We’re officially in the FINAL days of 2019 – high-five to us for surviving the holidays! And now as we inch closer to 2020 I find myself slipping into a ‘slow down and get reflective’ phase (said in Barry White’s deeply seductive voice).
What is it about a new year that makes us do this? Somehow changing the calendar asks us to step outside our daily routines, obligations, and distractions (just for a moment) so we can pause to see how things went. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Sometimes when we look back we can feel trapped by our history, doomed to repeat unhealthy patterns, at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control or like we’re reliving the shame and guilt that go hand-in-hand with regret.
But looking back with compassion & courage can be EXACTLY what we need to write a more joyful future.
Don’t believe me? Take it from Maya…
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou
One of my favourite exercises to help clients look back so they can move forward is a Loss History Graph (from the Grief Recovery Method). As the title suggests, it’s mapping out your losses so you can see how they’ve impacted your life…and how unresolved grief may be slowing you down or stopping you dead in your tracks.
Given we’re about to turn the page on not just a new year but a new DECADE, I thought it would be interesting to look at our lives in a similar lens, but with a more holistic overview.
Why will it be different from any other year/decade/life-in-review you’ve done before?
We’re going to focus on your heart. ❤️
We’re going to map out the highs and lows based on the impact they had on your heart. We’re going to forget, even if only for a second, everyone else’s opinions (your family, partner, boss, colleagues, friends, society, etc) and recognize your heart’s journey.
Because our knee-jerk reaction is to intellectualize/analyze/rationalize everything that happens to us. We try to use our brains to heal our hearts. But it’s how these events made us FEEL that has the greatest impact on our lives. So many people repeat patterns in relationships because it goes back to the lasting impact of their first heartbreak (uggh, BRAD) And it’s only when they look back over time that they see the patterns emerge, how they didn’t realize the same thing kept happening with different people.
For example, when I did my graph I realized that one of my patterns boiled down to dating men who were unemotionally available.
Or as Liz Gilbert so eloquently put it ‘I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.’
Realizing this pattern helped me see that truth and adjust accordingly. Although, I’m still human and definitely fall victim to it regularly. The good news is I catch myself waaaay earlier and I don’t let myself get too ensnared in my tendency to ‘romance the future’.
So, are you excited to do your Heart History Graph? Are you nervous? Are you curious to see what your finished graph will look like? I’m not gonna lie, it’s kinda cool to see your journey visually mapped out like this.
When you’re ready…find a quiet cozy space, grab a pen + paper, and have your favourite seasonal drink nearby. We’re going to dive right into creating your Heart History Graph. We’re going to map out EVERYTHING important from your first memory to the current day. We’re going to map out the highs AND the lows.
A key element of this graph is to ensure the lines are reflective of the impact these events had on your life and more importantly, your heart. The longer the line, the bigger the impact. Go for what it meant to YOU and not what society, family, your partner or your friends thought about it. For example, when a pet dies it can be a HUGE line but others think it should be barely a blip on your graph.
How to create your Heart History Graph
All you need to do is grab some paper and a pen and strike a big ol’ horizontal line across the page. Then begin to map it out. From your first conscious memory to current day. All the highs, all the lows, and ensure the line length reflects how you FELT about those experiences. Some lines may go both above and below. If you find there’s a string of similar events you don’t have to list them all…a couple examples are enough. The goal here is honesty and accuracy because it is for no one else but YOU. You’re in the driver’s seat, might as well be authentic!
Tip: section it out by decades if you’re having problems remembering anything. You can do this by years or by age (my preference). For example, 0 – 10 years old, what happened during that time, 11 – 20 years old, and so on.
Once you’ve got your graph mapped out…take a break! Seriously, that’s some deep head and heart work to look back over your life. Set aside your graph and when you’re ready, come back and I’ll show you how to look for patterns.
