New Year Practice (2024)
Happy new year to everyone!
I’m excited to experience 2024 with new energy, focus and commitments. As we turn the corner into a new year I thought I’d share my end of year practice with you. This is a practice I’ve been doing for a few years now, and as it evolves I’m finding more value and structure with the work.
This episode covers my approach in four phases – rest, reflect, reset and refocus. I offer some insight into each phase, some questions to guide you, and some things I’ve learned from my experience.
Welcome back, folks. Happy New Year to everyone. I am excited to experience 2024 with new energy, new focus, new commitments. And as we turn the corner into this New Year, I thought I'd share my end of year to New Year practice with you.
So this is a practice I've been doing for a few years now. I've been experimenting with things and testing them. And as it evolves, I'm finding more value and structure to the point where I feel like it's share worthy. Like something that could help people. It may be something small, it might be the practice at large, but I want to share the work.
And in essence, for me, the new year presents opportunity for us to be intentional about how we look at our lives. Here is a nice little excerpt I wrote and shared recently as it relates to opportunity.
The new year offers an opportunity to rest.
Step back from your normal routine and demands. Break your discipline. Sleep in, take naps, and play more than you normally do. Go back to your wild child self. Get out into nature, away from all the distractions. Give yourself the gift of space.
The New Year offers an opportunity to reflect.
Celebrate the experiences that gave you energy. Learn from the experiences that were out of alignment. Honor the people that made a difference. Amplify the things that helped you feel more alive. Sit with these memories. Be with them until you realize everything they've given you.
The New Year offers an opportunity to reset.
Restart your life with a fresh perspective. Face your truth with courage. Let go of anything that no longer serves you. Accept the things that have been waiting. Clean up your beautiful messes. Integrate everything.
The new year offers an opportunity to refocus.
Clarify your intentions and priorities. Reimagine a future that lights you up. Create the map. Rebuild your engine. Bring focus to what really matters in your life. Drive forward with purpose.
Every new year is an opportunity to create space.
So, that's a little excerpt. It just kind of flowed through me while I was resting over the holidays and really reflecting. And what I want to do now is dig into these four different opportunities. So first, let's start with rest.
And I'm going to share my experience with this. Again, take what's useful. Let go of anything that's not.
So I prioritize rest during the turning of the new year and this includes avoiding normal work. So, disconnect from email, I disconnect from Slack, I basically disconnect from normal communication with people that requires work.
This does not mean friends and family, I actually make time for them. But I stay off devices as much as possible and I get away from my normal work. I sleep more, I take naps. I try to stay bored and that's important because I actually want my mind to wander in beautiful ways. I want it to have the space to not be under stress or pressure of the normal demands of life.
And I remind myself to get outside a lot. I try to hike, I try to walk, I try to explore. I do those things rigorously, daily. And I play more than usual. So I play with my kids, my wife, my dogs, anyone else who wants to be more silly or competitive than usual. Just playing, sport, activities, games. And finally, I try to avoid things that are going to distract or numb me, like lots of alcohol, lots of sugar, other stimulants.
This is the hard part. You know, the holidays is a time often spent with family and everyone's to cook and create these amazing treats, which I do still indulge in. But I remind myself to give my whole system rest, which is giving my whole system a break.
So next is reflect. This one is big for me. I take intentional time, multiple days, to look back on the following year and really dig in to meaningful things, meaningful questions.
For example, what gave me energy? What drained my energy? Where did I feel challenged and most alive? Where did I feel out of integrity and more asleep? What surprised me? What were my biggest failures in the last year? What did I learn from them? What were my biggest accomplishments in the last year? And what did I learn from them?
So this is an opportunity for me to challenge myself to ask deeper questions and really answer them honestly. You know, don't bullshit them. Don't sidetrack them. Like answer the questions with intention with integrity.
And I want to note that deep reflection is not done quickly. It requires time and space So again, give yourself the gift of space when you're taking time to reflect. You cannot rush through it.
The last thing with reflection is time with no demands. So in this sense, our normal lives are filled with lots of demands, requests, tasks, responsibilities. And so if you're going to reflect, try to create an environment where you can do it with yourself with way less tasks, requests. Basically, alleviate yourself of having external needs from other things that don't come from you.
And of course, spend more time in nature. I do my best reflection in nature. Hands down, it's just the best environment where I can really sit. Whether it's with a journal or just myself, my thoughts and reflect on all the beautiful things that happened in the past.
Next is reset, and this is all about integration. This is arguably the messiest part. The reset and integration phase is where we learn to let go and accept things. So this is where we've got things that we just have to let go. And we start to get clarity around that from the reflection phase. So after reflecting, we have all these beautiful experiences, all these learnings, all these failures, and now as we reset, we start to identify what's no longer serving me. What do I need to let go of?
