As we enter the new year, we’ve likely made a resolution that we may have already broken or forgotten. At some point, we’ve all celebrated this annual resolution ritual.
A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol with 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions failed, even though 52% of the participants were initially confident of succeeding.
What if this well-worn resolution ritual itself is incomplete?
As I see it, we start each year clean, distinct from the previous year. We reduce the previous year’s experiences to objects of improvement to best, such as losing weight, gaining income, or going through a positive life change.
Instead of continuing the resolution ritual, this blog proposes engaging another practice: completing your year.
Why This Practice?
The practice of completing your year is based on the practice we use with our clients called “Completing Your Day.” This practice succeeds because it surfaces experiences that we might otherwise forget, and it allows us to be complete.
The distinction of being complete is significant.
Consider the proposition that we spend a large portion of our lives doing what we are incomplete about. In other words, until we are complete, we do the same things over and over again in an attempt to get somewhere—to be satisfied, whole, and at peace.
Endings and Beginnings
The value in “completing our day,” allows us to honor the endings that create the space for beginnings.
Honoring endings involves reviewing our day for accomplishments, disappointments, and unresolved items. Rather than dragging these items into our next day as part of our subconscious—which can wear us down—we surface them.
Making items conscious helps us to acknowledge our accomplishments, choose how to complete disappointments, and take action on unresolved items.
What most impedes being complete are the concerns we carry in our minds, the way we hold these concerns in our bodies, and the way we ruminate on them.
To be complete is possible at any moment. We can release any concern from our mind by either 1) declaring it complete and letting it go, 2) scheduling it to be handled later, or 3) scheduling a conversation to discuss it with those who matter.
If this practice supports us from day to day, how might it support us from year to year?
Remembering and Forgetting Well
This is worth stating explicitly. The practice of being complete and the state of mind it cultivates support us in “remembering” who we are.
Remembering well—presencing, witnessing, honoring, and acknowledging—has become a lost art. The speed of our existence has numbed us to our life. The dead don’t tend to remember.
Yet, our capacity to remember depends on our ability to forget.
When we remember well, we can forget well.
- Remembering well lives beyond our memory. It cultivates presence and perspective. We become present to our life—who we’ve been, and who we are becoming.
- Forgetting well lives beyond our inattentive idleness. We create practices to consciously release items, resolve items, and honor change.
The ability to forget well allows the spaciousness to remember well.
This possibility and practice exist beyond our “memory” (remembering) and “idleness” (forgetting). They involve being grounded in “presencing and experiencing” our humanity.
The possibility of remembering our journey—both its hills and its valleys—can make us pause as we reflect on how we’ve evolved over a year. When we forget about such changes, we discount and diminish our efforts and dismiss our growth.
We carelessly forget who we’ve been and how far we’ve come, and we do not allow for the possibility of “satisfaction.”
Satisfaction Stops Our “Wanting” Cycle
In Latin, “satisfaction” means “enough action” (satis + action). When we witness our journey, we can presence and experience satisfaction. We can be complete.
Living life fully as human beings requires remembering and forgetting well to register satisfaction. Absent this cycle, we fall into a wanting cycle, where we desire more without realizing what we already have or have accomplished.
Expanding our capacity to remember and forget well engenders satisfaction. Satisfaction finds us full and abundant and allows us to move on.
Satisfaction is our natural human boundary. It is our way of stopping, noticing, and being full. We satiate ourselves, experience fulfillment, and presence existence. Gratitude emerges.
Reviewing the year and leaving it behind allows us to presence our experience and experience our presence.
The practice of Completing Your Year involves three phases: remembering, forgetting, and recovering.
Set aside 15–20 minutes a day for six or seven days to establish a ritual. Remember, this is to complete your entire year.
Spreading out this practice over a few days is important. We are not cramming for an exam; we are opening an inquiry.
Walking with our inquiry will evoke awareness and experiences. Accomplishments, changes, progress, disappointments, and unresolved items will begin to appear. When this happens, you will open your mind and heart.
