I started doing this 9 years ago. I enjoy how the practice helps me hold onto the important memories. Being able to read through my reflections from the past 9 years brings it all back! This practice also gives me a chance to be honest about what I’ve struggled with and confront unhealthy patterns I want to change.
If you want to do this also, please refer to my Guide for Year End Reflections!
In no particular order, here are the top 10 things I want to remember for the good-feels they brought this year.
I used to write out 10 disappointments, which was challenging. It helped me dive into the smaller things that I regretted. But I really struggled to come up with a full 10. So I started focusing on the 5 biggest disappointments and what I could learn from them.
HE LOOKS SO BIG!
THIS WAS AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE.
To start with, I am super proud of the things I accomplished in 2021. It was a pretty big year in many ways. I challenged myself and took on some things that really stretched me. I recognized some of my self-sabotage patterns and was able to push through them and succeed on some things. I can see growth in my life and I can see healing happening. So I want to celebrate that.
Being honest, though, it has still been a really hard year. I’ve felt spread thin and exhausted. I made some progress in 2021 toward slowing down and doing less. But not enough. I still spent a lot of time and energy reacting to opportunities; taking them because I was worried I’d become irrelevant if I didn’t. I still lived under a sense that I have to be toiling and striving in the work I’m passionate about in order to be worthy and make my life count.
Many things I’ve said were “important” to me have kept getting pushed to the back. I don’t want to live my life saying “someday I’ll do that”. I don’t want to be reactive but proactive. I don’t want to resent doing for others because I did it at the expense of taking care of my own needs or interests.
My sense going into 2022 is that I’ll continue to let go of more self-imposed obligations. That I’ll learn to leave lots more room for cultivating joy and hope. For reading my books and taking better care of my body. My sense is that in 2022 I’ll be more selective and proactive about what I give my time and energy too.
PEACE OUT, 2021!
In 2012 I was blogging under the name “Running Hutch” (a nickname based off my maiden name) and I wrote a post about Year End Reflections. I’ve done this as a personal practice every year since! My original post included a graphic outlining the process for my year end reflections and it has been widely shared (and even copied/remade without attribution) since then. Flattering but frustrating.
As the former blogs I had posted the Year End Reflection guide on are now archived/gone (runninghutch.com, thoroughlythriving.com, and tiffanylavon.com), I figured it was time to update the guide and republish. So here it is!
I don’t often write things that resonate so far and wide. Regardless, it always matters that we give proper attribution to the writers and creators whose work we share or adapt, especially when we’re borrowing from women of color! It’s 2021, people. I’m not going to be shy about demanding acknowledgement for what I’ve created.
I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. I think we should have resolve to get after our goals regardless of what date it says on the calendar. However, I love the idea of spending the last few days of the year to really reflect on all that has transpired. It feels like a natural time to review things like:
Once I’ve done this, I know I can make more informed decisions about what I want to do in the upcoming year.
It’s fairly self-explanatory and you can make this what you want or need it to be. However, if you want a little bit more explanation or some of my “pro-tips”, read on.
Did you realize a goal you’d set for yourself? Have a favorite memory from time spent with loved ones? Go ahead and list 10 of your favorite things from the past year. Why 10? Because it forces you to go deeper than the obvious highs of your year and look for some hidden treasures.
PRO TIP: Take a minute to read through these and take in all the good feels. To borrow an idea I first heard from Milton Stewart of Kaizen Careers, take 11 seconds to soak in the feeling of this moment. Acknowledge the warmth of your top 10. Maybe share them with someone?
What did you do or not do that bothered you? Typically I try to focus more on behaviors and actions that I had control over instead of external disappointments caused by other people or circumstances. For example, did you fail to accomplish a goal you’d set for yourself? Do you regret how you handled a conflict with a friend or colleague? Do you feel like you betrayed the boundaries you set for yourself? These can require some brutal self-honesty.
What unexpected things came along that changed your priorities? Did you discover a passion for pilates? Find out you were allergic to something and needed to change your diet? It’s fair game to list things outside of your control, like a global pandemic maybe? Identify the top 3 things that forced you to pivot in big ways.
What are the 3 main areas in your life that you spent the majority of your time on this year? It could be struggling to manage anxiety or depression. It could be finishing a degree or keeping your business afloat.
PRO TIP: look back at your highlights. See any patterns there?
What are the 3 main areas of your life that you neglected the most? Self-care? A personal hobby? A key relationship? Maybe you’d really hoped this would be the year that you would do XYZ, but then it just didn’t pan out.
PRO TIP: Check your 5 disappointments and see if they reveal any bigger themes.
Read through your list and consider what you’ve learned. How you’ve grown. Where you still need growth. Maybe even take a day or two to let it all tumble around in your mind and settle in your soul.
When you’re ready, write out your reflection on the year. How have the events and actions of the past year brought you to where you are right now, mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, physically, etc? What do you think about it all?
Then, finish with considering how you want this reflection to inform your choices going forward. What really matters to you? What do you really want to spend your time and energy on? What changes are you ready to make?
Sometimes, in order to know where we need to go, we need to first look at where we’ve been.
I do hope this guide continues to travel and becomes a meaningful practice for others. I’m certainly amazed when I go back and read through the past 9 years worth of reflections I took the time to write! It’s inspiring and yet also super duper humbling. Haha.
So, please share this far and wide. If you write up your reflections to share on your blog or social media, please tag me! On Instagram, I’m @CoachHenness. On Facebook, my page is Calling In The Wilderness. I’m not really active on Twitter anymore but a link to this blog post is always appreciated!
Since 2012 I’ve gone through some specific reflections questions at the end of each year. I don’t set resolutions for the new year, but these reflections do help me recalculate and decide what I want to continue on with and what I don’t.
It was a year I merely wanted to survive. So I resisted any expectations for myself. Still, I did things I was proud of and took opportunities when I could. So I took a minute to list out significant things I did in 2020 before I went through my reflection questions. In a way, these could be considered my highlights.
Even if I had accomplished nothing other than the basics, that still would have been amazing to me. Because “the basics” with a baby, a toddler and a teen are challenging enough as it.
Yet 2020, brought additional challenges, like:
These could be considered my 5 disappointments. But they aren’t necessarily things I had control over.
I think the pandemic and racial justice uprisings go without saying. Also, having my adoptive parent tell me anti-Asian hate wasn’t a real issue and didn’t really effect me was a game changer.
Mental and emotional survival. Community work. Taking care of my family. That pretty much sums it up.
Typically I think of things I wanted to do but didn’t, which would include my own physical health and fitness. Again. But maybe I should also include things that were good for me to forget. For example, at the top of the year I quit my remaining volunteer roles as the church we’d been attending. I knew my work was going to be in the community but not through that particular church.
I could write a novel. We all could. But really, I’m ending 2020 with a sense that I don’t want to go back to the old normal. Not if that means being back into a fake community with people who aren’t willing to speak up against racial harm and violence or wear a mask to help prevent unnecessary deaths.
I look back at this year and I think it’s clear that I have way more trauma than I previously realized. I have a lot of inner work and healing to do. I need to prioritize that if I’m going to be a healthy parent to my kids and a helpful community leader.
So that is how I’m approaching 2021. With an increased commitment to deconstructing and reforming my faith, my identity, my community and relationships. I’ll continue therapy and working through better coping mechanisms.
All I can do is take what I’ve got and do my best with it.