It is hard not to notice any year coming to an end. Yet the finale of 2020 brings a wide range of emotions to people, unlike other years I have been around for. Its' finale is highly anticipated, as many expect a ceremonious "send-off" to the seemingly "worst year ever", yet this time with very muted expectations for the next year, as to not jinx it like we did 2020. Some swear 2020 has been a blessing, yet some have written it off and keep their fingers crossed for 2021.
Personally, I can relate to both, this year has brought me grief, yet it has also brought me the most perspective I have ever had. Regardless, just as each year, I love to traditionally sign a year off with a proper reflection, which will be followed by drawing out my intentions for the next year (but more on that in another post "Intention and Vision Setting" coming soon!).
Reflection is the number one practice for improved growth, learning, gratitude and happiness. For my reflection I always use my Six-Month Calendar (tool I've used for 4 years ever since I designed it) as this is where I get to draw the most objective overview over my time, as it has everything I need in one place. (You can use your Six-Month Calendar, your planner, online calendar or your phone for your reflections. I, personally, like to keep it simple.)
I take it off my poster holder, review any blanks that have been left empty (sometimes filling in the ones I deem necessary), and then I simply go over my entries, which I do with the assistance of a soft-colour highlighter (because highlights also need to be aesthetically pleasing😉).
There are always a couple of things I tend to discover and get surprised about, as memories from July (when the Six-Month Calendar period begins) always seem to be much closer, yet the distance becomes clear as it gets coloured by everything that has happened in between. Since I also reflect in the summertime, I normally only reflect about the last half-year, yet this year has been an exception, and I took both of my them out for a proper insight.
After glancing over my calendar, I like to use journaling prompts to expand on in more detail about my learnings. These prompts help me to be more grateful over what I've accomplished, learn about my progress, adjust my direction and see what I can improve in the next year / align better for my long term (10 year or so) goals. I don't always expand my answers to each of these questions down, instead I make sure to note how I feel about each question, as it helps me see in which direction my mind leans. I sometimes ask myself more questions, if the occasion calls for them to expand more. Read the main journal prompts for a proper reflection below.
Journal Prompts for Reflection
What was my priority / goal in this last half-year? How did it go?
Did I go on any trips? Concerts? Dinners? Was I good at balancing them, or did I do it too much / not enough at times?
Did something unpredictable happen (both positive or negative)? How did I adjust, what kind of impact did it have on what I had envisioned?
How did I balance and take care of my mental and physical health? Can I improve on my approach?
What things am I surprised about / forgot that they had happened? How does that make me feel?
What did I avoid doing? What did I keep on putting off?
In which activities I indulged with ease?
What developments have I been very happy about? What milestones are those and how do I feel about them?
Which things did I manage to accomplish, even though I struggled / didn't believe I could?
What boundaries have I practiced? Which I wish I practiced more?
Which were the times when I needed support? Who supported me when I needed it? How do I feel about it? (Who did you get to support? What can you learn from that?)
What habits did I practice? Which habits I wish I practiced more / less?
Who did I see often? How do you feel about it? / Who do I wish to see more often in the future? How can I see those who I'd like to see more, more often?
When do I remember being depleted, drained? What was it that depleted my energy?
When do I remember being happy / content? What made me feel that way?
Which things I wish I did more? Which things I wish I did less? - A good rephrase of these questions that sometimes bring improved answers is - What should I let go of? What would I like to invite instead?
I make sure to always see these reflections as an honest and deeply understanding conversation with myself. I am well-practiced in refraining from judgement (but believe me, I'm still an expert at it, if I don't keep my eyes wide open!). If you tend to struggle with judging thoughts towards yourself, fend them off by being grateful about the present moment, and reminding yourself that we will soon be able to draw a new six-month long chapter, where we can take back the control you felt you didn't have.
The Practical Questions
Finally, I like to close off with some questions of practical nature, that are very important for my well-being. They are equally important when you are down, as when you are happy. Joy, just as sadness, can make us forget to eat and sleep, which is why it is important to notice these things, so that we do not spiral in the wrong direction from a good place.
Did I eat well? Was I good at nourishing myself? How can I improve it?
Did I sleep well? How can I be better at that?
Was I stressed often? How can I tackle stress better?
Did I have enough time to do nothing, to simply be? Did I have time to wonder, discover, be curious and create something just because?
Have I been attentive enough towards the people around me? Have they been attentive towards you?
Reflections are amazing not only because you get to learn so much and get a grip on your direction, but also because they work as palate cleansers for setting new intentions, and focusing on the present and on the future.
Reflections are what help me see how far I've come, and how much I am capable of in such a long, yet short time such as six months. No matter what obligations I have - work, studies, family - reflection and seeing the fruits of my intentions helps me see how much of my life I control and how much is in my hands to change it.
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