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Set Yourself Up for Success in 2024

Hands up, who’s already broken at least one of their new year’s resolutions? Those well-intentioned promises we make ourselves at the start of each year are notoriously hard to stick to. Taking a broader perspective can help. Reflecting on the previous year helps to crystalise what you should really be focusing on to give your life meaning and purpose. So, before you rush headlong into 2024, consider what 2023 has taught you.

Pause and reflect

Each New Year serves as a temporal landmark.  In other words, it’s an opportunity to divert your focus from everyday hassles and mentally take stock, giving you that ‘fresh start’ feeling. 

A good way to do this is to draw a timeline for 2023, starting with January and ending with December. This represents a phase in your life that contributed to your personal (hi)story and provided building blocks for your future.  

Next, make notes on the timeline according to the following four areas. Reflect on how they added to your journey towards living the life you want to live. If they didn’t, what could you change in 2024? 

1. Achievements 

‘Pride come before a fall”, so the popular saying goes. It’s essentially warning us about the pitfalls of celebrating personal accomplishments and attributes. While becoming boastful or arrogant is understandably frowned upon, it’s still important to celebrate wins – big and small. 

Acknowledging what you’ve done well can increase motivation and self-efficacy, reinforce learning and even boost your happiness. So, identify and note down 2023’s accomplishments – if they don’t fit on the timeline you can jot them down on a separate list.   

Start with the obvious, what were your big wins?  Think work, social, and personal life. Perhaps at work you finished important projects, brought in an important client, got a pay-rise or a new role, or finally started your own business.  

In your personal life you may have mastered a new skill, ran 10km for the first time, read 50 books, or re-established a relationship with an old friend. Maybe, for you, this year was about survival. Your accomplishments may have been to navigate one crisis after the next, or having the wisdom to ask for support at a turning point.  

Once you’ve noted these down, reflect on why you feel particularly proud of these achievements.  How do they relate to your values and purpose? How did they help you live a life that looks like you?  

Perhaps getting that pay rise enforces your sense of contribution to your company’s goals. Maybe taking on a new role or starting a business is your way of living life courageously.  

Learning a new skill may have brought you joy, while running 10 kilometers and reading 50 books demonstrated your capacity for commitment and dedication. Navigating through a crisis proved resilience, while asking for help was a form wisdom and self-worth. 

2. Lessons learned 

Until I was 13 years old, I was one of the tallest in my class. Then one summer, most of my friends grew past me and I remember them complaining about “growing pains.” 

My growth never quite spurted enough for me to experience physical discomfort, but I’ve had plenty of painful metaphysical growth opportunities. How? By making mistakes.  

Let’s be honest, mistakes aren’t fun. They can be embarrassing; they can threaten our self-esteem and damage relationships or our reputation at work.  

However, evidence suggests that we actually need to make mistakes, so don’t beat yourself up! The subsequent effortful learning keeps our brain healthy and functioning. Also, finding the lessons in our mistakes makes the pain a little more tolerable.  

So, the next thing to note on your timeline is the occurrences that gave you growth opportunities, even if they were painful. Try to think of at least one lesson you learned.  

This means shifting your focus from “I made a mistake and now my pride is hurt” to “What can I do differently next time to succeed.” Again, try to think about your different life contexts: personal, social and work. 

For example, this year I switched focus from coaching to conducting my PhD research. This meant applying for funding and the first four attempts resulted in rejection. This was crushing for a recovering perfectionist like me. How is this possible? What will others think?!  

Luckily, I have excellent supervisors who helped me grasp the reality of limited funding opportunities and encouraged me to learn from the situation. Finally, on my fifth try, mine was chosen for funding from 5,600 other applications. Even more valuable than the funding itself, were the skills I learned during the application process. 

3. Cherished memories 

Think back to your most cherished memories from 2023. It’s important for all of us, but especially if you’ve had a tough year.  

Intentionally reliving joyous moments can disrupt negative thought patterns, alleviate anxiety, and lower stress levels. Happiness is associated with better health and immunity, increased productivity, better relationships, enhanced creativity and life satisfaction

Think back to this year, to moments when you felt joyous or happy. These go beyond hedonic pleasure, and may be accompanied by a sense of excitement, meaning and being fully alive.  

I think back to a weekend all my siblings happened to be in town and we sat down for a spontaneous dinner. I relive the chills of listening to the London Philharmonic Orchestra play “Star Wars – The Imperial March” live, with my husband. I reminisce about a moment of awe, staring at the Moroccan star lit sky in a silent camp, exhausted but happy after surviving a week of running in the desert. 

Which moments from 2023 will make you say on your deathbed, “I’m not only happy with the way I lived my life – I lived a happy life”? Which moments are for the books? 

4. Habits to (not) keep 

At Hintsa, we believe that success is built on active decisions to do small things consistently well. Little by little, small actions become “habitual” – second nature, an expression of our deepest values and a part of who we are.  

An Olympic medal isn’t won due to just pushing hard at the event, it’s the result of gradual improvements through dedication and regular training.  A Nobel prize-winning discovery isn’t made overnight, but after years of trial and error, spurred by curiosity, faith in the cause and resilience.  

A healthy retirement isn’t attained by eating, exercising, sleeping, and meditating today. It’s based on understanding your physical, psychological and social needs, and respecting them on most days.  

A strong marriage isn’t established at the “I dos” but built gradually through experiences and overcoming challenges together in the security of mutual commitment, trust, and forgiveness.  

Most of us probably accept that many of our aspirations require regular action-taking, but we may forget to pay attention to how they’re expressed in our daily lives.  

As a very personal example, when I’m stressed or hungry, I tend to get easily irritated and reactive, especially at home. This often results in unnecessary arguments and frustration, representing a mismatch between my actions and the value of loving my family.  

So, last New Year, I decided to start working on a habit of pausing, breathing and focusing on others’ perspectives every time I felt a reaction rising. Working on this small habit has significantly improved my relationships and brought a new sense of integrity and wellbeing for us all.  

As a final exercise, a cherry-on-top if you will, add a list of habits you built in 2023 beside your timeline. Which ones reflected your deeper values and goals and can you build on these in 2024? Were there some that didn’t? 

So, what’s next?

Coaching sessions typically end with a summary and defining next steps. It’s like locating yourself on a map and working out how to reach your destination.  

So, to summarise, you have written a list of your achieved accomplishments, lessons learned, most cherished memories and habits to (not) keep. Take a deep breath and thank year 2023 for the value it brought to your life story. 

Now imagine yourself one year from now drawing up a new timeline for 2024. Think about the accomplishments, lessons, memories, and/or habits you’d like to see on that timeline.  

Thank you, 2023. 

2024 – I’m ready for you!