As the year winds to an end, many of you are beginning to think about the new year. Maybe you will set resolutions for yourself, or a list of goals you want to achieve. Perhaps you are going to choose a word that will guide you as you move through the year.
Before you embark on these very worthwhile activities, it is good to take a look back at the year that is ending. It will take you at least an entire afternoon, or several days if you can find the time, to really dig into the big picture of the year. You will want plenty of room to spread out and get messy. Get your favorite hot and/or cold beverages ready. Perhaps a snack (or maybe you would like an indulgence) to keep you going as you do this hard but meaningful work. Make sure you have plenty of paper, pens, markers, your planner, your phone, and anything else you need that will give you a good overview of your year.
Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
It is easy to look back on a year, especially a challenging one, and see only the hard. You might even talk about it that way. “This has been such a hard year” or “What a train wreck this year has been. I can’t wait for it to be over.” When we have been faced with difficulties, such as job loss, illness, death, or other hardships, they can overshadow the good that happens in the year.
This is why a year end review is so important. It allows you to have a look at the entire year, the good and the bad, so that you can take what you have learned from your experiences and move forward.
A good place to begin is with a quick scroll through your photos. Unlike the negative experiences which we hold in our minds, our cameras are generally used to capture the good: fun times, family events, vacations, silly moments, etc. Take a few minutes and revisit those memories. While you are scrolling, jot down some notes: What activities did you enjoy the most this year? Who did you enjoy spending your time with? Did you volunteer your time to serve others? Which of those activities did you find the most fulfilling?
Then, make a list of what went well this year. It’s always better to start with the good. Did you make any goals at the start of the year? Did you achieve them? Did you have any personal accomplishments? How about job or educational successes? What about your relationships? Did you have areas of growth in relationships with your family or friends? Did you begin any new hobbies or habits that nurtured you this year? Think about how you feel about them, honestly, because sometimes hobbies or habits can be done with good intentions, but don’t end up belonging in the plus column.
Now, think about the challenges this year brought. Write them all down. Family challenges. Financial challenges. Relationships (romantic, family, and friends) challenges. Job challenges. Personal challenges. Health challenges. Whatever you felt like you struggled with. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Now do some reflecting. What did you learn from the challenges that will help you as you move into 2017? Where were your priorities during the year? Do you need to change them moving forward? How did you spend your time? What were things you spent time on that you would like to continue with moving forward? What are things you wasted time on that you would like to purge? How about your finances? Ask yourself the same questions in regards to how you spent your time.
Finally, what do you need to let go of before moving into the new year? This question can be interpreted in many ways and may require a lot of thought.
Try not to rush through the reflection process, but keep in mind what Walt Disney said, “Around here we don’t look backwards for very long… we keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things.”
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