Hello and welcome to the final week of my Advent Calendar of Change; 12 bite-sized exercises from my new book Swim Jump Fly: A Guide to Changing Your Life. As we’re at the end of 2022 I’ll finish with stories about the year ahead.
The end of the year can be a time full of contrasts — busyness and quiet, joy and sadness, satiation and longing, and, if you live in the northern hemisphere, the longest of nights and the shortest of days.
Other animals hibernate through the cold and the dark, but we keep going with electric light and oversized portions of sugar and carbohydrate. Great news then (for those in the north) that the shortest day of the year has now passed. From the 21st of December we’ll experience a few more minutes of light every day, all the way up to the longest day of the year, the 21st of June.
Despite travelling towards the light, we might have narratives that are inky black right now. Voices in our heads that are set on a gloom-loop. So, if you’re thinking about the year ahead and your narrative is a negative or anxious one, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
When I was writing my book Swim Jump Fly, I spoke to a number of coaching colleagues about how our stories can hold their clients back. One coach shared this about a client, someone who often felt stuck due to narratives in their head. The coach called these Postcards of Future Unhappiness — the way her client predicted that the future wouldn’t be very good, often without much evidence to back it up.
The client would say this about the future: “What if I get there and don’t like it? What’s the point? I’ve never been happy when I get what I want.” This is what the coach said to me: “My client has what I’d call ‘anticipatory dissatisfaction’” - predicting future unhappiness like a fortune cookie.
Perhaps this is how you feel about 2023? Like unwrapping a negative fortune cookie. The last few years have been extremely challenging and next year could be just the same. Alternatively, we can remind ourselves that past performance doesn’t always predict future performance. We could create a postcard of future happiness.