Work deadlines, to-do lists, family responsibilities, and life itself has us so focused on just keeping our head above water that we rarely have the opportunity to pause and assess. You very likely have some holiday vacation time on the horizon, and while yes, you could create new lists (holiday shopping, food preparation, packing, etc.), I invite you to take a moment and reflect on where you are and where you want to be. Don’t let an entire year go by without taking the reins on this one and only precious life so that you can be intentional about your goals and your joy.
Several years ago, I woke up one day and realized that from the outside everything looked great, but I kept myself so busy that I didn’t realize that some key areas of my life were deteriorating. For me at that time it was two things – my health and my life purpose. I was grinding so hard at work that my sleep quality was in the gutter. Sound familiar? I had trouble falling asleep, and I often would wake up in the middle of the night going through the details of work projects, unable to let them or me actually rest. With limited time and lots of travel, my eating (and drinking) habits were not what I wanted them to be. My stress levels started impacting my digestion, and then I had a cancer scare and my doctors told me I needed to really be intentional about my stress levels and my life.
On the life purpose front, I continued to ignore a growing emptiness inside of me that knew I wasn’t being fulfilled. This one is hard to explain, but I’ll just say that there was a nagging voice in my head that kept repeating, “Is this really it? Is this how you want to be spending your time? Is this the contribution you want to be making in this world?”
A Powerful Tool for Year End Reflections & Goal Setting
This is when I discovered a powerful tool I’d like to share with you today. It’s called the Wheel of Life. If you’re already familiar, this is your reminder to set aside some time to actually do it. If you’re new to the tool, it is a very quick self-assessment of your life in key categories. You rate each aspect of your life (career, health, family, fun, etc) on a scale of 1-10. It takes just a few minutes and it can be a game changer as you set intentions for the new year. It’s also a wonderful practice to do on an annual basis to observe what’s changed, how you’ve grown, what’s fallen off, and more.
I invite you to take a moment now, and do your Wheel of Life. If you’re too busy right now, put some time on your calendar when you know you won’t be disturbed. I like to do things like this early in the morning before folks wake up and I know there will be no interruptions. Remember, this doesn’t take very long, and you owe this to yourself. You are worth it. Once you’ve completed it, pause and reflect on your rankings.
What Are Your Three Highest Ranked Categories?
Whether it’s family or career or health, take a moment to reflect on why these things are going so well for you. What specifically in these areas are you grateful for? According to the Mayo Clinic, gratitude can have a huge impact on your sleep, your mood and your immune system. One way to practice gratitude is to do gratitude breathing. Close your eyes, take one minute to do some gratitude breathing and notice how you feel.
Now think about all of the things that you did to get these categories to be where they are now. Pat yourself on the back. Think about how you might reward yourself for being so amazing. Treat yourself. You deserve it.
What Are Your Three Lowest Ranked Categories?
Remember, this is how you, and no one else, ranked them. Without judging yourself, take a moment to reflect on why you ranked these categories in this way. With love and self-compassion, identify what blockages you might be experiencing in these areas. What would you like to be different? What would be the ideal state? Set an intention to be proactive about making changes towards this ideal state.
Why set intentions? There is a region in our brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) that filters out any unnecessary information so that only the important things get through. By deciding what’s important to you upfront, your brain is then programmed to focus on those areas. You might not realize it, but that thing that you need most for that area will suddenly appear like a shiny object in a crowd – that personal trainer you could benefit from, that old college buddy that now works in the exact field you’re interested in, etc.
For each category, write down one action that you can take to make improvements in that area.
Now, hold yourself accountable. What date will you complete this by? Open up your calendar, and put a check in reminder for yourself to make sure that you have indeed taken that action.
Bonus Points: Appoint an accountability partner. Tell them about your three actions, and ask them to hold you accountable. Tell them what date you committed to. Offer to do the same for them!
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao Tzu
Here’s to an amazing 2024!
Zee Clarke is the author of the book, Black People Breathe (Penguin Random House). She has been featured in many leading publications including ABC, Fortune, Forbes, CNBC, Ebony, Essence, and Fast Company.
She is a Harvard Business School graduate who applies holistic healing practices to corporate environments. Zee leads transformative workshops on mindfulness, breathwork and stress management tools at organizations such as Google, Visa, AMC Networks and more.