In order to embrace the new, we must release the old. An important step in preparing for the new year is to review the past year, learn from it, and then release it. Self-reflection is a powerful process and often a missing piece in our life. We’re busy, tired, and looking for distraction through books, TV, or the Internet. The idea of spending an hour or two sitting quietly and reflecting on the past year may seem strange and even a bit uncomfortable. But in the waning hours of the year, we have a wonderful opportunity to evaluate our lives and consider what we wish to do with our future.
I challenge you to set aside a bit of time in the next week or two to actually think through this last year. Write out your thoughts and feelings. Do some journaling, meditation, or prayer. Reflect upon what you did, how you felt, what you liked, what you didn’t, and what you learned. Try to be as objective as possible. Here are a list of questions that may help with this process.
- What did I learn? (skills, knowledge, awareness, etc)
- What did I accomplish?
- What would I have done differently? Why?
- What were the most significant events of the past year? (list the top 3)
- What do I feel especially good about? What was my greatest contribution? What am I most proud of?
- What were the fun things I did this year?
- What was the most surprising thing that happened this year?
- What were my biggest challenges, roadblocks, or difficulties?
- How am I different this year than last?
- What am I particularly grateful for?
After completing the above exercise, make a list of all the things in your life that you’d like to let go of. Give thanks for what they brought you in terms of learning and usefulness and then burn the list. It’s a symbolic gesture to help you release the old and be open to the new. If you made any goals for this last year, pull out your list, and go back through it. How many did you accomplish? How many of those goals no longer serve you? How many were just plain unrealistic? If you did not accomplish as much as you had initially hoped, rather than be discouraged or beat yourself up, consider what may have gotten in the way. This will help you make more realistic goals for the next year.
If you’re anything like me you spend a lot of the year taking photos. The end of the year can also be a great time to go back through those photos. I like to do this with my kids so we can reflect on all that we did over the year and all the fun we had. It also helps us consider what activities we want to try to do more of in the coming year. Which then leads us to the next step of making a list of what you would like to bring into your life in the new year; experiences, knowledge, relationships, healing, etc.
Take Home Message
It’s easy to jump quickly into your hopes for the future. Yet without taking the time to properly reflect on the last year they are often empty resolutions. In an earlier post I discussed the importance of cultivating joy in you life. As you prepare for a new year and the ever-elusive “new you” I strongly encourage you to set your intention by first reviewing where you’ve been and then connecting with what brings you the most joy. From this place you can create goals and changes in your life that are meaningful, purposeful, and aligned with who you are and what you value.
(this article was first published on 12/27/16)