Welcome to the final newsletter for 2023.
As we hurtle towards the end of the year, there's a real risk we lose focus on what matters, or end up wishing the remaining weeks away and focus on 2024 - maybe with a fresh start?
This could be because 2023 wasn't everything you'd wanted. Or because you're keen to get started on a new project. Or you just want to put these holidays behind you and return to some semblance of routine!
Combine this with lots of messaging about 'making 2024 your best year ever' and 'crushing your goals', it can all feel a bit overwhelming and demanding. My contribution to the narrative is a simple one: 2024 could be your year of less.
🎯 A year of less?
Goal-setting is a relatively straightforward exercise. It's the work to move towards goal attainment that frequently gets left out of the picture. And because goal-setting is easy, we can be tempted to set lots of goals - some might be authentic, some might be the result of social pressure. On paper, it looks fine, but when the reality of January 1st swings round, we wonder what we signed up for.
Instead of adding things to life: goals, responsibilities, hobbies and other activities - why not explore what you can remove to make your life simpler and more intentional. Perhaps you've got some memberships you can cancel, or commitments you can step away from. You may have work tasks that you can delegate.
Maybe 'less' can be the pursuit of a single, really important goal. And only picking up another goal once the first is achieved. A year of less could be about dropping some unhelpful habits or removing some distractions from your environment.
The bottom line is this: with so many people feeling overwhelmed by workload, responsibilities and the pace of contemporary life, do we really need to add more targets and objectives to our lives?
If this inspires you to make some small changes in your life in 2024, read on to learn about the power of reflection to bring some clarity to your plans.
✏️ Looking back to move forward
The future-oriented focus of goal-setting often means we neglect the value of reflecting on past experience. We can stroll into the new year with unhelpful levels of optimism and a firm belief that we'll somehow acquire all the self-control, motivation and proactivity required to make some changes.
Taking a look back at the year gone by can help you really clarify how you'd like the year ahead to be different. And to learn from your experience, tempering your expectations and making plans that are far more likely to be realised.
Granted this is going to be more difficult if you've not been reflecting and reviewing along the way, but that's not a reason to avoid it completely. You might find the following reflective questions useful to frame your exploration of the year gone by, and I also go into some detail on each in the latest episode of the podcast.
What has gone well for you this year? What are the 'wins' and the successes? What helped you achieve them? How could you replicate this in the year ahead?
What didn't go so well? What were the root causes of these difficulties and setbacks? What lessons can you take from these experiences?
How did you bring your values to life? Both in the everyday and in the major decisions you had to make. If this question is particularly challenging to answer, it's the perfect time to pause and bring some clarity to your personal values.
What did you learn about yourself this year? What strengths, capabilities and development needs became obvious? What did you learn about the world around you? How might these combine to help you adjust your expectations of yourself and others?
As a result of all of this, what kind of changes would you like to make in 2024? This could be a specific goal you'd like to achieve, but it could also be as simple as cultivating a single, healthy habit. As I've indicated above, it could be about stripping out complexity and bringing more simplicity to your life.
This kind of reflection can help you shape a plan for the year ahead that's rooted in reality and based on your authentic needs.
🎥 What do I actually do for a living?
I regularly get questions about what I actually do at work. I think that working as a psychologist peaks others' interest, but discussing the reality of my working life often highlights common myths and misunderstandings.
So with this in mind, I've started a new Vlog series on my YouTube channel where I plan to answer these frequently asked questions and give an insight into the reality of life as a practitioner psychologist. You can find the first episode here, where I share how I had to take my own advice about rest and recuperation after returning from Japan with a nasty bout of Covid!
If there's something you've aways wanted to ask a psychologist (or even me in particular) you can add a comment to the above video and I'll answer it in a subsequent episode.
🎉 A podcasting milestone
Yesterday saw the publication of the 150th episode of My Pocket Psych. Started with a very tentative and uncertain tone back in 2017, (it makes my skin crawl to listen to it now!) I'm quite amazed (and a little proud) that we've made it this far.
Podcasting is one of the things that I really enjoy at work. It gives me an opportunity to communicate the science of psychology to a really wide audience - one that's been steadily growing over the years. But it also allows me to interview some really interesting practitioners and academics.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has appeared as a guest, everyone who tunes in to each episode, and of course my co-host Pilar Orti. Pilar keeps me on my toes when it comes to organising the podcast and minimising too much technical terminology. While Ross Winter polishes our recordings so they're a little easier on your ear.
And a huge thank you to all the listeners who keep coming back for more each episode. We definitely wouldn’t have reached this milestone if nobody was listening.
You can find My Pocket Psych wherever you get your podcasts or direct from worklifepsych.com/podcast.
📆 A date for your diary
If our recent podcast focus on coaching has peaked your interest in the psychology of coaching, you may be interested in an event I'm speaking at next year. The University of Chichester has organised a Coaching Psychology Symposium on April 26th, 2024. You can find out all about the schedule and book a place via this link.
I'm going to be speaking about the role of overcoming psychological discomfort in a range of coaching contexts. It sits at the heart of what stops us from making changes and results in unhelpful avoidant approaches like procrastination.
If you can join us on the day, I'm quite sure we'll be discussing the event on the podcast at some point in the future. But if you do decide to come along, please say hi!
🎄 Best wishes for the holidays
Whatever holiday(s) you celebrate at this time of year, I hope you enjoy some time away from the usual routine, have the space and time to relax and disengage from work, and can approach the new year feeling rested and ready for whatever it's going to bring.
Thanks for reading!