A Time to Press Reset

Jan 29, 2021

The beginning of a new year is always a powerful time to ask powerful questions. There are the usual ones, like “What does this new year have in store for me? And there are the better versions, like “Who do I want to be in 2021?” When you change the focus from what you cannot control to what you can, miracles happen.

I have a little end of the year ritual. I write on a piece of paper what I want to leave behind in the old year. Things that have happened, things that belong in the past. Events, people, situations, issues. Parts of me that are no longer me. Everything that needs to stay behind with the year that’s slowly fading away. And when the last day of the year turns into night, I write all this on a piece of paper and set it on fire. I thank the year that’s going for all that it has brought me and for all that it is now taking away. And then I let the energy of the new year come in.

And then, at midnight, a familiar question comes to visit me: “What will 2021 have in store for me?”. I let it come and I let it go and instead of trying to guess an answer I try to change the question.

A long time ago I used to think the key in life is to have all the answers. I don’t think that any longer. As far as I’m concerned, the key in life is to ask the right questions. Because when you ask the right question you open up to the right answer.

So, when a new year starts, I do my best to come up with better questions, like:

  • Who do I want to be in 2021?
  • How does this differ from who I was in 2020?
  • Which parts of me are no longer me?
  • Which parts of me that I have forgotten about are actually me?
  • What are the things that define me today?
  • Where do I want to put my focus and attention next? 

And more importantly:

  • What do I have to let go of in order to become who I’m meant to be in 2021?

Because, you see, you can’t find out what the new year will bring when you haven’t emptied the closed first. New things can only come when there’s space for them.

Living in a tiny downtown London flat for 10 years has taught me one very important lesson: Buying a new pair of shoes meant an old one needed to go. There was simply not enough closet space available. So, before every shopping trip, I had to ask myself some big questions: Am I ready to let go of something I already have? What’s the thing that needs to go? And only when I let go of one item, I went out and bought a new one.

Little did I know then that the purpose of my tiny flat was to teach me this invaluable life lesson. I took about 10 years to practice on shoes and clothes until I got the key takeaway: I could actually do this with my life!

Armed with this understanding, I now start my new years in a new way: sorting through the old me and deciding what stays and what needs to go.

So, I dedicated the month of January to pressing full reset.

I took one by one all the aspects of my life and took a good look at them. I kissed bye-bye my old Mac (whose keyboard supported the birth of four of my books and I loved it for this hard labour). I got a new MacBook Pro and what an upgrade this is (and I’m not paid by Apple to say this). I sorted through photos and emails, documents and folders. I went through my clothes and shoes and said goodbye to some of them too. I took a long hard look at the five websites I had and decided they were four too many. So now I have only one. Well, actually two, but one is for my business and every business deserves its own site.

And so my month long reset continued. I gathered the parts of me that are still me and let the others go. I dug up some long forgotten ones that all of a sudden demanded attention. I looked at everything, dusted everything, sorted through piles of everything and managed to let go of a lot more than I was emotionally prepared for.

When we grow up, we get used to see ourselves in the world in a certain way. I am this. I like this. I don’t like this. These things become almost set in stone. We believe that once we grow up and find out what we like and what we don’t, that’s it. Once we have a profession, a circle of friends, once we live in a certain neighbourhood and find some hobbies, these are the things that define us.

But how about if being alive means being able to change?

What if insisting to carry with us all the baggage of the past into the future means we commit ourselves to recreating the same past over and over again?

What if there’s a better way?

If you’re ready to explore these questions but don’t know where to start here’s a tip: start with your computer. Clean up the documents, pictures, files and folders. If nothing else, at least you it will give you a good practice in pressing delete.

Then move to your closet and let go of clothes and shoes you no longer want. Replace the things that no longer define you. Then move a step up, to the ideas you hold, the concepts you value, the labels you use to define yourself. Question everything, check everything. Don’t take anything for granted. Scrutinise your life and your possessions and look at everything with one big magnifying glass and one important question on your mind: is this still me?

And then give yourself permission to get a few negative answers.

What can you do when you find those things that are no longer you? You say goodbye and let them go into the past, where they belong. And then you pause, take a good look at the empty space that is left behind and know that you have done your part. It’s now up to the new year to fill the empty spaces.

Because in order to receive, you need to make the space available first. I learned that when living in my tiny little flat in London.

So, here’s my takeaway from the first month of this year: instead of waiting to see what 2021 has in store for you, focus on a different question:

Who are you now, as you step into 2021?

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