The end of the year is as good a time as any to reflect on the days that have been and who you are now. Time to reflect is hard to come by, as life keeps us busy and on our feet constantly. But that is not enough of an excuse. We are defined by our experiences and connections, meaning that we are constantly changing to some degree. If we do not reflect, we cannot learn from our mistakes, or know what direction we are heading in because we lose sight of what we need or what is truly important to us.
Reflections can take many forms and everyone will have their own preferred style. But if you are not used to it, try the following method. If you cannot recall the last time you truly reflected on yourself, then you should definitely give reflection a try before greeting the new year.
First, consider the past.
What were the highlights of the year? When were the moments you struggled through? What relationships were made, changed or broken? This is an important step as we take inventory of all of the experiences, emotions, connections, hardships and things we learned – that is, the ingredients that you are made of. Only then can we process how these things affected us.
A loss or an ordeal may traumatise us, but they make us more resilient as we remember that despite the grief and stress, we survived. Wonderful memories remind us of the things we should be grateful for. Moments that we are proud of remind us how much we have grown. If we do not reflect on the past, you might as well have wasted the year, because it would not have added to your life in any way.
Second, consider the present.
How are you feeling right now? Are you miserable and confused, unsure of who you are and where to go from here? Or are you content and happy with how things are going? How is your relationship with your loved ones and, most importantly, with yourself? What concerns hang around in the back of your mind? What kind of person are you right now, and is it the kind of person you wanted to become? What is most important to you at the moment?
The present is a fleeting moment between the infinite past and future, but it is just as important, because we live in it. This is who you are. Too often, we are so preoccupied by our past mistakes or grand dreams of the future that we lose track of who we are right now. Make sure you have a good understanding of the present you, so that you have a solid anchor for your future self.
Lastly, consider the future. You don’t have to have the rest of your life planned out, but it is always good to have some idea of the general direction you want to head towards in the coming year. What are the things you want to leave in the past? What are the things you want to carry forward, or improve upon? What are some things you are looking forward to? What changes should you be making for your happiness? What kind of person do you want to grow up to become?
The future is wild and unpredictable. We cannot possibly know what surprises await us there: happiness, sadness, madness, death. So there is no point being anxious or afraid of the future. All we can do is be prepared by having the skills and resilience to survive through whatever the future may throw at us. Hopefully, it will be an enjoyable ride.
If this is too difficult to do just in your head, try writing a letter to two people: you from the start of this year, and you from the end of next year.
To your past self, tell them the stories from this year, the person you have become and how they will be alright.
To your future self, tell them to leave your bad habits and worries behind, while moving forward with the good connections and positive habits you have cultivated. Writing things down is a good way to process these complex reflections.
At the end of the day, it does not matter how you go about it, as long as you have given some thought about your life. Life is not a movie that we watch from a couch with a bowl of popcorn. It is your personal adventure full of decisions, actions and consequences. We cannot let it pass by like a TV show. Instead, we need to be conscious of the role we play in our own lives and actively try to make the most of it.
Happy New Year.