Was 2016 an extraordinary year for you and your business? Was it the apocalypse? Or, was it some of both? Most everyone I talk to remembers some wonderful high points, but really dives into their catastrophe stories.
There’s plenty of research that shows that humans tend to focus on and remember negative experiences more than the feel good experiences. With good reason – our survival has depended on our brains functioning that way. Daniel Kahneman has recently written about our biases, including the “negativity bias”. And, those negative experiences weigh more heavily on our minds than our triumphs and pleasures.
Losing the Weight
With that in mind, it’s more important than ever to get out a flashlight and illuminate 2016’s negative experiences (or those we perceived that way). This can allow us to process them in a new way – perhaps with a less negative perspective, and to take ‘weight’ out of them.
Some of us use the “out of sight out of mind” method to process these negative experiences – relegating the experiences to the back of our minds. Some of us use force of will. We attempt to “will” ourselves into thinking more happy, positive thoughts. Some of us hope “time will heal all wounds”. All of these methods have some measure of utility. Our experience is that being more deliberate about processing negative experiences has more stunning impact.
You may think you can do this work by simply considering the questions below in your head, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. We recommend you:
- Find an hour to yourself
- Print out the questions below
- Use your journal or real paper and a real pencil or pen
- Make a cup of your favorite comfort beverage – tea, coffee, hot chocolate, juice (alcohol can dull you and obscure your work, so we don’t recommend it for this process)
- Sit in a comfortable place that you find peaceful (and where you won’t be interrupted)
Once you’ve gotten yourself settled, write down your thoughts for each of these questions (some questions may give you similar responses as others, but answer each of them anyway). We recommend you answer from both a personal and a professional point of view.
- What was disappointing this year? Why?
- What was most disappointing this year? Why?
- Where do I feel like I failed or under-delivered?
- In what specific areas do I have regrets? What is the regret in each of those areas specifically? Why?
- In what specific areas do I have resentments? What is it specifically that I resent and why?
- What expectations did I have for this year that didn’t materialize, or came about in a way that wasn’t optimum? What impact did that have?
- What intentions did I have for this year that didn’t materialize, or came about in a way that wasn’t optimum? What impact did that have?
- Where did I hold my tongue when saying something instead would have made a difference? What limit did that impose either at that moment or in the future?
- Where did I say something that would have been better left unsaid? What impact did it have on me and others that I said it?
- With whom did I withhold acknowledgement, praise (or love) that I could have expressed? Why did I do that?
- In what areas did I undervalue myself, my talents or my contribution? How did that impact others?
- In what areas did I overvalue myself, my talents or my contribution? How did that impact others?
- In what areas did I have to have the last word? What did that cost me?
- Where am I holding a negative experience from this year of which I can’t let go? What is the useful purpose ‘hanging on’ serves?
If any of these statements lead you into other areas to examine, go that direction. Once you’ve explored that tangent, return to responding to each question.
The final part of the process is to drop the weight of the negative. For each of your responses, ask yourself:
What can I learn about myself in that area that will support me to be productive, happy and satisfied now and in the future?
Consider this question deeply. A response of “never do that again” is too pat – too easy to say. What can you now, in examining the situation calmly, learn about yourself?
Once you’ve done this work, give yourself some space to go about your day. Assimilate your learning. Allow the work you’ve just done to be incorporated into yourself. Wait a few days before you create 2017.
Be at peace.