As we leave 2016 and start to plan for the year ahead I find we are very unforgiving towards ourselves – for last years mistakes, things we didn’t achieve, how terribly we ate and drank over the holiday period (hi there…). I’m guilty of this, and as a result become super hard on myself, set totally unattainable goals for the next year which I inevitably don’t achieve, and the whole process starts again.
What if, we start the year by exercising a little forgiveness, and create a blank slate going into the new year.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it”
Forgiveness is a letting go – of anger, resentment, disappointment – which makes way for a feeling of peace. It’s a letting go of negativity to make space for something new – so we can see the benefit for goal setting! We mainly think of forgiveness as an outward act – towards those who may have wronged us – but we brush over the importance and impact of forgiving ourselves. Forgiving our own mistakes is a powerful step towards finding your direction in life, and can be a step towards gaining forgiveness from others you may have impacted too.
Below are the steps I used to exercise self-forgiveness ahead of my 2017 goal setting, I hope they can help you too:
- Write down (actually get out a piece of paper and write down) three things you achieved last year, things that made you proud, and if you can’t think of three things, think harder – because they are there. Then take some time to allow yourself to really feel the pride and accomplishment from those three things. Breathe it in! – Take a few breaths and reflect on all the work you did, maybe the people you impacted, and how it changed you. You did that.
- Write down three mistakes you made. Be accurate and objective here, don’t beat yourself up and don’t make excuses – this is your opportunity to take accountability and move forward constructively. Instead of “I was a terrible son this year” you could write “I didn’t see my family enough” or “I was too lazy to do my professional engineers exam”, “I didn’t sit my professional engineers exam as I’d planned” (no personal experiences here…).
- Write down what you learned from your three mistakes, frame this in an actionable and positive way – for example “I want to see my family more” or “I need to prepare and make time to be able to sit the professional engineers exam”. The “whys” aren’t important, just what you’re taking away.
- Take a few deep breaths looking at your three mistakes, know that they don’t matter any more, don’t define you, and you can’t change them. Allow yourself to leave them in 2016. If you like, you can physically cross through them or scratch them out, or if personal affirmations are your thing, it may help you to say out-loud “I let it go” or “I forgive myself”. Breathe into it and really feel for the release of that burden you’ve been carrying around.
- Look at what you learned, and think how to incorporate these into your goal-setting for 2016 (I’ll share mine and the resources I use in the coming weeks).
Know that this is by no means the end, your mistakes will come back, perhaps as niggling feelings or maybe total deflation, especially as you’re incorporating the lessons into your new year. When this happens, recognize that you’re going back to it, stop and take a deep breath, congratulate yourself for noticing it (seriously, this shit ain’t easy), exhale and let it go. That was then, this is now. Repeat this exercise of self-forgiveness, hourly, daily, weekly, and eventually, your mistakes will be firmly released to 2016.
“One forgives to the degree that one loves.” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld
As we start a new year, exercise a little self-forgiveness to create space for a whole new wonderful you in 2017.
Here’s to living forgivingly.