Let’s look back as well as forward this New Year’s Eve

As December ends and January begins, how will you mark the transition to a new year? Many of us “celebrate the New Year.” We mark those celebrations with parties and toasts to the upcoming year. The more serious of develop plans, otherwise known as New Year’s resolutions. And all of us hope that the next 12 months are going to be special. Looking at these New Year rituals through the eyes of an anthropologist, something strikes me. These celebrations are all about looking forward and leaving the past 12 months behind.

This is ironic when you consider the origins of the word January. The month gets its name from the Roman god Janus. He was the god of transitions and was always drawn with two heads. One of these heads faced forward to symbolise the future, the other faced backwards to symbolise the past. To me, Janus would also make a great figurehead for the art of experiential learning. He symbolises the ability of humans to learn from our experiences and to plan for the future.

So this year, as an expert in experiential learning, I’m going to celebrate Janus and put a few new twists to my New Year celebrations. I hope these ideas give you some food for thought and stimulate a more creative approach to your New Year celebrations, too.

Twist 1: Pause and reflect

I’ll take a moment to think about the major events of this year. I’ll capture the stories of  good and bad moments and take time simply to remember how the year has panned out.

Twist 2: List the things and people to be grateful for

A key achievement for me this year has been studying positive psychology. From my studies, I have learnt the importance of showing gratitude for the things we sometimes take for granted. Small things that enrich our lives and prompt feelings of joy and flourishing. So, to celebrate the end of this year, I’m going to write those things down and share them with friends.

Twist 3: List the things that have hurt you and throw them away

This is a tradition I learnt from a friend many years ago. We were both going through tough times and spent New Year’s Eve together. My friend shared some rituals she’d discovered in Mexico. They involved choosing items to symbolise unhappy events and packing these into a suitcase. We lit a fire and carried our suitcase around it three times before burning it. This year, I’ll indulge in a more eco-friendly rendition of this ritual; I’ll write a list of anything that has hurt or upset me and that I am still holding onto. Then I’ll tear the list up and mentally move on from those negative experiences.

Twist 4: Pinpoint what I’ve learnt and how to take that wisdom into the next year

I’ll do this in conversation with my family and friends. After all, best insights are triggered by reflective dialogues. I’ll talk, celebrate, and learn with those closest to me as next year begins.

I hope you, too, have a way of marking the transition from year’s end to year’s beginning. More importantly, I wish you wisdom and happiness both in what you remember from your past and what you create in the future. Have a wonderful holiday season and see you in the new year.

About the author of this article

Eleanor is passionate about bringing out the best in people at work.  She has been a trusted coach and trainer to thousands of professionals in high intellect fields. Eleanor is based in Sydney and has an international client base. Her expertise is in using social and emotional intelligence skills to build high performing leaders and teams. She is qualified in Social Anthropology, Applied Psychology, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming.