Every year, for the past twenty-five years, Stephanie and I have undertaken an exercise which we have found to be incredibly helpful in creating the lives we want to lead.
It began as an informal review on New Year’s Eve soon after we started living together. We looked back on the year that had passed, and then we talked about how we wanted our lives to unfold in the year that was about to begin.
Each year we developed this exercise, which many people undoubtedly undertake informally. Such an activity feels very natural, and of course the idea of the New Year’s resolution arises automatically out of this process of looking back on the year that has been, and then forward to the year to come.
But as we developed the exercise, we started to experience the fact that once we built on, intensified and elaborated, the two fundamental activities the exercise engages – of reviewing and envisioning – it became an experience that was truly magical, truly creative. It became, in essence, a means for us to create our future.
Let’s dive in and explore this in detail, so that you can make use of it yourself, or adapt it in ways that feel right for you.
‘Visible and invisible, two worlds meet in man.’ So said the German poet Novalis. As humans we stand at a threshold – between the visible, remembered world of the past, and the invisible, unformed world of the future. The past we cannot change, the future is filled with possibility. Like Janus, the Roman god of transitions, thresholds and beginnings, we have the ability at any moment to look both ways before stepping forward into the next phase of our lives.
By doing this, we are not trying to control our future, which we cannot do since many unforeseen events will occur to surprise us. But we are trying to become more aware of the gift of free-will, of our ability to choose which direction to take, which choices to make in life, and as a consequence to take a conscious intentional role in the creation of our life, rather than acting as passive consumers of life, or worse – simply as victims of the flow of events.