Design Your Dream 2019

2019. The joyous, hectic whirlwind of the holiday spirit is behind us, and we have a fresh chance, a new opportunity to create the year that we want.

It can be confusing knowinghow to get off on the right foot when a new year begins though. It’s a bit like sitting down to start writing an essay and getting hit with a profound wave of writer’s block. Which resolution should you focus on? What area of your life should you choose to improve?

There’s so much noise at the beginning of the year from companies rushing to tell us what we should do: gyms send us flyers in the mail, groceries discount vitamins and supplements, financial gurus tell us to get out of debt.

Today, I want to help you cut through that white noise and create an intentional plan for 2019 that you personally care about and makes you excited for the new year.

First, we will reflect on 2018. Next, I’ll share with you a few activities that can help you gain closure from 2018. Finally, I’ll give you a worksheet to help you design your dream 2019!

Reflect on 2018

Before making any resolutions, it’s a good idea to take stock of your 2018. What people, places, and experiences brought you the most joy? What people, places, and experiences brought you the least joy? Inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, muchelleb, I created a worksheet to help you with this activity: the 2018 Lookback.

When reviewing your year, muchelleb recommends looking through your calendar and social media feeds to remember what brought you the most – and least – joy. I also think good places to look are your journals, notebooks, and any emails starred in your inbox. Start at January and work your way forwards chronologically through December.

Working through the 2018 Lookback exercise will take about an hour, so get comfortable. Play some music in the background or do it while eating your favorite snack. Try not to judge yourself when you write down what brought you the least amount of joy in 2018.  Think of yourself as a scientist observing your past self. Release yourself of any negative emotions.

Gain closure from 2018

When you complete your 2018 Lookback, there may be some low points in the year that are repetitive – for example, people who consistently brought you the least amount of joy.

Something that I learned from Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, was this: The people who hurt you in the past – exes, past bosses, former friends – are not going to give you closure. You have to give yourself closure. Gaining closure is deciding that you are going to leave your past in the past – not bring it into the future.

I am not a therapist. However, I can share three activities that have been very helpful for me to gain closure. They may help you as well, although they are not a replacement for a licensed therapist, should you need one.

Getting Satisfaction

The first exercise is one that Cabane calls Getting Satisfaction.

First, write a letter – by hand – to someone you want to gain closure from. Write every single thing that you’d like to say to this person. What do you think they need to hear? You are not going to give them this letter. This is for your eyes only.

Next, get a clean sheet of paper. Write exactly the response that you would want to receive from thatperson: their acknowledgement of hurting you and their apology. You could even throw in a little groveling on their behalf if you like 😉 – it is your imagination after all! You choose exactly what you want to hear from that person.

This activity may feel super awkward, but push past your comfort zone. You may feel relief right away, or gradually, over a couple of days. I usually feel happy the next day, if not right after writing this letter. Rereading the letter helps too.

Heal Your Relationships

The second activity is to Heal Your Relationships. This exercise is from the book The Magic by Rhonda Byrne. Maybe you don’t have time to write two letters. Maybe you don’t want to. This activity is an alternative. It encompasses the practice of forgiveness.

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.


Byrne advises to first “choose one difficult, problematic, or broken relationship that you want to improve.” This can be a current relationship or one with someone who’s nolonger in your life.

Here comes the radical part.

You’re going to write a list of ten things you’re grateful for about that person.

Here’s an example from the book: “Paul, I’m grateful for our time together. While our marriage did end, I learned a lot, I am so much wiser today, and I use what I learned from our marriage in many of my relationships today.”

The formula is “____, I am grateful for ____.”

It’s not about who was right or wrong, or whether that person is good or bad. It’s about healing from that relationship and moving on – which you can do without the other person. You don’t want to harbor any resentment or ill will towards that person, because in the end those bad feelings will only poison you.

Rewriting Reality

The final activity you can do to gain closure from a situation or experience is the Rewriting Reality exercise from Cabane.

Imagine that what you originally interpreted as a “bad” outcome is actually a good thing. Maybe you got into credit card debt in 2018.

Then, ask yourself: what if this credit card debt is a good thing? Repeat the question a few times, and watch the creative answers that your mind comes up with. Some responses might be:

  • This credit card debt will make me a more responsible person: I will learn how to budget my finances more efficiently so I can pay it off quickly.

  • This credit card debt will motivate me to work harder at my job so I can get a promotion and pay increase.

  • I finally have the push I need to start the side business that I’ve fantasized about for years.

  • Starting a new side business will give me the money I need to pay off my credit card debt and student loans.

You want to retrain your mind; to stop it from spiraling into a cycle of negativity and instead seek out the positive opportunities in your current experience.

These activities may take 30 minutes to an hour.

Design Your Dream 2019

Now for the fun part. You’ve cataloged what brought you the most and least joy in 2018. You’ve shaken off any of the ties holding you back to 2018 and gained closure. Now it’s time to design your dream 2019!

Take a look at the people, places, and experiences that brought you the most joy in 2018. And plan to do more of it in 2019!

Photography by Kim Wheeler

I created the Design Your 2019 worksheet for you. Write down one thing that you can do to bring yourself joy each month. You can write more than one thing, but keep it to a manageable number so it’s not overwhelming.

Focus on the “what.” What will make me happy this month? Maybe it’s taking your baby cousin to the playground in January, writing a love letter in February, and going to a concert in March. Use your 2018 list for inspiration. Have fun with it and take as long as you need! When you’re done, choose specific dates in your calendar to schedule doing each of the things you wrote about in the worksheet.

It will take some time, retrospection, and intentional strategizing, but you can design a 2019 that excites you and brings you happiness. Let me know how the planning goes in the comments below!

What are the things that brought you happiness in 2018? What do you want to do more of in 2019?

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