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By Gerri Power

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived

-Soren Kierkegaard

A New Year is a threshold of possibilities, beginnings and
potential. In ancient Roman mythology, January is named after
Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions and by association the
god of gates, doorways, endings and time. He is usually depicted
with two faces or heads looking in opposite directions; one looks
back at the past, while the other looks forward to the future.

There’s a reason why Janus is depicted with two faces. In our
focus on moving forward, on planning, we may forget that there is
also in this time of new beginnings, the very important need to
look backward. In my work with clients, I encourage them to develop
a Janus perspective when setting goals; to look back and
recognise what they’ve accomplished in the year gone by. When
you incorporate recognition of achievements into your goal setting
this not only inspires and builds confidence, but helps in setting
realistic and attainable goals that become gateways to

If you’ve already dived back into the whirl of work, you may find
any intentions you had set are starting to unravel around the
edges. You may even be wondering how that sense of relaxation and
renewal that flowed so effortlessly through the holidays is now
ebbing away like the outgoing tide. There’s an understandable
reluctance to leave behind those carefree days of summer and a
tinge of resentment may niggle as you adjust to the demands of a
more concrete, measured clock time.  So, with the close of
January just around the corner, why not  adopt the
‘Janus’ mind-set  of both reflecting on the past and looking
to the future as you plan how you want to shape this year, this
life of yours.

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and
precious life?’

-Mary Oliver

It can feel that work and life are pulling you in a thousand
different directions and the commitments you made to yourself
earlier in the month are collapsing under the weight of numerous
demands. Deep in your heart you know that if you don’t pause to
take stock the year will rush by and there’s a real danger you’ll
lose sight of those things that are most important to you. The
question that poet Mary Oliver poses, can serve as a beacon, a
navigational aid as you set and prioritise meaningful goals that
nourish and enrich all areas of your life. Create goals that
inspire, challenge and energise, that give you a sense of purpose,
not just a ‘to do list’ that will haunt you with what hasn’t been
crossed off the list as the year progresses.

Four Paths

So how do you increase your chances of succeeding in achieving
your meaningful goals? While there are many approaches that work
well for different people, the literature suggests that the
following four paths have proven the most beneficial:

Identify what you want

Sounds simple but when was the last time you took the time to
ask yourself what you really want to achieve in your career, your
family life, your relationships and in your creative life. What
inspires you? What are you passionate about? What has to be a part
of the way you live your life for you to be who you are?

Be specific

Organisationally do you want to improve communications, reduce
conflict, boost morale, encourage team-building or win a
promotion?  Personally, do you want to find a better work-life
balance, reduce some of the stressors in your life, take your
children on a winter holiday, renovate your home (without losing
your sanity) run a marathon, improve your eating habits or spend
more ‘me’ time replenishing your spirit?

Write your goals down

Think of journaling as a daily 10 minute self-coaching session
that keeps you accountable to your goal and helps you
to identify fears, doubts, or perceived obstacles to
accomplishing what you want. The act of getting these issues on
paper clears the mental clutter and leads to insights which can
clarify your next step.

Take action

Make a vow to work towards your goal every day, to do at least
one thing every day towards your future life. At the end of the
year that’s 365 ways you are closer to reaching your goal. Isn’t
that an energising thought!

‘I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too
much bread.’

-Bilbo Baggins

Not every step towards achieving your goal is going to be easy…
goals worth pursuing never are. Things don’t always go swimmingly
and it may seem as though it’s all uphill. The antidote to
discouragement is to tap into your strengths. Take a deep breath
and reflect on all the positive things you have achieved  and
been blessed with in 2014, including the resilience with which you
may have coped with any disappointments or setbacks and nurture a
quiet glow of positivity as you view your future. If you are
serious about making your dreams happen, then you need to find a
way to persist in the face of challenges and the inevitable bumps
along the road.

In her book ‘Positivity’, Dr. Barbara Frederickson discusses how
cultivating positivity can make you more creative, resilient, and
connected to others. Her research concluded that a ratio of at
least three-to-one (three positive emotions for every negative
emotion) serves as a tipping point, which will help determine
whether you languish in life or flourish. A key to building
resilience lies in noticing and appreciating those
positive experiences whenever they occur. People who develop
positivity habits are more likely to reach for and achieve their
goals and maintain resilience when the going gets tough.

Increasing Positivity

Thoughts have power. Pay attention to the constant stream of
thoughts running through your mind when you encounter a setback or
disappointment. This self-talk reflects your beliefs and attitudes
about the world, other people, and yourself. Changing the negative
things you say to yourself when you experience a setback is a
central skill of resilience. It’s not what happens to you, but what
you say to yourself and how you interpret the event that determines
your ability to absorb disruptive experiences and stay on purpose
with your goals when the going gets tough.

7 practices to increase your positivity ratio:

  • Savour the moment ~ slow down, breath slower and more deeply,
    be present, relish your heartfelt enjoyment, stretch it out, drink
    it in.
  • Find things you can be grateful for now ~ instead of focusing
    on perfection appreciate the little things, the things that you may
    take for granted.
  • Appreciate the kindness of others ~ and recognise your own.
    This builds an upward spiral of positivity as acts of kindness, and
    the serotonin boosts that accompany them, have a cumulative
  • Inspire yourself  ~ in such a busy world it can be easy to
    lose track of yourself. Take some time each day to remember what it
    is that inspires you, places, people, music, literature ~ you get
    the picture.
  • Connect with nature ~ just 20 minutes outside when the sun is
    shining will boost your positivity (and your immune system).Go for
    that swim with a friend after work, potter in the garden or take a
    family picnic to the park.
  • Live intentionally ~ manage your time tonight so you can be
    fully present in your day tomorrow. Turn of the TV and internet.
    Sit down with a pen and paper and write out what you want tomorrow,
    the rest of this week, to be about. Then shape tomorrow to
    accomplish that.
  • Take a step back to observe and think about how your actions
    support your goals

When setting your goals the words or phrases you use to form
your intention for the year can be revealing. They can foretell
your desires or hesitations. What is your word or phrase for this
coming year?


Gerri Power is a specialist in resilience coaching and mentoring
who facilitates resilient leadership, internal mentoring
initiatives and change management programmes with coaching and
mentoring as the core strategy. Inspired by the resilience of the
human spirit, a key focus for Gerri is coaching individuals and
teams in finding deeper meaning, purpose and engagement during
times of workplace, life or career transitions. Contact Gerri via
LinkedIn page
and at

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