All of us have dreams for ourselves and our lives, but sadly most of us don’t live them because we never take the time to listen, and never pay full attention to what our hearts long to do. That’s why I wrote The Not So Big Life, to help people develop this skill of inner listening, and in so doing to find the true meaningfulness they long for.
There’s a key tool in this process, which I describe in detail in Chapter 11 of the book, and that I want to give you a taste of here. I call it the Year End Review, and it’s intended to help you become the gardener of your own life—planting seeds this year’s end and watching them germinate and grow over the years to come. There’s no one “right” way to do this, so use the material I present here as a guideline, and then tailor it to fit your life and schedule.
The goal is to set aside some time at the end of each year—I designate about eight to ten hours during the last week of the year—to conduct a review of all the significant things that have happened over the course of the past twelve months, and to give voice to your heart’s longings for the coming months and years. I recommend that you create a special journal, or a folder on your computer if you prefer, in which to record your observations. You are going to write down all the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that come to mind as you engage this Year End Review, and then you are going to close the journal or folder and not look at it again for twelve months, until its time to engage the ritual again next year.
This “not looking” is an important aspect of the process. What you’ll discover is that by simply listening to and recording your inner longings once a year, they will begin to manifest in your life without your having to do anything else. The real revelation is that we are not personally in control of making things happen. We are simply the dreamer of our waking dream—our life. So by carefully listening to our hearts we seed our waking dream with those intentions. If we try to force our longings into being however, the door to their realization remains firmly shut. We have to get out of the way in order for the things we long for to start showing up, and when they do, they almost never look quite the way we had imagined. That’s why we have to relinquish control of the steering wheel. In fact we’ve never been in charge. We’ve only thought we were.
The entire list of questions I recommend for this exercise is in Chapter 11 of The Not So Big Life, but here’s a synopsis to help you understand the process:
1.Designate some time during the month of December or January to engage this process. The more time you can spend the more you’ll get out of it. If you can find only an hour, that’ll work, but if you can spend longer, you’ll find that that time is well rewarded.
2. Make a record of all the significant things that have happened to you over the past year. What books, movies etc. have moved you? Are there people who have come into your life recently, or who have departed from your life, who’ve made an impact on you in some way? What events, realizations and understandings have you had? What challenges have you had to face? What significant dreams have you had? What has inspired you?
3. Take a look at yourself in the present. What lessons have you learned over the past year? Who are you becoming? How has your life changed since last year? What parts of it are enjoyable? And what parts are frustrating?
4. And finally, consider what you’d like to happen in the future. What are the things you’d like to make time for? What are the dreams you have for your life that you don’t know how to bring into being? Who would you like to be if there were no limits? In one short statement, what are the longings of your heart right now?
That’s all you need to do. During this period of introspection, at the threshold of the turn of the years, you can also read what you have written in past years. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process because it allows you to see how you are changing. I find that what has come into being is nothing short of miraculous sometimes. Often I can’t figure out how things have changed so much from year to year without my having to work at it, yet they HAVE changed. Dreams really do come true.
We can live much, much more of who we have the potential of becoming simply by listening with this inner ear to what we long for, and by paying attention to what life delivers to our doorstep. I hope you’ll be able to join me at the next Year End Review Workshop, and I hope you’ll establish a regular practice of engaging this simple ritual for many years.
Just like taking photographs of our children as they grow, this exercise allows us to watch ourselves grow and mature as we travel the road of the inner journey. It’s astounding to observe what happens along the way, and will, I believe, offer you that doorway into the meaningful life you’ve been longing to find.
Registration is now open for the 2022 Not So Big Life Year End Review Workshop. This workshop is open only to those who have previously attended a Not So Big Life Workshop. Register now to save your spot, or read more about the workshop here.
If you have never attended a Not So Big Life Workshop, but are interested in doing so, the next introductory workshop will be held near Labor Day in 2022. Sign up here to be notified when registration opens.
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