Whether we choose to plan on a yearly basis or not, the beginning of a new year is always a good time for reflection. Looking back at the past year provides a mental container that is familiar, that we can explore, evaluate our experience, our actions, and make choices for the year ahead.
I personally, don't plan on a yearly basis, but instead use the seasons to look at medium term goals that I am trying to achieve. However, the yearly reflection helps me gain perspective on myself, the world around me etc. so that I can start the new year feeling a sense of presence and focus.
I have not yet put together a proper template for my yearly reflection, but I thought I would share a set of questions that helps me, some inspired by Susannah Conway. In case you are looking for a more comprehensive yearly reflection, she provides a free downloadable pdf on her site:
Reviewing the past year
The first step is always looking back, exploring my experience of the past year, and challenging myself with a few questions to open up. Feel free to choose the questions that resonate with you, and ignore some.
- What went really well?
- What am I most proud of accomplishing?
- What did you embrace?
- What were you most grateful for?
- What challenged me?
- When did fear hold you back?
- When did you practice courage?
- What did you discover about yourself?
- What surprised you?
- What/who has helped you?
- How have you taken care of yourself physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually?
- What new ways of seeing the world have you discovered?
- What have you let go of?
- What feels more important than ever to you?
- What now feels unimportant?
- What are you ready to begin?
- How has this year impacted your priorities?
Envision the new year
Based on my insights, I reflect on the new year. At this stage, I still don't try to formulate goals, but simply explore what I think will be important, what I want to focus on, changes I want to make etc.
- What are you looking forward to?
- What area of your life do you most want to develop?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What are you fiercely committed to?
- What are you feeling apprehensive about?
- What challenges are you likely to face?
- What do you want to do differently?
- What does this day, next year look like?
- What needs to change?
Commitment for the new year
This can be considered optional, as the process of reflection is what is most important. However, it is sometimes useful to look back at your notes, consider what themes keep emerging and what might say about your wishes and focus for the year ahead. I have experimented with a modified version of the format that Susannah Conway provides for making a declation (or commitment) for the new year:
2022 will be the year...
- I finally...
- I will pay more attention to...
- I will make more time for...
- I will act on...
- I will learn more about..
- I will nourish myself with...
- I will recharge my batteries by...
- I will open my mind/heart to...
- I will let go of...
- I will say NO to...
As you look back at your notes for the past and future year, you can feel confident that you will remember what is important. Therefore, I suggest you avoid making this analytical, and simply use the last section as a summary. Instead, let your thoughts and feelings sink in during the first parts of the exercise, let go of those notes, and then simply write this last Commitment spontaneously without looking back. There is always room to revise, and this does not define the goals that you choose for yourself.