Out with the old

By on January 2, 2013
Japanese year-end traditions are one of the many things about Japan that have continued to play a big part in my life and work since I returned to Canada more than a decade ago. I don’t eat the traditional foods, and I prefer to save my major floor cleaning and waxing for spring  when I can leave the windows open to air things out, but I do observe two Japanese traditions – osoji (year end cleaning) and bonenkai (forget the year celebration) – in other ways at home and at work.

As osoji is about purifying yourself and preparing to enter the new year literally “free and clean”, I like to concentrate on cleaning out both the physical and mental clutter that has claimed my energy throughout the year. At home this means a good purging of the clothing in my drawers and closets, being as brutal as I can about letting go of any items that have seldom seen the light of day in the past year.

I also use this time to take stock of my personal relationships, look at which ones need to be mended, and determine if any need to be let go. While this may sound a bit harsh, after decades of practicing this habit I can honestly say that all of my personal relationships are well worth keeping. (This is not to say that they are without their challenges – simply that they all contribute significantly to my happiness, growth, success and overall wellbeing.) My simple rule for determining which relationships are worth keeping, nurturing and mending is whether that relationship gives more to me than it takes. This may not be obvious to outside observers as it may often appear that I am the one doing the majority of the giving. In these cases, however, I am usually gaining in less visible ways such as the joy and energy it gives me to be of service to others in ways that use my strengths and align with my purpose.

At work we apply this tradition to both ourselves and our clients. Our annual strategic planning process begins in October with taking stock of the previous year, reviewing progress and re-ordering priorities based on what we want to be sure to complete in the final quarter. While we like to be done most of our own key projects by mid-November so we can focus on the influx of clients that need help with their strategic plans, December still brings a strong drive to finish off any last things dragging on our own lists. Our lists of projects that need completion is often longer than our time will allow, so we use the following questions to decide which to complete, which to roll over into the coming year, and which to delete altogether:

How long has this project/task been on our plate? How close is it to completion? How badly do I want to NOT put it on my strategic plan or to-do list next year (or ever again!)?

What is the potential positive impact its completion will have on me, my team, the business, or our client? (How much time/ energy/resources will its completion free up? What will completing this allow us to move forward on?) What are the potential consequences if we just let it go? (i.e. What would happen if we decided to never complete it and deleted it altogether?

A great example of this is the filing cabinets of paper files I keep for research when developing training sessions on various topics that were slotted to be scanned by our assistant in our drive to take our office paperless. When I realized that I had not looked at 75% of the contents of those cabinets in several years, and that all of that information and more was more readily available on the internet I realized this one needed to be let go. I have now slotted one hour for me to go through and pull out anything that is still useful instead of several days of my assistant’s time to scan and tag it all.

To celebrate all of our accomplishments and say goodbye to the troubles and challenges of the past year, we have started our own bonenkai tradition. As my partner and I are not big drinkers, rather than drowning our memories in chu-hais and beer, we bathe and massage them away with a relaxing day at the spa.

No point ruining all that purity with a wicked hangover!

Andrea Jacques, founder of Kyosei Consulting International, has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of individuals and organizations worldwide. Five of these years were spent in Japan where the core philosophies of her work on the relationship between passion, performance and profits took shape.  A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates leading eastern and western thought with top-tier leadership, engagement, wellness and sustainability consulting to build the capacity of people and business to thrive. Her clients represent a diverse cross-section of industries including banking, retail, government, insurance, academia and high-tech. She can be contacted through her website at www.kyoseicoaching.com

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work helps individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. Learn about career and entrepreneur coaching programs (and download some free tools for meaningful work and living your purpose) at www.kyoseicoaching.com or their workplace transformation programs at www.kyoseiconsulting.com