For many, the new year is a time when we can start over – a fresh change to accomplish our goals and be the people we want to be. With that in mind, it’s also helpful to reflect on the past year. Reflecting regularly on how you’re spending your time, what your goals are, and the way your life is going is a great way to help you align your actions and values.
Remember, even if some things didn’t go the way you wanted them to over the last year, reflection can help us explore patterns, unearth feelings we didn’t know we had, and strengthen our relationships with ourselves (and others).
How can you take some time this month to reflect on 2019? Here are some of our favorite ways.
Of course, there will be certain areas you won’t be proud of. And that’s okay. You can’t erase the mistakes you made or mull over what you think you should’ve done. But you can extract lessons from those highs and lows, in the name of becoming an even better version of yourself next year.
With that in mind, here are a few best practices you can to reflect on the year gone by.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Practices to Reflect on the Past Year
- 1.1 Take Note
- 1.2 What Was The Highpoint? What Was The Worst?
- 1.3 Look At Areas Where You Want To Improve On
- 1.4 What Are You Grateful For?
- 1.5 What Are The Goals You Have Achieved?
- 1.6 What Haven’t You Done This Year That You’d Like To Do Next Year?
- 1.7 Write. Just…Write.
- 1.8 Examine What You Have Written And Keep It Close to You
- 2 Why You Should Do End-Of-Year Reflections
- 3 Start Now.
Best Practices to Reflect on the Past Year
Writing things down is a powerful practice most of us undervalue. Ideally, you should use a good ol’ pen and a notebook for this entire self-evaluation exercise.
“Okay. But isn’t typing on my notes the same thing?”
Not really. Contrary to typing, writing longhand helps you recall information better. The movements and frills you create with a pen or pencil require your undivided attention. Think about it: if your attention shifts even for a second, you might end up scribbling nonsense.
When typing, we have corrective tools such as grammar checkers, so it’s a more automatic activity. That’s what makes writing a powerful mindfulness exercise longhand.
By writing down your end-of-year reflections, you can keep a record of experiences you’ll have access to forever. If you don’t lose your notebook!
What Was The Highpoint? What Was The Worst?
Can you pinpoint the best thing that has happened to you this year? What about the worst thing?
You don’t necessarily have to revisit or describe a traumatic event. That’s not what we want. Just take note of these moments so you can remember one thing: No matter what happened, you’re still here.
Whatever happens next year, these notes will work as a reminder of how strong you are – and how things get better, worse, and then better again. And again.
Look At Areas Where You Want To Improve On
This will vary from person to person. Some people will want to be better parents. Others will want to excel at their jobs. Others will want to start and stick to a self-care journey. It depends.
You don’t have to improve in all areas of life. You wouldn’t even have time for that. The purpose of a yearly self-reflection is to find your most important areas of improvement.
Here are a few areas to get you started:
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Personal growth
Think of yourself as an artwork in the making. Once you improve a spot, you can always move on to the next one.
What Are You Grateful For?
People who practice gratitude deal better with adversity, strengthen their relationships, and enjoy greater experiences. All because gratitude it’s associated with increased happiness.
This was pointed out in a 10-week study, in which groups who kept gratitude journals felt better about their lives, exercised more, and had fewer trips to the doctor.
This gratitude exercise can be as easy as jotting down a few bullet points. Next, ask yourself:
What am I grateful for?
Words and images will start popping into your head. Dog. Family. Friends. School. Someone’s name. Whatever you’re genuinely happy to have in your life…write it down.
What Are The Goals You Have Achieved?
Don’t be modest here. As small as it may have been, you’ve achieved something worth noting this year. Whether it was a promotion, going to therapy, starting a relationship, or conquering an illness, you did something great.
It’s easy to dwell on a cycle of “it wasn’t even that big of a deal.” But who were you the past year? And how does he or she compare to who you currently are? Your achievements along the way, the big and the small made you who you are today.
What Haven’t You Done This Year That You’d Like To Do Next Year?
Our routines are hectic. We don’t always get to do what we’d like to do.
Maybe you wish you’d gone hiking. Taken that course. Learned a new language. What haven’t you done that you wish you had? And what got in your way of accomplishing those things?
This isn’t about blaming yourself for not having done them. It’s simply about keeping them in mind. This section may be a reference you could revisit to draft next year’s plans.
Freewriting, stream-of-consciousness writing, or simply “brain dump” is a way to clear your mind. At the moment, your internal monologue may be saying many things. It never stops babbling. Just write what pops into your mind, as it comes.
The purpose of this exercise is to just write. Without worrying about what you’re writing and how you’re writing it. Just, quite literally, putting ideas to
paper. This might help you uncover specific worries, and motivations, and even spark up some ideas.
Because you could go on and on, set a timer for, say, 3 minutes. And just pour your heart out.
(Yes, your hand will hurt. But it’ll be worth it.)
Examine What You Have Written And Keep It Close to You
It can be easy to let your end-of-year reflection collect dust among a pile of unfinished notebooks. While you don’t have to keep it on your desk or your bedside table, keep it somewhere close. You’ll want to revisit your musings throughout the new year.
This way, you can marvel at everything you’ve accomplished but would have forgotten otherwise.
Why You Should Do End-Of-Year Reflections
Looking back on the past year allows you to improve your performance in the new year.
By reviewing the key points of your year and approaching them without judgment, you can make a conscious decision to change. For instance, instead
of brooding over the fact that you didn’t do your best at work, you can decide to question the “why” behind it. Otherwise, you’d just carry on with the same behaviors.
When done often, self-reflection can give you tools to deal with similar situations in the future.
For Your Partner
When you take enough time to look inward, you get better at understanding your feelings so you can communicate with your partner better. You know exactly why you got mad over those dirty dishes. It’s not because your partner didn’t wash them, but because you had an exhaustive day at work.
On realizing that, you may discover that many silly arguments you’ve started had more to do with how you were feeling at the moment.
This is a form of self-knowledge. It helps you communicate better, but also to understand someone else’s feelings better. Encouraging your partner to do the same will benefit your relationship from both sides.
For The People Around You
Again, it’s impossible to understand others when you don’t understand yourself. Two new studies suggest that being more self-aware (being in touch with your feelings) can make you a more empathetic person.
Higher self-awareness helps you improve your relationships. It helps you understand the root of your own emotions, and consequently why other people feel or react a certain way. As a result, you become more pleasant to be around.
Of course, that doesn’t mean people are allowed to bother you. With self-awareness comes an understanding of what you don’t like and the type of people you don’t want in your life. Use that knowledge to protect your energy and peace of mind.
Now that you know what to do, make your past-year reflection a priority. Get one of those unused or half-used notebooks you’ve got. Choose a distraction-free zone. And get to it! Give yourself the feedback you need to end this year with a bang.