At the end of this year, pause and take time to celebrate the journey


“What matters most is to celebrate each moment of the journey.”

Danna Faulds

At the end of this year, with all we are holding, it could be easy to be swept away by the challenges we are experiencing individually, organisationally, and on a global and societal level. 

The feelings of fatigue verging on depletion that many of us are experiencing may mean that we find ourselves describing 2021 as another ‘annus horribilis.’ Before we know it, we may move into the new year without space to breathe, replenish and truly acknowledge everything that we have achieved and how we have grown over the past 12 months.

As coaches we know that at this time of year, our coaching clients feel challenged by us asking questions such as, “In all that you have achieved this year, what are you most proud of?” or “Reflecting on the past 12 months, what are you most grateful for?” There can often be periods of silence and a sense of squirming.

Of course, this is normal and there are many good reasons why this focus can be uncomfortable — our cultural and educational norms often mean that we have learnt to focus more readily on our weaknesses. More importantly, we know that our brain holds a negativity bias, and that we are prone (for good survival reasons) to see what is wrong rather than what is good. Our views can therefore become quite polarised with the unwanted / unpleasant taking centre stage of our attention.

As Rick Hanson observes,

“Your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls and reacts to unpleasant experiences – it is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Consequently, even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the pile of negative implicit memories naturally grows faster. Then the background feeling of what it feels like to be you can become undeservedly glum and pessimistic….The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences, when they happen, they happen. Rather it is to foster positive experiences – and in particular to take them in so they become a permanent part of you.”

So, in a year that has been full of threats, triggers and challenges, how might you pause and really take in the good? This is not positive thinking, we need to acknowledge and include the difficult and celebrate success too; as meditation teacher, Christina Fieldman guides, appreciate what is well and befriend what is difficult.

We are encouraging you to consciously work with the preferences of the brain, as ‘annus mirabilis’ is alongside ‘annus horribilis’ – recognise that the good experiences are here alongside the difficult; we will often miss them if we do not give these our focus, time and our energy.

By doing this we are fostering positive neuroplasticity where new neurons grow in response to repeated activity. This creates an accumulation effect where over time a felt experience of the pleasant, a state becomes a trait, and a characteristic of our coaching practice.

To support you to take in the good, we would like to offer you some exercises to help you pause and celebrate your journey. We would encourage you to find 30 minutes and complete them as a sequence:

Step 1: Mindfulness Practice

Join us in a short mindfulness exercise, ‘Pausing and Taking in the Good.’ (MP3 below).

Step 2: Journaling

After you complete exercise 1, complete the below reflective journaling exercise. Please grab a journal and timer, then complete this free-writing exercise for 3 minutes. The guidelines for this exercise are to:

  1. Keep your hand moving at all times
  2. Write, do not think (we often filter what we are writing) – let the stream of consciousness fill the page
  3. Do not worry about punctuation, grammar and spelling
  4. If you notice you are resisting writing anything, write it!

Now write a letter to yourself from your ‘Wise Mentor’ by finishing the following sentence

“At the end of 2021 what I would like you to celebrate is…”

At the end of the 3 minutes, circle 5 key words that are important for you to acknowledge and take in. Consider where you could place these 5 words to remind you of what you have achieved / learnt / how you have grown in 2022.

Step 3: Inspiration

For further inspiration at the end of the year, we would like to also offer you the following poem by Danna Faulds:

Celebrate the Journey

Who knows why life unfolds
the way it does; why we choose
one path or another, share the
way for a while or a day, then
say goodbye. There is no
predictability here, and less
control than we might wish.
But there is the quiet urging
of the heart, the knowing in
the soul, the wisdom that’s
beneath the mind, accessible
if we breathe and turn inside.

When the tide of change rolls
in we can resist or be at peace,
struggle or release. The stuff
of life may not be ours to
understand. It’s enough to
offer love, to receive the best
and worst, to embrace and
say farewell. What matters
most is to celebrate each
moment of the journey.

Finally, reflect upon this: what are you celebrating about your coaching / you as a coach at the end of 2021?

References:

  • Rick Hanson: Buddha’s Brain — the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom.
  • Danna Faulds: One Soul: More poems from the heart of Yoga.

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