So last year I did a little experiment, and it worked so well I’m not only doing it again, but I decided to share it with all of you.
Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to get better connected with the goals that will actually make me happy. One of the happiness practices that I’ve picked up over the years of studying happiness has been the tried and true “gratitude journal”.
A gratitude journal is simply a small book you carry around with you, and every day or whenever you like you make a list of everything you’re thankful for. Simple, easy, and will lift you up out of a funk pretty quickly.
But in 2011, I started to do something new with my gratitude journal. I have heard from several sources that it’s good to track how you’re feeling in the moment… so I started adding two more lists on the back of each page full of gratitude on the other side. These two lists were simply titled:
- I would like more of…
- I would like less of…
At the end of 2011 I sat down as usual to start my list of things I would like to “resolve” in my life for the next year, but this time I had something new in my arsenal. A quick list of every day I checked in, telling myself in the future exactly what I would like more of.
So I took stock of what I had written in my little gratitude journal, counting exactly how many times over the course of the last year I would ask for a particular feeling or need.
12 Words for 2012
Then I made a list of the top 12, calling them the “12 Words for 2012″.
These would be the concepts I would focus on in the coming year. For each concept, I would come up with ways I could implement in the coming year. So what made the list in 2012?
- Send reminders to people you love.
- Date people who interest you.
- Review relationships, spend time with people you love, actively spend less time with people you don’t like as much.
- Positive forward outlook.
- What is wanted can be had.
- Allow for time to recharge.
- Have fun, don’t be so serious.
- Find the fun in work.
- Within my body.
- Connectedness to spirit.
- Knowing sense you are taken care of.
- Find someone to connect with and be close to.
- Let go of the inner critic.
- Create pretty things for your nest.
- Creation, building with intention and flair.
- Try to notice when this occurs.
- Full involvement, energized focus, rewarding success in progress.
- Free Time
- Establish boundries for work.
- Make personal time just as important.
- Express gratitude for good fortune.
- Yoga, exercise, dancing.
- Moving forward with things that interest me.
I also kept keeping track of my more of/less of lists in my gratitude journal for 2012, to look back as if I wanted to make another list in 2013.
So what were my results?
Each week as I did my planning of what to do, I would actively pull my 12 Words sheet out (the same one pictured above) and I would actively plan tasks, activities and meetings that had to do with my 12 Words. So each week I would start with this list first, baking in all these good things I wanted more of in my life. I would plan activities into my quarters, months and weeks that supported these 12 Words, things like:
- take a yoga class (action + flow + peace + relaxation)
- go to a pub crawl with friends (love + play + joy)
- take time out to create custom hand-made thank you gifts for clients (craft + love + intimacy)
- write my first book (action + craft + hope)
This worked out really, really well and it was based in fact and EXACTLY what I wanted from last year – which shifted the dynamic from “eh I’ll get to it someday” to “I want this in my life because I asked for it all last year, this comes first”. I started actively focusing on what I really wanted out of life rather than measuring my happiness against someone else’s ruler of “what happiness contains”. I started finding ways to bake in or see these things in many of my daily activities. This active attention let me know these things got the attention they deserved instead of “dreaming” about doing something to bring in more of these great things into my life.
12 Words for 2013
So what are my 12 Words for this coming year? Here they are…
- Forgive and let go – anger does not serve you.
- Allow love to guide your thoughts and actions.
- Compliment 5 people every week.
- Take care of the things you have.
- Appreciate where you are now.
- Washington, DC
- Save for Amsterdam
- Gerome? Grand Canyon? Pacific Northwest?
- Cherish desires with anticipation.
- Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.
- Start with yourself and be compassionate outwards.
- Deep awareness of suffering and a wish to relieve it.
- Time with Friends
- Face to face, 1 on 1
- Listening, caring
- Who’s in my Posse? Love them!
- Give yourself time to play, relax, and have fun.
- Take time to ponder and do things simply because they interest you.
- Take the time, it’s worth it.
- Make it fun and enjoyable.
- Move! Move the energy, stay aware of your body.
- Being of Service
- Joyfully giving according to my ability and willingness to give from the heart.
- Be mindful when tasks become unenjoyable and not from the heart.
- Track finances each day (5-10 min)
- Bake fun stuff into the budget.
- Check in bi-weekly on budget.
- Feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
- Focus on celebrations and the next fun thing.
- Smile at yourself in the mirror for a minute every time you look into a mirror.
- Moving forward with things that interest me, sharing.
- Building with intention and flair.
- Play, finding the fun and flow in work.
Some words are still coming up from last year, some words have changed out for more specific orientation, but I’m really looking forward to putting more of all of them in my life in 2013.
So what do you think would show up on your list if you would have asked your last-year-self what your next-year-self wants more of in the coming year? Feel free to share your lists in the comments below.