This time of year is special as we both reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. What did we learn about ourselves, including our strengths and shadows? What changes did we make that give us an increased sense of hope? Where do we want to go from here?
We can ask ourselves these questions any time of year, but the turning of the calendar year naturally lends itself towards meaningful reflections and conversations.
Instead of jumping to establishing new goals (e.g., new year resolutions), a more effective way to focus our year-end reflections is to consider our values and assess how closely our lives align with them. In accordance with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), by values I mean “global qualities of ongoing action” that point us towards the lives we would want to live if nothing were standing in our way. They are the kinds of phrases we would like written on our epitaphs (i.e., “She loved her friends and family with patience and kindness”; “He played music with joy and creativity”’; “She led her business with self-awareness and generosity”).
Some of us have not paused to reflect on what we truly value in different domains of our lives, which can lead towards a feeling of lostness or “going through the motions”. Others of us know what we want in life, but we find ourselves getting off track due to our avoidance of difficult thoughts and feelings, addictions, and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and the world. This can be quite frustrating, disheartening, and shame-inducing.
It is only human to drift away from values, but perhaps the most truly human thing we can do is carefully assess them and take intentional action towards realigning with them. With an increased awareness of our values and what keeps us from living them out, we can better navigate life and approach the potential and purpose that we long for.