As the end of the year approaches, some people are already looking to the future and thinking about their plans for next year. Others, however, find themselves dwelling on all the goals they failed to achieve and the disappointments they endured.

Regardless of whether the past 12 months have been filled with joy or it’s been the worst time of your life (or anywhere in between) it’s not too late to end the year strong.

The way you think about this year will affect how you welcome in 2019. And the way you start the year sets the tone for the coming months. Use the remaining time in December to build your mental muscles, prepare to crush your goals, and sharpen the skills you’re going to need to tackle whatever life throws your way next year.

Reflect on This Year Without Ruminating

It’s important to take stock of the last 365 days of your life. But as you review what went well and what didn’t, be careful you don’t go down the rumination road.

Reflection is about thinking and remembering. Ruminating, on the other hand, involves rehashing the same things over and over again and dwelling on all the things you wish were different.

Ruminating has been linked to increased risks of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It can also zap your motivation to create positive change.

Here’s how to reflect on your year in a meaningful and productive manner:

  • Stick to the facts. It may be a fact that you fell short of meeting your financial goals. But, thinking you’re a loser who won’t ever be able to retire is just an opinion. Acknowledge what went well and what didn’t, but do so in a factual manner without passing judgment or drawing irrational conclusions.  
  • Focus on your behavior, not your feelings. Dwelling on how you feel like a loser for not getting a new job isn’t helpful. But, identifying the action steps you took could help you create change. Whether you only applied for 2 new positions or you applied to 200, think about the action you took and whether it was helpful.
  • Ask yourself some basic questions. What was the highlight of your year? In what ways did you meet or exceed your expectations? What was the toughest challenge you encountered? What was the biggest mistake you made?Spend a few minutes answering those questions to help you better assess your year.

Create Concrete Goals for Next Year

Once you’ve spent some time reflecting on this year, look to the future. A little planning ahead can help you feel prepared. Here are some strategies that will equip you to step into 2019 feeling strong:

  • Identify the skills you’d like to sharpen. Whether you want to brush up on your Spanish or you become a better listener, think about the personal or professional skills you want to sharpen.
  • Acknowledge the habits you’d like to change. Consider if there’s a habit you want to give up (like cluttering your house up with online purchases) or one you might want to pick up (like hitting the gym four days a week).
  • Write down a short-term goal. Don’t try to set a goal that you want to accomplish next year. Shoot for something you can do in 30 days. Rather than say you want to lose 50 pounds, shoot for 7. Creating monthly goals can help a big task become manageable.

Mental Strength Exercises to Begin Employing Now

No matter how mentally strong you are now, there’s always room for improvement. And sometimes, it only takes a few quick exercises to help you build more mental muscle. Here are three quick exercises you can start working on now to build some strength before the end of the year:

  • Practice gratitude. Whether you write in a gratitude journal or you make it a habit to share what you’re thankful for over dinner, expressing your gratitude builds mental strength.
  • Perform acts of kindness. Positive action is a key component of mental strength. Doing things for others will help you see that you have the power to impact someone else’s life. Volunteer, donate money, or commit to performing a random act of kindness every day.
  • Speak to yourself with self-compassion. Your inner dialogue can either build you up or tear you down.  Practice speaking to yourself the same way you’d talk to a trusted friend and you’ll develop a powerful, compassionate dialogue that will help you become your best.

Most New Year’s resolutions don’t last. Although they’re set with the best of intentions, most people can’t sustain the motivation they need to create lasting change.

Fortunately, these strategies will be more effective in helping you change your life. Commit to growing stronger and becoming better and you’ll be on your way toward making next year your best year ever.  

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