And this one, aside from being kind of messy and a little bit more challenging, even painful, you got to be brutally honest with yourself. At least that's how I approach it. I really face these questions with more courage, with more integrity, so I'm not bullshitting myself. And really look at the things that have been lingering around the things that I've been like, said... not accepting, that have been waiting.
And I speak these things out into the world or write them down so they don't get stuck in my head. That's a pattern that humans are really good at doing. We think things, especially challenges, the messier parts of life, and we don't often speak them out into the world, whether it's to ourselves or to others, or we write them down. And so they just stay trapped and they consume so much energy.
So this is the opportunity to reset, to let these things out, to feel them with your full being, all the emotion, all the energy. And then really let go of things or integrate things that you just need to accept. And I found that looking at pictures, journal notes, old videos really helped me dig back into some of these experiences.
Even different cues like songs or words that were set in specific moments. This is a really cool way to kind of identify some of these things that just need to be reset or integrated before you can move forward. And again, the point of the reset phase is to clean up the mess. It's just like spring cleaning.
So throw things away, move things into new places, give things to others. A reset is a powerful way to cleanse before we move forward.
And finally we have the refocus. So this for me is the fun part. This is where we get to plan and create the vision for the future. Refocusing involves looking at what you want to prioritize and create in the next 12 months.
I use a lot of mental models, templates, blueprints for creating a sense of things and experiences that map to my vision. So for example, I often start with What? Clarifying the priorities for the next 12 months and naming them.
Some quick examples to help you get creative here. Give my body and mind a cleanse, invest in my personal growth, decrease my stress and anxiety, start a new passion project, right?
So we're just getting the things out that are important to us that we want to create in the future. And then we have to establish the how. So this is where we specify how we're going to achieve them with tangible targets. For example, using those same what's, the how's behind them: 30 days without alcohol, a five day personal growth retreat, 90 day meditation or breath work challenge where we do 10 minutes every morning. Create a website and an email list for your new passion project.
So you see how we're bringing specifics and details to the what so that we have a way to track against them and realize them.
And finally is the when. So now we need to establish the dates and the seasons to align with these priorities. And my suggestion here is to put these in a doc so you can look. I like to do it monthly. Just to see all 12 months coming up. And that way you can say, Ooh, I got two things in March. That's full. I don't have space for anything else.
And you can really lay out whether it's in a doc or a spreadsheet or just a nice little drawing of sorts, you can get a sense of what the vision looks like. And what months feel full, what months feel don't. Like I love to travel in the summer, the spring and leading into the summer. So I'm not going to put a bunch of big projects there because I know I'm going to be out exploring, leading retreats, doing things where I'm away from my normal environment.
The last thing too, with the when is really blocking time for this. So you don't need to put every single detail, but I do block off time on my calendar. That way I know that this time is reserved. Because if you don't block it, someone else is going to create a priority for you. And your time is just going to slip away. So, it's a really nice practice to look at your calendar and just block these dates off.
Even if you don't have all the details, block the week off, block the long weekend off, block the couple days. Give yourself that time so that when your priorities show up, boom! You're ready for them.
I Wanted to create a few questions to again, to spark some curiosity, some creativity that could help you craft your vision.
So I'll use some of the space principles and we'll start with self. So what is one thing that could change your life for the better in meaningful ways this year? What scary thing or trauma have you been avoiding? Where do you want to grow the most? Physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually?
Next, a few questions around purpose. What important mission or calling have you been ignoring? What has God or the universe been trying to tell you? Where do you feel you have the most opportunity to help others?
Next is art. What kind of project or work inspires you right now? What hobby or side project would you love to pursue? What did you create as a kid that you haven't done in years?
Next is connection. Who are the people in relationships you want to prioritize? What existing community do you want to further invest and pour into? What new community do you want to explore?
And finally, environment. Are you living in an environment that lights you up? If not, what's really stopping you from moving? What travel or trips do you want to experience with yourself, your family, or loved ones? What home improvements could you make that align with your values?
So again, just some questions, you know, create your own questions. It's all about great questions.
And last, I'm going to wrap with a few key things that I've learned from doing this process for several years now.
So first, spend as much time as you need. Some people might blow through this in a day or two, and that's fine if that's your process. But I take over a week. You know, I start this process as we're entering the holidays, which is like Christmas. I'm with this process the full week until New Year's, and I'm still in it.
You know, we're a week past, a week after near at this point and I'm still finalizing my vision. So I give a solid two plus weeks to this. I create the time and space. And again, most of that is time disconnecting so that I really have the opportunity to realize clarity, right?
