How To Reflect on a Weird Year (and Why Your Goals Should Be Different for Next Year)
Remember how a year ago everyone was setting their new year’s resolutions, confident that 2020 was going to be THEIR year? The promise of a new year, the start of a new decade, seemed to inspire so many.
If only we knew what 2020 would have in store for us.
Despite the plans that were cancelled, tragedies and unrest that ensued, and challenges that popped up like a game of Whac-A-Mole, you made it. You’re here reading this. That’s something worth celebrating.
A cynic may look on this year and throw their hands up at the best-laid-plans, asking “what’s the point?” Why should we bother setting goals and having big expectations if there’s a good chance things won’t go as planned?
I hear you. I’m a planner. When my plans are messed up, I’m not a happy camper. Even from a young age, I did not handle disruption well.
One year, when I was a little girl, my family was planning a trip to Florida to visit my grandparents. In preparation for the trip, my parents finally agreed to let me buy a pair of jelly sandals. They were basically cheap, soft plastic shoes, but it’s important to note that they were all the rage at the time and all my other friends had them. When we finally went to the store and I got my own pair, I could not have been more excited!
During the trip, we went to the beach. I felt like a princess, showing off my new jelly shoes to anyone and everyone. What’s great about the jelly sandals is that they can be worn in the sand and water, and so I kept them on at the beach.
While walking along the shore, a big wave came and washed over my ankles, stronger than I anticipated. As the wave retreated back into the ocean, I looked down and saw that with it, the wave took one of my precious jelly sandals.
Naturally, I cried hysterically. My plans to wear my precious new shoes were now ruined. I was heartbroken because the shoes were so special and could never be replaced.
My grandmother, eager to ease my distress, asked me where I bought the special shoes. I told her it was a special store and that they were really hard to get. “What’s the name of the store?” she asked. I responded, “Payless.”
Yes, the discount shoe store.
She and my family erupted in laughter at my response, and I didn’t understand at the time what was so funny. But I’m happy to report that the next day we went to another Payless shoe store and were able to buy the exact same jelly shoes.
This was an important lesson for me because I realized that even if a big wave comes and takes away your well-laid plans, there’s still a path forward. It’s hard to see it when you’re not expecting the wave and you’re mourning the loss of your jelly shoe. But when tomorrow comes, it’s full of opportunity.
The takeaway? There will always be another wave taking our shoes straight off of our feet. Does it mean we shouldn’t buy fabulous sandals? Of course not! But we should remember that we’ve encountered waves before, and we persevered in spite of them.
I’ve been hearing a lot of people say how eager they are for the year to be over and to get right into the next one. I understand how tempting it is to rush past the negative stuff and forget it ever happened.
But what’s the point in going through the tough stuff if you’re going to ignore it? In fact, I can’t imagine a more important year to reflect on than the most difficult one.
That, in my opinion, is where the most meaningful growth happens.
If we blindly set the same goals as last year and hope bad things don’t happen in the coming year, then I think we’ve missed the point. We’re not the same people we were a year ago. Hopefully you learned something over the past year. Odds are, you learned quite a bit. That means you're wiser, and probably tougher too.
Don’t miss the opportunity to reflect on what happened, and how you changed because of it. And although we may not have grown in the ways we wanted to, maybe we’ve grown in more important ways. That’s why it’s so essential to reflect. Otherwise, all those lessons from our experience goes to waste!
Before you set some new goals, I invite you to take a bit of time to reflect, and use your own takeaways to guide your goals going forward.
How to reflect in a meaningful way
Reflection sounds great, but how do you actually do it?
To help you out, I’ve created some steps that I’ve used, in hopes that they’ll help you too! As a bonus, I've also linked our Wheel of Life printable at the end of this article.
Look through your calendar, journal, to-do lists, or emails from the past year. Go back to January. Start seeing some of the things you did that remind you of what you’ve accomplished. I bet it’s more than you thought.
Think about some of the strongest feelings you felt during the year. When were you at your angriest? Your happiest? What—or who—made you laugh? Think of your emotions like a compass, pointing you towards moments of personal growth.
Consider conversations you had that made you consider a topic differently.
What books did you read, or shows did you watch, that surprised you?
If you tried something new—a new product, a new location, a new recipe—what was that like?
If you revisited something from your past, how was that experience?
What was the most difficult thing that you overcame?
Is there anything that you got rid of, or let go of? How did that make you feel?
When did you ask for help? If you didn’t ask for help, why didn’t you?
Go on a walk or meditate. See what comes to mind when it’s just you and your thoughts.
To make the exercise even more valuable and fun, I recommend writing these down in a journal, or even having a discussion with a close friend or significant other.
Example: my takeaways
If you’re interested, here are just some of my takeaways from the past year:
When you plan, plan to be disrupted. Things will never go perfectly as planned. I learned this with the jelly shoe example above, but this year was a good refresher course. The people who thrive tend to also be those who are the most flexible.
When you don’t get what you want, you begin to appreciate what you have. Don’t take those things for granted.
It’s always a good idea to be prepared for both good and bad things. Opportunities are often unexpected, and you might miss the boat if you aren’t prepared.
Listening (truly hearing without passing judgement first) is a very rare skill. I’m going to work on it. I wish everyone would.
It’s okay to be inconvenienced. Our lives are full of devices and services that make our lives more convenient, but does it come at the cost of making us lazier?
I’d love to hear from you: What are some takeaways you have from this year? What are your favorite ways to reflect?
Looking for a fun way to guide your reflection? Check out Supporti's printable Wheel of Life Balance, available on our Etsy store!