I get asked all the time, “Do I need to tell you my whole story? Is it really relevant to talk about the past when I’m struggling today?” 

The answer, like most things, is yes and no. 

If we were better at emotional hygiene, we may not need to go back to last week, let alone our childhood experiences, but the fact is, most of us don’t take out yesterday’s compost to make for better soil for tomorrow’s flowers. So instead, like undigested food, it festers and creates bloating, discomfort and often hangs around in the form of weighty, back loaded content (sorry if that visual was too real especially after the holidays 😣). 

If this is so painful, why do we do it? What purpose does it serve? 

I believe it’s because we try to avoid discomfort and covet pleasure. It’s because we often don’t move toward the messy, ugly and unsavory aspects of ourselves and thereby the world around us until it’s right up under our noses and nowhere to hide. Because our culture cuts off critical aspects of the life cycle- completion and decomposition. 

So we only need to go back as our emotional and energetic knots go- where we developed compensatory behaviors to protect ourselves. These are the tendrils that impact our capacity to face today’s challenges with presence and curiosity. The same goes with reflecting on the past year- gleaning the lessons learned and identifying the patterns (supportive and unsupportive) that are impacting our desired life experiences. I endeavor into this reflection myself at this time of year and lead my clients through this exercise to:

  1. Celebrate wins (critical so that we don’t feel like cogs on a wheel running a mega marathon)
  2. Illuminate what didn’t work (with neutrality and curiosity) 
  3. Make adjustments toward the outcomes we want to experience (more about feeling state than dollar or scale amounts)

Hint: it’s more simple than we think. It involves doing more of what worked, less of what didn’t.

Living a life with more intentionality means getting more comfortable with examining the compost pile. It can be hard to do this alone, so don’t be afraid to reach out to trusted guides and confidantes to shine a light on blindspots in your game. The winter is a perfect time to pause and do this internal work. And don’t forget to be gentle with yourself, this life-ing, adulting stuff is intense and hard…don’t forget that we’re in this together. 

Photo credit: Michael Skok