A Ritual for The End of the Year

Much as New Year’s Resolutions don’t work (as per last week’s post), and actually serve to make you feel terrible, they do serve an important purpose.  The act of making resolutions is a ritual for ending one time period and beginning a new one.


Here is another option for a ritual, and it will make you feel good. I have now been doing this exercise at the end of each year for 18 years.  I love doing it because it feels like an honorable way to close out a year, recognize all of the great things that happened, appreciate myself for my accomplishments, acknowledge my own flaws and failures and mourn (hopefully for the last time) the disappointments.  And then I get to envision what I want to create for myself and for others in the next year.

Here’s how it works.  Schedule a ½ hour when you won’t be interrupted (laugh, but you really do need some time).  Take out of piece of paper and make 3 categories:

  • Accomplishments and Wins (including windfalls)
  • Failures and Disappointments
  • What I want to create for the next year

Then open your calendar for the last year – it may be electronic or the old fashioned paper kind; I use my to-do book because it is such an accurate representation of the way I’ve spent my time.  Start with January and work your way through the year. Write it all down – the care packages you sent to hurricane victims, the fabulous contract cancelled at the last minute, small kindnesses and moments you want to forget.  A new friend you are thrilled with, a client you wish you’d never met. The night you stayed up and waited for the errant teen and didn’t yell.  Remember it all.  The fabulous, the absurd and the excruciating.

The next part is optional, but I really love it.  You can do this by yourself, or it is very nice to get your significant other to do it with you.  I used to go over the list with my coach.

Wait for a quiet moment sometime between Christmas and New Years – for some this will be at midnight. Get a glass of wine, turn down the lights, sit in front of the fireplace (I love Christmas so I sit in front of the Christmas tree.)  Then read through your list – take turns if you have a partner.  Keep a pen with you because you will remember more as you talk it over.  If you are by yourself, read out loud – no one will hear you talking to yourself.  Savor your year.  If it was a terrible one; wish it good riddance, if it was a grand year, wave wistfully at its tailgate.

To end the exercise, read aloud what you want to create in the next year – these are not goals, these are visions, like: I want to create a safe, relaxed atmosphere in my home, I want to create a healthy and pain free body, I want to create gleeful abundance.

Keep a copy.  Look at it at the end of the year to see how you did.  You might be surprised.

Wishing you a thoughtful close to 2009 and an optimistic outlook for 2010.

2 thoughts on “A Ritual for The End of the Year

  1. I love this idea. I usually write down the things that didn’t go so well during the year and make a ritual of burning the pieces of paper in the fireplace. My way of saying goodbye to the bad stuff. But now I will also start writing down the successes and keeping records of those achievements. It will be great to have the written reminder of things to be happy about or proud of. And what I’m taking from your previous post is to dream big–why limit ourselves to little goals. Thanks Mad.

  2. Madeleine,
    I love this idea/process. I gave up on New Year’s resolution years ago. Instead I start gearing up for the “new” in December. I get back to the gym, cut back on bread, say “no” a lot more, and spend some time getting back on track for all those things that may have slipped in over the previous year. It is a great way to take the pressure off of “failing” in January AND it give me some much needed personal focus during a time when most of my energy is used on others.

    What really gets me energized for the new year and thinking about what I want to create, is a one day annual retreat. I get together with several friends (we even have our teenagers participate now) and we spend the day create collages of our coming year. At the end of the day we take 15 minutes each to share our vision with the rest of the group. It is a fantastic way to create a visual presence for what we want to create for ourselves. One of the most amazing gifts I have receieved is to watch my 9 (then 10 and 11) year old daughter envision and create her new year. It also has a wonderful side benefit. I get to use paper, crayons, glue, scissors, pictures, fringe, whatever to do art work – no rules, no computer, no telephone.

    Now I will have a wonderful way to end 2010 too.

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