The great philosopher, Alan Watts once said:
“…tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present since it is in the present and only in the present that you live.”
The second half of the December, somehow naturally puts us in a reflective mood. Some questions appear that help us decipher how did the year go, and did we make the best out of it.
However, we rarely utilise this reflective mode, we just kind of ease into the year, and then the momentum kicks in, and before you know, it feels like we hibernated the entire year.
That is why, this year, you should invest a couple of hours to reflect, and look back at everything you have experienced, achieved and discovered during the last 12 months so that you can have a perfect closure.
These couple of hours just might turn out to be the most valuable hours for the year 2017, because you will have a perfect direction on what needs to be improved.
First, there some things you should have in mind, to be fully prepared.
Keep your schedule for these couple of hours clean. Finish everything for the day, including work, meetings, and try to detach from everything that happened that day.
Find a journal, a piece of paper or you can just use your phone, although I suggest that you turn off the phone and internet, so it does not disturb your focus.
You can stay at home, or go someplace quiet. In either way, have some food and drinks, get in your comfortable clothes, and relax.
Turn on some music, something that resonates with you, let it play in the background, and slowly start looking at the questions I have added below, think about them, and then write.
Write whatever comes to your mind.
Remember, this will help you build a perfect foundation for the next year.
General Reflection About The Year
“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” — Buddha
Before we go into specifics, let’s talk about your feeling for the entire year.
What are your thoughts about this year? What’s your current mood when you look back?
Even if you skip something, you can come back later and add it.
The final question in this point:
If you had to describe these previous 12 months, in a sentence, what would that sentence be?
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” — Maya Angelou
First, list down everything that you can remember, both positive, and negative.
There’s no need to keep it structured, but keep on writing.
Your subconscious mind has already processed most of them, but sometimes you have to verbalize it or put it down on a piece of paper before the internalization happens.
Ask yourself, what one event, big or small, is something that you will still talk about in 5 years?
Now pause, and reflect on how you feel currently.
What Was Awesome This Year?
“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.” – Zig Ziglar
In case you set goals at some point, this is the time to see which ones did you accomplish. For now, don’t focus on the things you did not.
What successes, accomplishments, wins, great news and compliments happened this year?
It can be anything from relationships, family, career, finances, health, or personal growth. Try to imagine each one of these in detail.
How did you feel?
Notice how thinking about them brings out the smile on your face (if it did not, this will).
The last question for this point is:
What single achievement are you most proud of? Moreover, why?
What Challenges Did You Face This Year
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” — Robert F. Kennedy
So, what wasn’t so great this year? What ideas, goals did you have that did not happen? Why?
What were the three or four biggest challenges you have faced, both in personal, and professional life?
Did something prevent you, or you used the “Excuse Card” too much?
This point is not as pleasant as the last one, but it is important to be aware of biggest challenges, and mistakes you have had this year.
Because it will help you get the big picture.
If you feel like skipping this, go ahead, but I strongly suggest you come back to it, and list down at least one specific thing.
At this point, not only that you should have realizations about things that went great, but also the ones that didn’t.
This is a gold mine. Which leads to a question:
What are the most important lessons you have learned in 2016? Not only that but how did you grow? How did it make you wiser?
Also, my personal favorite.
Which of your personal virtues, or qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
Pause, and think about people that played a significant role in this year. Don’t limit yourself to how much time you have spent with them, or how close they are.
Maybe you have had an amazing conversation with a stranger, which elevated your growth, or someone helped you when you needed it the most.
This point will let you understand, that even though today, social contact is reduced to a minimum, things like an authentic connection with a human being, have a power of making your entire year better.
As per usual, one question to close the point:
Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?
Once you have this in mind, your relationships with that person and any other in your life will drastically improve. Because you will be grateful, and, it will reflect in your relationship with them.
Most Common Mental State This Year
I know, it is like a rollercoaster.
You go up, and down. Sometimes several times a month.
And you feel beaten down. This is natural and will happen throughout the life.
Sylvester Stallone, in his role of Rocky Balboa, had an amazing speech:
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place, and I do not care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. However, it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That is how winning is done!”
That’s life I suppose.
However, try to focus on the mental states that were positive.
What was it? Excitement? Curiosity? Enthusiasm? What triggered them? When were you euphoric?
Try to think about little details, because this will help you anchor this moment, so whenever you are down, you can always get back to one of this life changing moments.
Me on 1st of January 2016 vs. Me Right Now
If you were to write a short biography about yourself right now, what would you say?
How would you describe yourself? What the best thing about you?
Think about that for a moment.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Viktor E. Frankl
How about one year ago? What are the main differences?
Sometimes it will be difficult to find something positive you think about yourself. Especially if you had a rough year.
However, I know that you can find at least one thing, that is better today.
It can be as simple as that you became a better friend or a listener. Alternatively, that you learned to dance salsa, play the ukulele, or learned three words of a new language.
Appreciate every single thing.
What are you grateful for?
Momentum kicks in, and it gets hard to keep track of the things that are important.
That is why every once in a while, you need to stop and remind yourself of everything that you are grateful for.
Since the year is going to end in a span of a couple of days, this is a perfect moment.
Just one question for this point:
What, or who, are you most grateful for?
At this point you will probably feel a bit overwhelmed, that is quite natural. Try to embrace the feeling.
This article was made so you discover what are the events that shaped you this year.
These things might be positive, which is great, I hope there’s more of those. Some will be negative, and you might feel a bit down, but just the fact that you are reading this, means that you are willing to expand your awareness, and do it better next year.
My final suggestion is that you do not go right away into setting New Year Resolutions, at least not yet.
First, for a couple of days think about these realizations so that they can be internalized.
“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” — Alan Watts (its only fitting that this article started with Alan, and ends with him)
Plus, in a couple of days, when it has settled, I will publish an article about how to set new year resolutions, with your new insights from the past year.
Like a sequel to a good story.