Looking back, looking ahead: Reflecting on the New Year
Whatever your profession or family situation, this time of year can slip into a mindless flurry of activity: from budget revisions to year-end sales quotas, vacation planning to holiday entertaining, student performances to final exams, or just dodging the frantic pressure to be jolly.
In the midst of all this, I invite you to give yourself the gift of a quiet hour or two to reflect on the past year, savor some quiet moments, and give shape to the year ahead. Get out your favorite pen or your trusty laptop, and find a peaceful spot. Pull a chair over to the window, hike to a scenic perch, or climb under the covers. Take some time to ponder, to celebrate, acknowledge, reflect, and imagine. The following questions are a point of departure. See where they lead you, and enjoy the ride.
Looking back on the past year, what would you like to celebrate, professionally and personally? What makes you feel most proud? In what ways have you grown, become stronger, and deepened your understanding? When did you act with vision, with courage, or with kindness? What were some of your extraordinary moments, and what made them so powerful?
What disappointments did you experience this year? In what ways did you fall short of your own expectations or commitments? What can you file away under Lessons Learned? Is there anything that you want to say—to yourself or someone else—that would help to put the year to rest? (An apology? An expression of forgiveness? A thank you?)
In what ways have you changed this year, through your successes and disappointments? How do you feel about your life and your work? What serves you well? What gets in your way? What do you want to carry forward, and what do you want to leave behind?
As you envision the year ahead unfolding, what sparks your imagination? What lights you on fire? As you picture the most engaging and satisfying year possible, what challenges do you want to embrace? What do you want to experience? How do you want to feel? What do you want to create for yourself and for those around you?
If you were to distill all of that into a theme for the year—a word or two—what would it be?
What else? That’s up to you. Nap. Stretch. Lose yourself in a good book. Sketch. Find a rockin’ new theme song and clean out old files. Ponder. Make plans. Mull. Leap into action. Do nothing. Give yourself whatever permission you need to celebrate the successes of the year, and gently release its disappointments. And begin to look ahead, in anticipation of an extraordinary new year.
Extra credit. Figure out a year-end/new-year ritual for yourself that creates a sense of closure and new possibilities. (It doesn’t have to be on January 1st. It could be earlier or later – this is your ritual!) Maybe it’s a winter barbecue on the beach with friends, where you can toss your list of disappointments into the flames. Perhaps it’s the act of sealing up your intentions for the year into a tiny envelope and tucking it someplace safe. Maybe it’s spending a few hours organizing your work space to create a clean slate for the coming year. Light-hearted or solemn, dorky or serious, on your own or surrounded by beloved pals, do what works for you.
YOUR TURN: What do you do to mark the start of a new year? And what do you want the next year to be about?