That leads into crafting your environment. So, again, be intentional about where and when you do this work. It won't be effective if you do it amidst all the holiday chaos and distractions. I actually this year had several days alone over the holidays when my family was traveling to be with our family in St. Louis. And this gave me the beautiful space I needed to really reflect reset and refocus.
Next is create targets and commitments. So crafting a vision can be tricky if you've never done it before. That's why I wanted to give you these examples, some questions. It's really easy to say things like be healthier, invest in personal growth, get outside more. And these are fine, but they have no targets. They have no commitments to be realized.
So to bring a little bit more precision here and accountability, just refine them, give them some more details. So instead of be healthier, exercise 30 minutes, four days per week for 90 days. That is concrete. That is actionable, right?
Instead of invest in personal growth. How about attend a personal growth retreat or event in the summer? So look at your schedule. Know that you have some time in the summer. And then do the research to find the retreat that speaks to you, right? Shameless plug, I will be doing a mountain summit retreat in the summer, and I would love to have you if that type of experience speaks to you.
And also, get outside more. It's easy to say. Instead, how about do at least one two hour hike every month? Or, walk every day for at least 15 minutes. You see? So just bring some precision. Bring something to this so you can stay accountable and you can track it.
And that leads into another point, find accountability. If you really want to hit these targets, share them with a friend or loved one. The power of accountability is real. We know this as humans. It's very easy to fail ourselves. But we do not like failing others. So I encourage you to speak these out into the world, to share them with people so that they can support you, and you can have some healthy accountability.
And one other important thing as it relates to the refocus phase, is that I like to choose a word for the year. So originally I would just choose it for myself, and it's evolved into this really cool thing where I choose it collectively with Gabrielle, my wife. And we've started to learn the power of choosing a word for the year.
So again, it used to just be about me, now it's about our family. And this word is kind of an anchor point. So two years ago, the word was adventure. And we honored that. We took more trips than ever. We explored the world. It was amazing. We also learned a lot of things about that. Last year, our word for the year was challenge.
And we lived that as well. You know, we challenge ourselves in new ways. This year, our word for the year is action. And so, it's a strong word that you can remind yourself of and you can anchor a lot of your priorities and commitments to.
And believe me, it can be easy to be like, "ah, it's just a word." But, it's amazing when you're intentional about creating this word and choosing it, how it will just show up throughout the rest of the year. In all the years that we've done this, that word just has a beautiful way of showing up.
So think about your word. Choose a word that represents some things you want to invest in, the energy you want to evoke this year. And then let it be your anchor, your guide as you move through the new year.
And finally, do not take on more than you can handle. It's really easy to just craft this massive vision and then you get a week or two in and boom, your willpower gets crushed. Your whole plan collapses. So I like to approach them more humbly, a little bit more conservatively.
Set some healthy priorities, some targets, some ambition. But be mindful of too much. It'll easily overwhelm you and then like I said, you'll feel stuck and defeated. So humble suggestion, I like to pick three big things and then a dozen or so smaller things.
So for example, leading a retreat is a big thing. Even attending a retreat, is a big thing. Starting a podcast. A lot of my friends have talked about this. That's a big thing. Okay. Family trip to Europe. We did that last year. It was epic and it was a big thing. It was a huge thing, right?
Whereas if we look at smaller things, lead a zoom webinar, right? That's a small thing. You can pull that off. Create 12 blog posts for the year. Another small thing. That's one a month. You can work through that, without the pressure and the weight of having to constantly like grind. Take a local camping trip. Another small thing. So, in healthy contrast of like big retreats or big family vacations, just get out locally and do a camping trip or an epic overnight hike, you know.
And that's it. My intention here was to be quick and clear and concise and just give you a little bit insight into my world as I turn the corner. This time is really important to me. I've seen it impact a lot of other lives. People I've worked with, people I know. And I'm wanting to be more intentional about sharing this and at some point kind of crafting a template or a course or something that people can follow.
Because I believe with conviction that being intentional about how you round the new year can really, really impact the way you show up. It can impact your health levels, your quality of life. And it's just been a beautiful gift for me.
So I hope there's something in here for you, and enjoy the new year. It's going to be exciting, more podcasts coming, more retreats, more content. So I look forward to being with you soon.
Ali is a creator and coach who's passionate about guiding people to their truth. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people realize their most authentic life. He's a family man, entrepreneur, conscious technologist, explorer, podcast host and many other things that inspire him to stay curious and learn. He's also a huge advocate for nature, hiking, adventure, testing physical limits and experiencing the natural world.