Another year rolls to a close and for many, it's a time of reflection on the achievements and the failures of the year behind and deep contemplation on the road ahead in the new year.
I undergo this ritual every year, and sometimes, I wonder if there's any point to it. Does my annual reflection accomplish anything? Did the goals and vision I set at the end of last year materialize this year?
Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't.
But whether they do or they don't, the conclusion I've come to is that there's merit in this annual introspective ceremony.
Time to stop and think
These days, so many people are whizzing through life -- tumbling head over heels from one day to the next, one month to the next, watching one year blur into the next. We're so busy being busy. Taking some time to stop the madness is something very few people do.
Yet it is incredibly important. Those who practice meditation will tell you how taking just a few minutes each day to be alone in quietness helps to center and calm them and bring clarity to problems they are facing.
If you can't find time for daily meditation, an annual indulgence at the end or beginning of the year is as good a time as any.
When we're racing through life at breakneck speed, we do not take time to re-evaluate our lives, make plans, set goals and even put ourselves on a new path, which is sometimes exactly what we need to do.
Are you happy in your job?
Are you in a dead marriage?
Do you need a change?
Is it time to take a sabbatical and go off in to the wild blue yonder to travel and see the world?
In other words, do you need to change direction or reinvent yourself?
When you take time out to think -- really think -- it brings two things:
1. Clarity. Turning down the volume on the daily buzz and bringing serenity to your mind suddenly brings things sharply into focus. It's like a dirty glass that you couldn't see through; the dirt is cleared and the view through the window is immediately bright and sharp. Suddenly, you have the answer for that problem that's had you stumped for months. Suddenly, you know exactly what decision is required to move an issue forward.
2) Creativity. Stillness is very soothing to the soul. It also helps you tap into the left side of the brain which is where creativity lies.
- Find a quiet spot (no kids, no hubby, no radio or TV, no cellphone, iPad or any electronics).
- Take 15 minutes (or longer if you can) to sit or lay down quietly.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe deeply.
- Slow down your thoughts.
- Be as calm as you can be.
- Slowly start to let the problem enter your mind and just let whatever thoughts on the matter come into your mind. Don't try and control the thoughts, just let them come.
You may be surprised that all of a sudden, a thought pops into your head -- an alternative solution -- one you didn't think of before. Eureka! A solution to the problem is possibly at hand. Perhaps more than one solution has popped into your head!
Time out to reflect in a calm, quiet environment with no distractions allows our creative juices to flow. When you are rushing through life, your brain tends to become creatively stunted. It just becomes so much harder to think creatively when it comes to solving problems or finding another way around something. The brain needs 'down' time. Slowing down your body and focusing on your breathing brings more oxygen into the brain which causes it to light up with all sorts of bright ideas!
I have had many a moment when I felt so frustrated about something that in that moment of despair, I decide to quit the thinking and just lay myself down on my bed, close my eyes with the goal in mind of not thinking about it. Then something odd happens: In NOT thinking about it, suddenly, from out of some dark recess of my frazzled mind, comes an idea. My eyes snap open in that eureka moment!
As 2013 winds down take time to wind down body and mind. Rewind, reflect and refocus and tackle 2014 with renewed energy and clarity of mind.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.