Every year around my birthday I do a "deep dive" and take an inventory of every aspect of my life. I am purposeful to look for progress, strengths, new growth, places I might have regressed, weak areas in my life, and welcome opportunities for new growth.
The entire progress usually takes me a week or two. Because I am prone to procrastination, I give myself a deadline of midnight on my birthday; although I am more gentle with myself as of lately.
I start with a time of reflection. Time is a funny thing and our memories are very fickle. If I didn't take the time to reflect on the past, I would miss all the lessons revealed to me. As humans we are so quick to forget the things important to us just 365 days ago let alone over the last 5 years. I pull up my past inventories and read through them, reminding myself of the victories and the areas I needed to work on. Without my notes, I would only remember the big things. Our lives are not defined by our highest highs and our lowest lows; our lives are built through our daily routines. The boring daily routines reveal our values; how we show up for ourselves and those important to us on Tuesdays when no one else is looking. My real growth can be measured by the action I took following each inventory. When I have the same "weak areas" listed on 2-3 inventories, I know this is an area I am avoiding. This is when I have a choice... am I going to hold myself accountable and deal with it or am I going to continue to ignore it and let "it" grow.
After I have spent time reading and reflecting on the past inventories, I begin to work on my new one. The first thing I do is give myself permission to be raw and honest with myself. This is one of the most important steps because we have a tendency to lie to ourselves. If I skip this step, my answers might be surface level... I want the deep dive... that's where all the really good stuff is found. One of my favorite quotes is from Elizabeth Gilbert, "I've never seen any life transformation that didn't begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit." If I am not honest, my own bullshit will be the thing that continually holds me back.
The personal inventory I use is something I have developed over several years of doing this practice. First, I do a quick assessment using the "Wheel of Life." Every category is assigned a number 0-10 based on how I would rate myself in each area. This is a quick snapshot of the surface level health and well-being of my life. It is a great visual to see where (and if) my life is a little out of balance.
After taking a quick snapshot, it's time to go deeper... the lessons are usually hidden well beneath the surface. I use a series of questions and journaling prompts for each category as an invitation for me to explore the depths of my inner-being; you know the place we like to push our feelings to be ignored for as long as possible. I try to unearth any stored emotions in order to move through them so they don't come back later as something bigger and harder to deal with- as buried hurt and pain often does. It's important to note that I am not just looking for pain, failures, and/or perceived shortcomings, I'm also identifying places of growth and change in the way I handled myself in relationships and specific situations. People are often quick to focus on areas that need strengthened while completely overlooking every area they have achieved any level of success. Celebrating small victories is a skill set critical to personal growth. Just as there are lessons in our failures, there are gems hidden deep within every victory that point us toward our capacity for growth.
After spending a significant amount of time focusing on the past 365 days, I turn my attention to the next year. I give myself a day or two to dream... allowing for space and time to explore where I am being drawn, specific interests that are being peaked, and if there is something in them for me that I might need to explore a little. We find "our lane" by following those little nudges, or interests, and asking how they might work into your daily life. I am a dreamer by nature (surprise right?), so this part is easy, the hard part is looking at the big dreams and breaking them down so you can work backwards to see how and if your dreams are attainable in real life. I write out the "big dreams" and sit with them for a bit. Then, I begin to break them down into action steps and work the steps into my daily life. Sometimes
I set small attainable goals for each category and put them in writing in an effort to hold myself accountable to "the work."
My final step is a little more fun... I jot down some adventures I want to take, pick mantra, set an intention, pick a theme song, books I want to read, and something new I want to learn. People get so busy in their daily lives they forget to live; I mean really live. I work with people all the time that would love to have a little adventure in their lives but keep putting everything off... one day realizing time is slipping away and they haven't even started living. I value adventure, but that doesn't mean I have disposable income to do whatever thing I want to do. I prioritize what I love in such a way that I plan for travel and am willing to give up whatever I need to in order to take that trip. I also pride myself in finding places close to home to explore and I try to enjoy my life every day.
A mantra is just a short phrase repeated daily (multiple times) to focus your mind. When you work with a mantra, you turn it into an "I am" statement; "I am at peace, I am worthy, I am enough, I am safe, I am love, I am worthy of my wildest dreams, I am home, I am strong, I am healthy, I am well, I am in alignment..." It is a gentle reminder of who you desire to be- did you know you get to choose?
Intention setting is different from goal setting. Goals are practical things you want to accomplish, whereas an intention is more about how you want to move through the world... it's about your heart. Like mantra's, intention setting is a powerful tool - because thoughts become things... where your attention goes, your energy flows... what you behold you become. An intention might sound something like: "I choose love over suffering in every situation; I choose to show up and love madly every day; I choose kindness and peace above all things; I choose who I want to be every day in my daily actions and I choose only good things for me." Your intention can be anything.
Picking a theme song might sound cheesy and it dates me a little- it came from Ally McBeal, but it's something I love to do. I might choose some obscure song that no one knows, and suddenly I hear it in the strangest places... it's a little love note, just for me.
I think reading is a dying art in desperate need of a revival. Reading is a bridge to new worlds, new ways to think, and offers different perspectives of being human so we can grow in our grace and compassion. There are a couple of books I revisit every couple of years; books that have marked me in some way. I love to pick them back up and find a new lesson hidden within a familiar text. It helps me remember that we only see in part and there is always more going on than what we can take in. I also pick a few books for entertainment, growth, and education; otherwise I just read whatever catches my eye, which is fine, but I like to set the tone for the year; while leaving space for titles still being released.
Learning a new skill each year will help keep your brain sharp. Our brain is a muscle that needs to be used. Recently, there have been many scientific studies that reveal learning new skill sets help cultivate happiness and positive self-esteem. It can be anything from a new language to a specific skill.
After years of doing this practice, I have learned I am usually doing a little better than I give myself credit for- I think we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves!
This years inventory was very revealing, as the last 365 days have been filled with many plot twists and unexpected turns...
I have learned that I am strong enough to deal with just about anything.
If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it's a f@c%!ng duck and turns out- I don't like ducks.
Walking away from toxicity is freeing... even when it's a long hard walk.
The most important lesson from this year's inventory is "I got this," whatever "this" is I can handle the shit out of it. .
I plan to live in a twitterpated state with anticipation of all the good things this year has for me;
44 is going to be a great year...
Potential theme songs... the jury is still out- I have 24 hours.