Remembering well involves contemplating and investigating. We gain perspective, deepen our awareness, recognize discoveries, and become present to who we’ve been and who we’ve become.
Begin contemplating your past year with a short meditation session in which you reflect on your accomplishments, disappointments, and unresolved items.
After meditating, journal any items that came to you. Organize these into accomplishments, disappointments, and unresolved items.
To deepen your remembering, investigate your year.
Begin by reviewing your calendar, schedule, or other markers of the year, such as bank accounts (spending patterns), photo albums, or social media posts.
As you scan these markers, examine where you spent time, energy, or finances. Remember who you were, your thoughts, attitude, even your inner critic. Notice what mattered to you then, and what matters now.
Visiting the gym; taking a class in cooking, yoga, improv acting, a foreign language, or a favorite subject; presenting a topic at a conference or at work; visiting family and friends; ignoring a friend who supported you; being self-critical about a situation; getting regular exams (physical, eye, dental, etc.); or opening and funding a savings account.
When adding items to these lists, remember who you were—your thoughts, feelings, energy, and experience.
Forgetting well involves intentionally clearing our mind. This is different from “forgetting” as “absentminded idleness,” which deprives us of our progress or growth. We just idly move on without witnessing who we are or have been.
Forgetting well creates spaciousness by releasing concerns. We reliably capture concerns that weigh on us for the sake of being at peace. It allows us to move on.
We can now examine our three lists with the following question in mind: How can I forget these items intentionally?
For accomplishments, how can I mark them by journaling, celebrating with a ritual, or sharing them with a friend or coach? The point is to feel and experience your accomplishments to observe, name, and internalize your effort and commitment.
For disappointments, the ability to forget them involves a decision. Does a particular disappointment still affect me? If yes, what can I do? Make a request, engage in a conversation, complete an incomplete item, or reframe a goal, situation or commitment? Is there an expectation that I can clarify, communicate, or make disappear?
If this disappointment no longer affects me, can I declare it complete? Perhaps I wanted to lose 20 pounds. In reviewing the year, I noticed new nutrition habits and regular gym visits. While I only lost 15 pounds, I created two new habits. I can now see this whole, and I am complete.
For unresolved items, how can I forget them by completing incomplete items, taking an action, engaging in an unresolved conversation, or reframing a situation? If another person doesn’t accept my remorse, I can still write a letter, even if I don’t send it. What will it take to be at peace?
The ability to forget well registers completion and cultivates a spaciousness to receive our world fully.
Recovering Well offers the possibility of recovering our whole self, to reclaim and repossess our being. With recovery we come to understand beyond reason, embody beyond cognition, and achieve awareness beyond knowledge.
Engaging in this multi-day exercise, we not only recover the year, we discover patterns, connect dots, and acknowledge our journey. The process of recovery fully retrieves who we’ve been: our feelings, thoughts, energy, even our inner critic, and how we might have perceived ourselves.
By weaving insights from our experiences in this phase, we “recover” a deeper understanding of our being by realizing our whole life. Journal what comes to you from the discoveries from this last year.
We can now ask: How has this last year shaped me? Who am I becoming? We become present to our emerging self.
An Authentic Resolution
After completing our year—remembering, forgetting, and recovering—we can rest in the space of a new year and authentically consider a resolution that we might declare.
We remember well what it took to get here, and we do not overpromise or overextend ourselves.
We forget well to honor—rather than dismiss—who we’ve become. We have done what can be done to be complete—not dragging unresolved items into our new year.
Much of our current resolution ritual doesn’t honor satisfaction, which tells us that we are already enough. The presence of satisfaction melts our fixation to want more, fix ourselves, and compensate.
We recover our journey to realize our fullness and abundance. Gratitude, patience, and joy emerge as we look ahead.
In the face of such abundance, what might we now resolve?
View our related blogs:
- Completion: Access to Possibility, Freedom & Aliveness
- Silent Night, Wholly Life
- Completing Your Day: Taking Measure of Your Life
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Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.
As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist psychology to sustain contemplative practice.