In Terms of Happiness, How Things End is More Important Than How Things Begin
It’s been months since I’ve posted an article – not that I haven’t had ideas, made notes or even completed a few handwritten rough drafts, I have. I just haven’t devoted the time to completing them and posting them. Other priorities have been at the forefront, like coaching clients and studying, like providing consulting services, like living and socializing, like resting or playing or even procrastinating when I felt like it.
Here we are, December 31st, 2011, it’s 8:48am – down to the wire – I want to get this article online today. I want to end this year on a happy note. I’ve already had a great start to this end-of-the-year day finding myself referenced in an article on New Year’s Resolutions in The Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/living/article/1106537–video-why-do-we-make-new-year-s-resolutions, which is a brand new experience for me and quite exciting!
As this day approaches, most people tend to focus only on the New Year ahead – fresh starts, new beginnings. Today, in light of New Year’s Eve, I’d like to shift your attention for a few moments to the endings of things – not just the end of the year but the end of every day and every experience. It’s important.
In Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman references a study by Daniel Kahneman that points to the importance of our memories about how things end. What we take away from an experience will be heavily colored by how it ends because that is what we’ll remember most. Kahneman also talks about the vast difference between “how we feel in our life vs. how we feel about our life”, in other words, the difference between the experiencing self and the remembering self.
Perhaps you had an average year – some wins, some losses, some ups, some downs. You’ve experienced a full year and a wide range of emotions both positive and negative. How you evaluate 2011 a few months from now will be heavily influenced by how the year ended for you and how you unconsciously chose to remember it.
It could be that you had a lot of wins early on, feelings of accomplishment, success, love, happiness, followed by a few losses or disappointments whether financial, personal, and/or intimate. Still, an average year, if we look at the sum of all things – but what you might take away from the whole experience of one year could be heavily tainted by the losses in the latter portion. Lucky are those who have a win close to the end of the year, for they will remember it more positively.
If that’s the case – that our sense of happiness moving forward is tainted by our memories and evaluations of those memories, then it’s in our best interest to end things on a good note, in every area of life, each year, each day, each moment. If that’s the one thing you remember from this article, I’m glad – how you end things is important for your future happiness.
How do you want to remember 2011 and begin 2012?
You have some control over the matter by choosing what you focus on. If you practice reflection and you acknowledge what you’re grateful for on a regular basis, this will be easy for you, for each day can be remembered in a positive light. If not, then now is the time to make a list about all the good things you remember about 2011 – the things you want to remember moving forward. In other words, you get to create your own happy ending!
Need some help? Think about these questions:
- What are you grateful for?
- How did you contribute to someone’s life?
- How did someone contribute to your life?
- Who was important in your life this year?
- What lessons are you taking away?
- What wins or breakthroughs did you accomplish?
- How do you want to remember 2011?
If you come away with 3 or 4 things that make you feel good (or even just one thing), that is worth remembering. Focus on those things, or that one meaningful thing, that encapsulates what 2011 meant for you and it will bring in 2012 in a more positive light.
Now – if you’re interested in resolutions or setting some intentions for the new year, please read my article from last year on HEART SMART Goals and Resolutions.
My best wishes to you – may 2012 be a year full of love, health, joy, peace, success and limitless possibilities!
Ok, I’m not done yet 🙂 So far on this site, I’ve held back from sharing my own reflections, so as not to taint any reader’s personal experience with the exercises given. I’m thinking of changing that, starting now.
Here’s my reflection about 2011:
What are you grateful for?
My wife, family, friends, clients, neighbors, love, opportunities, learning, travel, home, books, courage, growth, internet, music, spring and summer, … the list does go on but I’ll stop here.
How did you contribute to someone’s life?
As much as I feel I’ve contributed to someone’s life, they contributed to mine. I feel I gave love, hope, inspiration, tools, support, new ways of seeing, thinking and being, to more people than I ever have before.
How did someone contribute to your life?
Many people contributed to my life – family, friends, clients, neighbors, teachers, even strangers – each in their own way gave me an opportunity to be more of myself, to grow, to feel important.
Who was important in your life this year?
Everyone who contributed to my life and allowed me to contribute to theirs – interesting how this is working out and the trend I’m noticing, which brings me to the next point:
What lessons are you taking away?
People are the most important part of my life – connecting on a deep, real and soulful level with as many people as possible and making a meaningful difference in their lives brings me so much happiness and gratitude and makes me feel like my life is worth living. I’ve learned other lessons but at this moment, this seems to be the most important one for me.
What wins or breakthroughs did you accomplish?
- I grew my coaching business and got to work with a lot of wonderful people and make a difference in their lives.
- I worked hard to get certified as a professional coach.
- I was more authentic and real with more people in more situations.
- I came back from a few dips, more positive and lighter than before.
- I took time off from work, several times this year and that is an accomplishment for me as an entrepreneur.
- I let go of a few things that weren’t serving me (both material and intangible).
- I nurtured my most important relationships.
How do I want to remember 2011?
It was a year of growth, change, persistence, dedication, commitment, authenticity, connection, love, challenge, hope, discovery, new paths and possibilities, it was a year of living authentically and on purpose.
To whoever’s reading this, whenever you’re reading it, thank you for being a part of my life. I’m so very grateful.
I wish you all the best that life has to offer, the courage to dream, be yourself, and ultimately create the life you really want for yourself this year.
Happy New Year!