You are not on this planet to fix or be fixed. Your time here is not limited to finding ways to be better or the best. There is no need to start every new day, week, or year with a list of ways that you will be wholly different from the person you are now. That said, The Winter Solstice and the start of a new calendar year in January can usher in an urge to reflect and to plan. So, by all means, reflect and plan, and make sure you do so with love for yourself.
1. Don’t disregard what has happened
You are likely tired of being reminded that this was a difficult year following another difficult year. This is not another reminder that things have been communally, humanly, and personally difficult throughout this year. Instead, it is a prompt to think about the time that has passed and the time that will soon come to pass within the context of everything else going on. If you decide to spend some time reflecting, remember what this year asked of you.
2. Take dedicated time to reflect
If you feel pulled toward end of year reflection, dedicate some time and comfort to the process. Your reflection will likely be more meaningful, whole, and fruitful if it is uninterrupted. Some scheduled time to look back and forward will ensure that you take a more holistic look, and don’t dwell only on could-have-beens and should-have-beens. If you are a writer, write it out. If you are a talker, record a voice memo. If you are a silent thinker, take a long walk. You know yourself well, so reflect in a way that feels meaningful and honest.
3. Avoid shame and blame
Reflections to end and start the year can be overwhelming if you start running metrics on yourself. As much as you can, try to avoid shaming yourself for goals you have not met or blaming yourself for falling short of plans you made. When you are grounded in the context of the year and of knowing who you are and what you had on your plate, you can be more forgiving of yourself. Don’t keep score against you. Try, rather, adding up the ways you grew and the strides you made in the direction you want to be moving in the year(s) ahead. If you have to do math, do that math in favor of your progress. So much of what you wanted for yourself this year likely had elements that were beyond your control. Remember that as you look back, and as you make plans for the year to come.
4. Be honest without being harsh
You will know whether or not you are being honest with yourself in this process, so you might as well be truthful with #1. If you want to grow from the year, honesty is important. Alas, prioritize being lovingly honest without being overly harsh. There are likely things about this year that you wish had been different. It is important to admit that without berating yourself for how the year unfolded. Being brutally honest is usually an excuse to be unnecessarily mean. No need for a brutal reflection in order for it to be a complete and clear look at the year.
5. Identify framing questions
If you are reading this newsletter, you can open a new tab and find lists and lists and lists of reflection questions. I urge you to make a list of 10-15 questions that resonate with you. Search the experts you admire and the accounts that resonate with you for questions that will be meaningful. It could be We’re Not Really Strangers, Esther Perel, The Atlantic, Passion Planner, or any other combination. Just make sure that what you are answering feels tailored to you. Don’t answer for the sake of answering. If someone’s content stresses you out, their questions probably aren’t for you. Be honest with yourself as you choose how you want to explore yourself as the year comes to an end and to a new beginning.
6. Allow yourself to be excited about what you see ahead
It might feel ignorant or indulgent to be excited for the months ahead. We have been looking forward for so many months while being continually blindsided by changes and societal setbacks. If the Build Back Better Plan keeps being sabotaged, it might feel like your personal self-building and world-building will also be sabotaged. Alas, let yourself feel hope where you can find it. You can be excited about what is in store for you. It is safe to do so in ways that feel safe to you. It might get sidetracked and upended by forces beyond your control, alas, but it is still yours and you can look forward to it.
7. Don’t make it all about you
If you are tired of working on yourself and thinking about yourself, remember to open this reflection up to the community that you love. Think about what you want for both yourself and for those around you. How can you spend more time in the community this year? How can you support your people? How can your people support you?