By Ilka Bezuidenhout

It is December and we are getting closer to the end of the year. In my practise I experience this as a time where my clients start reflecting on how they experienced their year, what made them happy, what meant something and what was significant for them. Furthermore, they start to explore what they want for themselves next year. They start to reflect, question and search for what will give and bring meaning and happiness in the year to come. Rumi, the poet said: ‘You are searching the world for treasure but the real treasure is yourself. If you are tempted by bread you will find only bread. What you seek for, you become’.

People are moving more and more towards making sure they are not going to live an unlived life but that they feel they are living what is important to them. To discover your happiness, you must first discover what pleases you, that place where your heart leaps for joy. The poet Goethe said ‘just trust yourself, then you will know how to live’. This is so true in one’s search for meaning and happiness. It is only you that will deep down know what journey you need to take to move closer to a life that will be filled with happiness and meaning.

On the one hand, it is important to have a vision and goals; on the other it is equally important to be happy in the moment and process.  It is important to appreciate just being alive and not just depend on attaining goals or fulfilling desires. We need to take a few seconds here, a moment there, to stop and appreciate the small joys and beauty in our lives…sunsets, walks in nature, good meals, friendships, music etc.

In this article the focus will be more on developing  your vision and goals. The exercises in the article will support the process and art on how to enjoy the moments in your life, how to appreciate the here and now and what experiences are actually pleasurable to you.

I will elaborate on three exercises that guide clients how to move closer to what is meaningful to them and will increase their feeling of happiness.

Exercise 1:
Visualisation helps to connect us with what is needed to increase our meaning and happiness.  Exercise one promotes how to visually reflect on different areas in one’s life: Health, Social, Marriage/Relationship, Family, Work, Financial, Spiritual/Religion, Hobbies and Future Dreams. This exercise focuses on short and long term planning and goals related to these areas.

Step 1:  Complete your Wheel of Life

Step 2: Express which area /s you are satisfied with and in which areas you want to grow and change.

Writing down your goals motivates you to stick to them. Initially approach the exercise by brainstorming. Without thinking too much about the detail and specifics, you spontaneously write what you want in each area of your life. For example, FINANCIAL area: security, calmness, growth or HEALTH area: getting fit, eating healthy, stop smoking, sport.

Step 3: Move from general to specific
It is important that you break your goals into manageable steps/tasks. For example, these steps  will bring you closer to financial security: set up a meeting with your broker, research various financial investments, paying off your debt.

Step 4: Identify which specific three things (not areas) you want to address first and highlight them.

For the next 3 months your goal is to reach these needs that you identified.  Numerous times I see although the focus initially is only on three things, other areas/needs change without focussing on them. It is important to re-visit your wheel of life regularly to be reminded of your needs and desires.  Clients find it helps to keep their personal wheel somewhere where they can see it regularly (in their diary, on the fridge). With this exercise you identify what brings meaning into your life, what makes your life worth living. As the philosopher Nietze said: ‘He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how’.

In our search for meaning and happiness the exercise motivates us to reflect and re-look on our year. Furthermore, we specifically identify in what areas we want to grow in 2013. 

Our next newsletter, to be released in January 2013, will discuss two more exercises that will support us in this process.