Retreat, Review, Renew and Rewrite The New Year Now

The "New Year" is here already! Photo by M. Arloski

The ancient Celtic Calendar rings in the New Year at the very end of October with the holiday of Samhain. Looking at a Northern European year’s climate through largely agricultural eyes this makes perfect sense. The last of the harvest is done and it’s time to prepare for winter and a long rest for the land.

For the self-reflective person this is a good time to review the old year and prepare for the new. Don’t wait until the new year has already arrived! From a coaching perspective it’s a perfect time to look at what our “wins” were, to seriously acknowledge our accomplishments on all levels, personal and professional. It’s a time to give ourselves credit first, boost our self-esteem and celebrate. Let’s practice some Positive Psychology on ourselves!

We also will take a sober look at what we wanted to see happen that didn’t. Here it’s time to leave our Inner Critic or Gremlin ( out of the process, and instead get in touch with that part of ourselves that truly cares about us and tells the truth (not the lies of the Inner Critic). Did we live the year in harmony with our values, with our true priorities? Are we still spinning our wheels in a lifestyle improvement effort, or job/career, or relationship? What will it take to get some “traction” in the new year?

2012 is coming at us fast and New Year’s Day is really too late a time to begin planning for what we want in the new year. We always find truth in the old saw “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Having a plan is much different than setting the famously ineffective “New Year’s Resolutions” or just having a “bunch of goals”. A plan, whether a wellness plan for lifestyle improvement, or a plan for your career development, personal growth, or whatever needs to be an integrated plan that is based upon your values and your true priorities in your life. It needs to be entirely congruent with who you are and based upon attained clarity about what you want.

In the Northern Hemisphere the seasons right now lend themselves to this process, if we let them. We might consciously want to engage less in the franticness of “The Holidays” and instead practice both our relevant faith reflected in these holidays, and also practice a time of reflection, replenishment and personal renewal. In fact, if you are a person of faith, how better to celebrate and acknowledge these holidays than to dedicate some time to your own spiritual renewal?

Sit, sip, relax and reflect.

This is a great time for hot cups of tea and journaling. This is also an excellent time for taking stock of our selves in a mindful and conscious way. My best shorthand definition of Wellness is that it is living our lives consciously in ways that enhance our health. Perhaps this is the perfect time to take a day dedicated to no “work” and to no work around the house. Solo time allows us to look within uninterrupted. In today’s high-speed world we may actually have to work hard initially to extract ourselves from the distractions that surround us. Take a day with no cell phones, iPods or Pads, where we can get re-acquainted with an old best friend called our own souls. Have a technological Sabbath.

This can also be a wonderful time to get together with friends, not just by putting on a way-too-much-work party, but spending time together one-on-one. Our children (even adult children) thrive on this one-on-one time with us, and so do our friends. Reconnecting with these people helps us reweave the net of community that supports us, and lets us contribute to that web of support as well.

Create your own personal retreat.

Retreat, Review, Renew and Rewrite


Take time for yourself however you can. Give yourself permission to. Set aside not just a couple of hours, or just one day, but instead mark your calendar for some self-reflective, get-away time more than once. Pull back from everyday obligations, asking for help to do so if need be. You may find that you even need a complete change of scenery, whether it is a local park, a coffee shop or a weekend or two in a cabin “away from it all.” Stretch, unwind, get a massage, hike in nature, breath deep. Don’t permit your “gremlin” to accompany you.


Bring your old calendar, your laptop, your journal, pen and paper, or whatever works for you to look back over the old year. Be kind and compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, but don’t let irrational guilt get a foothold and grow in this quiet time. Be honest with yourself and look for the SDB’s (self-defeating behaviors) that slowed you down or held you back. Look for the missed opportunities and the overlooked resources that you did not make use of. Hindsight really is 20/20, unless you let your “gremlin” do the looking for you.


Give yourself permission to recover from stress.

This can be a time for replenishment, for re-charging your worn-down batteries and resupplying your energy. In the bestseller The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working ( the point is continually made (and hard evidence cited to back it up) that our biggest mistake is not experiencing stress in our lives, but not allowing ourselves adequate “volume and intensity” of recovery from it! We function best with rest and renewal. This means not only adequate sleep, but also reconnecting with what renews our own spirit and sense of self. One of the greatest ways to improve self-esteem is through creative self-expression. This can be a time to reconnect with hobbies long neglected. It can also be a time for our renewal through contact with the natural world, where we are merely another creature in the ecosystem, instead of an asset pursued by a busy world.


“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” Henry David Thoreau

The time to rewrite your script is right now. Plan & coach for the new year now, not in January! Realize all the choices you truly do have. Envision the year as you would like it to unfold. Determine what has to change about the way you are living your life currently in order to actualize that vision. From that create a real plan to move forward with it.

Select areas of your life you’d like to improve, where you’d like to grow. Look at the year coming and list the opportunities that it contains. How can you make the best use of them? Look at the barriers you can already anticipate and begin looking at strategies and resources to help you find your way through them.

Avoid simply creating a gigantic “To Do” list. Building a huge list of things to accomplish is like creating an overhang of stress ready to crash down on you like an avalanche. Your tendency will be to simply stay off the mountain! In other words, when you create a daunting “list” the safest route is to avoid working on it at all. As an old friend, and stand-up comedian, once said about priorities, “If they’re priorities, there can’t be very many of them. Otherwise they’re not priorities!”

We can’t anticipate everything in the year ahead, but we can consciously plan (see “conscious calendarizing” in my book Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change ( to include the downtime we need. Plan to take those vacation days. Plan on days for rest and renewal, replenishment and relaxation. Include that in your list of “accomplishments” at the end of this next year, and be well!

Please add your comments, ideas, here to enhance the experience of all readers. Thank you!

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