a year of self-discovery and many opportunities to celebrate authentic you.
About the blogger
Denise Hellekson provides EAP counseling, training, consulting, and crisis response services for The Village Business Institute. She has a master’s degree in Community and Rehabilitation Counseling from St. Cloud State University; and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice (Mediator). Hellekson has many years of experience in counseling, advocacy, and consulting services.