During this last week of the year, how do you like to wrap things up? Are you like me, in need of a little time to reflect on 2017 before you welcome a new year? It’s easier and sometimes more exciting to look forward to the vast unknown ahead. I get so excited at the start of a new year. I see a landscape full of hope and opportunity. But I know from experience that I am more productive when I find meaningful ways to say good-bye to the year, rather than dismissing it without adequate review. So I am applying the brakes today to look back over the year and savor the highs and lows. It’s in these moments that I learn a little more about the story of who I am. This allows me to check in with my thoughts and feelings about my contribution and impact through my life and work. I want to use this insight to move forward to personal growth and not simply start over in a new year. I hope you will join me in this process.
Here is a question I often use in coaching that pushes others to reflect a little more deeply.
“What are you truly proud of as you reflect on this year?”
This question invites us to think about one of the ten top positive emotions – pride.
As a positive emotion, pride occurs when we engage in something that takes a little time and effort. Have you reached a goal that you didn’t think was attainable? Pat yourself on the back with a sense of accomplishment and unadulterated pride. Take a deep breath and let in the expansive emotions. You earned it! What makes you feel proud?
This process is more valuable when you can talk with a trusted mentor or friend who listens and affirms. This is not a time for someone to edit or judge your message. Expressing what you are proud of takes courage. We all know what it feels like to have our pride put down and squashed by a negative reaction. We are all more familiar with the negative associations of pride. Most of us have been taught that pride is a dangerous emotion. And this can be true. The danger of pride results when our motive is to gain approval from others. I am referring to an emotion that does not depend on others’ input, opinion or perspective. In order for positivity to arise, we need a healthy self-assessment or partner who will acknowledge and affirm us as we share an experience that has a meaningful impact.
I notice that this can be a difficult process to learn at first. We may need to manage other thoughts that try to influence this process. For example, sometimes we hear another voice in our heads that immediately begins to argue with our statement of pride. Sometimes it’s hard to justify a sense of pride for accomplishing what is expected. Sometimes we compare our outcome to others and feel like we fall short. Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves, judging, criticizing, not measuring up. These thoughts make the process of identifying “what you are proud of” feel like a petty exercise. But don’t let those negative thoughts take over. Positive emotions have enormous benefits and deserve your attention. Once you are in the practice of thinking about what makes you proud, you are better equipped to set goals and challenges with more intention and commitment. This is a beautiful construction for beginning a new year.
Here’s what I recommend: spend some time alone thinking about the most important events of the year. What happened and what made it important? Either with a trusted friend or your journal, scan your year and think about what truly brings you and strong sense of satisfaction and pride. Now, express it! And add what other emotions travel with this experience. How does this experience make you feel? Why was this particular experience special? How can you do more of this? How can you make it better next time?
By expressing this sense of pride, we are motivated to repeat the process. With a healthy sense of pride, we move forward and build upon what initially happened. This requires us to be genuine, focus on meaningful efforts and validate an experience that, upon reflection, was worthwhile.
At first these statements may be basic, focused on the ordinary. Then, through practice, the reflections indicate how extraordinary an experience really was. We tend to dig a little deeper in our process of mining those moments that truly expand our emotional framework. I hear people tell me that this practice is transformational and empowering. If you already practice expressing/journaling your statements of gratitude, you know what I mean!
Let this process influence how you approach your New Year’s Resolution. With more insight into what really matters to you, you have some tools to accomplish big things! I believe in you!
From The Strengths Studio, we wish you a very Happy New Year. In 2018, we will bring you a full calendar of insights that encourage and empower you to live into your best, most natural strengths.
If you want to learn more about Pride, as well as the other positive emotions, check out Dr. Barbara Frederickson, a leading researcher on positive emotions and the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.