Before you begin to look for the patterns…
Take a moment (and 3 deep breaths) to ensure your butt is firmly in the EMPATHY AND SELF-COMPASSION seats of your soul. There may have been detours, crossroads, decisions made that didn’t turn out the way you wanted. It’s alllllll a part of life, so please don’t beat yourself up for any of the patterns you see emerging. The aim here is to be compassionately curious so we can build the awareness we need to shift into healthier behaviours in 2020.
Grab your Heart History Graph and a separate piece of paper to make notes.
As you look at your graph, what do you see happening over and over again?
Here are some examples of possible patterns to get you thinking…
- Do you tend to ‘cut and run’ when things get uncomfortable?
- Do you hold on too long (like Liz Gilbert attested to?)
- Do you sacrifice relaxation and fun because you’re always striving to do your best or be perfect?
- Are you afraid of showing people who you really are because of a fear of rejection?
- Are you drawn to relationships with people who are selfish?
- Do you trust easily or not at all?
- Do you self-sabotage when things feel too good?
- Do you avoid feeling weak and vulnerable by putting up walls or refusing to ask for help?
- Do you over-analyze everyone’s behaviour (to the envy of Freud) always assuming the worst?
- Do you withdraw and isolate yourself when things get hard?
- Do you take responsibility for others’ actions (so you can keep the peace) leading to resentment?
- Do you always end up choosing partners you need to “save”?
- Are you constantly disappointed by people, jobs, etc because they don’t live up to your expectations?
- Do people keep crossing your boundaries? Or are you lacking boundaries?
These are not easy questions to answer, so again, take a moment to high-five yourself! That’s some serious gold-mining you just did there in answering those.
Now, for the purposes of this next exercise, let’s focus on the decade we’re just finishing up, 2010 – 2019. Start with the longest low lines and ask yourself:
- What did you need to hear at that specific time?
- What lessons did you learn from it?
- What would current day you tell past you at that time?
- Or given you know what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
- Might any of the answers above help with anything you’re currently struggling with? (i.e. I need to remind myself that everything will be ok, just like I wish I had heard in 2014 during my divorce)
Take a deeeeeep breath. Now repeat after me (and if you’re not into affirmations, humour me and give it a shot)
“I now release and let go of every thought, action, and word that was out of alignment with my values and highest self. I recognize that being human means making mistakes. I hold infinite compassion, love, and forgiveness for my past self. I accept and integrate all the lessons and wisdom life has given me so I can move forward with confidence, joy, and grace now.”
One more deeeep breath.
Your willingness to wade through the past, sift through the pain, and dig up the wisdom will help you create a more joyful 2020.
While life definitely shows us what we need to learn through the challenges and losses it can also whisper what we need to learn and remember through the beautiful, joy-filled, heart-lifting moments.
Now let’s pull out your Heart History Graph one more time and look at the highs (you can choose to look at just the last decade if it’s easier).
Start with the longest lines and ask yourself the following questions…
- What role did vulnerability play?
- What role did courage play?
- What steps and decisions did you make to get there?
- What can you ‘rinse and repeat’ in 2020?
- How do you want to FEEL in 2020?
- What word or mantra would encompass this feeling?
- What support do you need to make 2020 your best yet?
Want to continue the conversation?
Head over to Insta where I’ve be shared my biggest lessons from the last decade and what I want to create more of in 2020.
Want to go deeper?
Join me for my small group, in-person, Grief Recovery Method 7-week program at Align Wellness Studio where we’ll dive deeper into your losses and complete the pain of your past so you can stride into 2020 with greater clarity and ease.
Lastly, know I’m wishing you nothing but the absolute best for 2020 and beyond! Personally, I’m making some big ol’ changes in my life and would love to have you along for the ride (and virtual support!) Stay tuned to this channel, my social media channels, AND my new YouTube channel to watch it all unfold before your very eyes! <<< trying to make it sound as enticing as a sideshow announcer, but really hope it’s not that dramatic.
Walking bravely alongside you into 2020,