Learning to Reflect

I have previously written about celebrating daily progress and the value of everyday reflection. We are so caught up in the doing of things most of the time that we hardly find the space to think about what we should be doing. The year’s end is as good a time as any to reflect on the time that has gone by and what’s to come in the near future. It involves taking a step back and asking questions about how far we have come and where we are headed. Without it, we would simply be reacting instead of living, let alone thriving. There are two parts to reflection: we start with reviewing the past year and we move on to planning for the following year.

Let’s talk about reviewing the past year and reviewing the goals you set at the end of last year. Were you able to accomplish them? What challenges came up along the way? Did you overcome them? What did you learn? Hold onto these thoughts for now as we’ll touch on it when setting goals for the following year.

The next step is to review your accomplishments from this year. I wrote briefly about tagging entries in my journal each week and month to create a list of things accomplished during those time frames. I review the weekly entries at the end of the month (to create a monthly entry), and the monthly entries at the end of the year. Then, I’ll parse out the list in three categories — self, work, and relationships.

Apart from things accomplished, you could create a notable list of things in those categories. It could be an important initiative you embarked upon, reaching a significant milestone in a project, or an insight you gained that changed the way you thought about things.

Think about any new habits you formed, books you read that influenced you, music you listened to that touched you deeply, and movies you watched that greatly affected you.

Reflect on what went well, think about your challenges, what you learned, and what you could do better next time. Ask yourself what advice you would give yourself if you could go back in time and impart knowledge that you’ve gained over time.

You could ask questions like:

  • Did you devote enough time to your family?
  • Did you learn enough new things?
  • Did you develop new friendships and deepen old ones?
  • Do the people you care about love you back?

Finally, wrap the review process with gratitude. Any reflection process is incomplete without gratitude. What were you most grateful for this year? Think about the various ways you get to help others make an impact, the experiences you had, and the relationships that added to the quality of your life. Remember to ask yourself why you were grateful for those things.

Once you are done with the review, ask yourself what you would like to be true for yourself next year in those three areas of your life. Where would you like to be? That starts with reminding yourself of your higher purpose (your Why), and then defining your vision. Set some goals to realize that vision, and then (finally) put systems in place to reach those goals.

For instance, one of my goals is to create a 3-month creative writing buffer. I want to do that because I don’t have to keep thinking about what I am going to publish the following week or month. That’s going to happen by me showing up every day to write for a couple of hours to produce two drafts every week; one would be published on the weblog, while the other would build towards the buffer. It will take me around three months of consistent work to create that. Of course, I know this from experience. In essence, it boils down to doing the work every day, while the outcome will take care of itself in due time.

Unless we take a step back and reflect on our lives, we can’t hope to improve it. The busier we get, the more space we need to pause and think about where we are headed. As a philosopher has rightly said, an unexamined life isn’t worth living.

If you liked this piece, subscribe to the Weekly Newsflash to read my latest writing. Topics include mental health, simple living, and true success: