As we race to the end of 2018, I’m compelled to wonder about the possibilities for 2019. What do I want to accomplish next year? What do I want to learn? How can I make a difference? What big project do I want to take on?
While these are important questions (and I oh-so-love to plan ahead and set goals) I’ve decided that the best way to get ready for 2019 is to stop thinking about the future and spend some time appreciating the past.
For the next month, I’m starting an Appreciation Practice.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t we *just* express a bunch of gratitude on Thanksgiving?
Appreciation is different from gratitude.
Think of gratitude as the thanks you would give for a stunning pink-tinged sunrise or an unexpected kindness offered by stranger. With gratitude, we are grateful for another person or a for particular situation or experience.
Appreciation is the act of recognizing particular qualities in something or someone. It’s an act of “noticing.” We pay attention, make observations, and view that person or situation with new perspective (in this case, with a focus on positive attributes).
It’s easy to focus on what you haven’t accomplished, on what still remains on your to-do list. If you’re like me, your Appreciation Practice will be a way to express recognition for those things that have come your way because you’ve put in lots of effort. I want to shift my focus to what is going well, what is “good” about me.
What did I do today that was a cool expression of my creativity, my confidence, and my compassion? How did I show up with confidence? I want to think about all the small steps I’ve taken that are leading me to the life I really want…and celebrate!
Here’s the way the Appreciations Practice works and I invite you to try this out for the month of December (it may sound overly simple, but I found that this exercise actually stretched me in valuable ways):
1. Get yourself a journal, use your Smart Phone, or have paper and pen readily available.
2. Every day, write down one thing you like about yourself.
It may be something…
…personal (your sense of humor, your big brown eyes, your dedication to sticking with your exercise routine, the way you say hello to strangers)
…you accomplished in the past year that you feel good about (staying sober, finishing a project at home that you never thought you’d accomplish, getting promoted at work, reconnecting with an old friend who you had lost contact with)
…you did to help someone else (mowed your neighbor’s lawn when he was sick, cooked a meal for a friend’s family whose parent had passed away, gave your gloves to the person on the corner who was collecting for the local fire department, volunteered at the local Food Bank)
Please note: I’m not talking about starting a non-profit to help disadvantaged kids, writing a book, or losing 100 pounds—if you did any of those in 2018, congratulations!
I’m talking about appreciating the small things that you do that makes the world a better place. You’re likely be doing these all the time, but you’re probably not appreciating yourself for your efforts.
3. Spend a few minutes to read each appreciation and savor it.
Say it out loud or whisper it to yourself. Focus on your feelings as you think about your experience.
If your mind starts to wander during the day, repeat your appreciation aloud. “I have a great sense of humor;” I am kind to my neighbors;” I stick with my promises; “I am strong and resilient.”
4. Write your daily appreciation on a sticky-note.
Put on your bathroom mirror so that you see it the next day.
5. At the end of each week, re-read all your appreciations.
Focus on how you feel as you review these and give yourself a big pat on the back.
6. At the end of the month, gather all your written appreciations.
Put them someplace where you can find them again. I use an old wallet and call it my “Survival Kit.” When I’m having a bad day, I pull out my Survival Kit and review all my appreciations. I remember I’m OK and I can “survive’ through the hard times.
Kristin Neff, the author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind To Yourself, writes eloquently about the importance of self-appreciation.
When we can enjoy what’s good about ourselves, acknowledging that all people have strengths as well as weaknesses, we allow ourselves to revel in our goodness without evoking feelings of arrogance, superiority or overconfidence. Luckily, we can meet our deep need to be appreciated without depending on other people to approve of us. We can acknowledge our own beauty. Not because we’re better than others, but because we are human beings expressing the beautiful side of human nature.
Put simply: it’s about being kind to yourself and giving yourself permission to embrace your own goodness.
Instead of allowing the negative self-critic to take center stage in your mind, the Appreciation Practice offers a way to wrap your thoughts with kindness. In lieu of a repeating loop of your mistakes, faux pas, and conversations you wish had gone differently, you can savor the yummy feelings that result from recognizing those things that have come your way because you’ve worked on them.
Should you spend all your time singing your own praises?
Of course not!
But a good dose of self-appreciation is that best way that you can get ready for a great 2019.
You deserve to be validated, respected, supported and esteemed when you show up as your best self, do what you say you’ll do, and make a positive difference in the lives of others. And who better to do that than you?!
Learn more about self-appreciation and strategies for taking positive actions to create your extraordinary life.