Reflections On 2021

There is no denying that it has been a year filled with multiple blessings and challenges. So many people have experienced significant changes in daily routines, relationships and wellness. This has left a large number of people grieving things that may have been lost from a pre-Covid world or future experiences that will never be fulfilled. On the other hand, this has also provided an opportunity to reflect on new things that have evolved in life. With any loss, or just simply change, there is a strong element of grief.

During the last year you may have mentally struggled due to the loss of many things that defined your identity – your time with friends, your work, your exercise, your routines and more. This alone can leave you feeling out of touch with yourself and your day to day, leaving you unsure of how to move forward.

During these times of transition, taking time to reflect on how things are moving along and check in with whether we are moving into the direction that we want to be going is difficult. This could be due to a lack of time, an urgency to make quick decisions, hesitancy or skepticism of the benefit of reflecting or it simply not feeling like a priority. Many, however, do this sort of reflection in the form of New Year’s resolutions. 

Life becomes easier to navigate through if you are able to be clear on how you want to be moving towards your values, morals and goals. Simply asking yourself whether something will move you closer or further from where you want to be, helps you feel clear and confident in your decisions, habits, and behaviors.

So, as we start to progress towards the end of the year, the following prompts are some great ways to focus on how we are moving forward into 2022 and beyond.

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The Past Year

What will you remember 2021 for?

What were the highlights of this past year? What were the moments worth remembering? When you talk about the year 2021in the future, what will you say? Highlights can refer to milestones and life changing events, both positive and challenging.

What worked well this year?

Human beings are slightly negatively biased, which supported survival throughout many centuries. Negative bias can sometimes overshadow all the good that is present. New Year is a perfect moment to acknowledge what is working, what is good, what is worth preserving and fostering in the future. 

(Don’t forget, once you identify the great elements of your life, shower them with gratitude.)

What are you proud of?

It can be difficult to feel truly proud of yourself. Life tends to revolve around running to get things done and then immediately switching gears to chase the next shiny object. It is rare to pause, reflect and give yourself some credit. Now is the perfect time to do so. What are you proud of? 

This is also a good time to think about how you’re proud of your loved ones. How did they grow, improve and achieve their goals? Tell them how much you honor them and their successes.

What was your biggest challenge?

After all the sunshine and happiness that reflecting on gratitude evokes, comes the time to be a little more somber. What did not work this past year? What was your biggest challenge? It might still be an ongoing battle. A painful issue. A tricky relationship. A limiting belief. Identify it. Be brave. Recognition is a big chunk of the work.

If you want to dig even deeper, try to identify the lesson that your biggest challenge is trying to teach you.

What did you learn about yourself?

The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship of your life. It is thus important to invest some effort into knowing yourself better. For example, identify what you learned about yourself this year? What did all the challenges, troubles, conflicts, emotions, highlights and successes teach you about yourself? Are you stronger, smarter, more creative than you gave yourself credit for? Or was your stumbling block something completely surprising? This knowledge is empowering.

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The Year Ahead

How will you simplify your life in the New Year?

The word “resolution” originates from a Latin expression that means “to reduce” or “to simplify”. The question then arises as to why would you keep adding more and more new goals, actions, habits and to-dos on your plate in the form of New Year resolutions? Perhaps simplifying life would be a better option. Can you discard anything? Get rid of anything? Reduce? Let go? Consciously neglect? Do it. 

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What thresholds will you be crossing?

As you leave 2021 behind and begin a new year you are crossing a threshold. What other thresholds do you need to prepare for? Will there be some big changes happening at work (or elsewhere)? Or perhaps an intentional change you want to create? Identifying the threshold can sharpen your focus and planning to help you get ready.

Who will you connect with more in the year ahead?

Community and connection are important but sometimes the busyness of life gets in the way. Is it time to put more priority in your relationships? Consider your work, social, community and social relationships. Who do you need to reconnect with or perhaps start new relationships with? For inspiration? For career well-being? For others? How about you with you? Time to take more time to tune in, reflect and get to know yourself better.

What kind of leader, peer, friend, partner (and other roles) do you want to be?

You wear many roles in work and life. Think about how you are showing up in each of them. Where do you want to be better? Get specific and create intentions that you will act on. If you want to be a more open, collaborative partner, then set goals for how to achieve that. Make time to give more meaningful and frequent feedback, connect authentically and learn to be a better listener.

What do you want?

This is now the ideal time to think about your goals, intentions and possibilities for the year ahead. Perhaps something in this reflection has spurred you to a new goal that's now ready to be declared. Write your goals down and make them specific and concrete.

How will you put this into action?

Of course, naming the goal is only the start. You also have to back it up with a plan, commitment and action! What will you do?

What is one way that you can manage this in the new year daily or weekly, even on a bad day/week? 

Some ideas you may want to entertain include:

  • Relationships: text one friend every day saying “hope you are having a good week”.
  • Physical Health: move my body in some way (e.g., walking, exercise) every day, have convenient meals available (order those here).
  • Work: continue to work from home where possible, enroll in a personal development course once a month.
  • Mental and Emotional Health: set time for self every week, even 15 minutes. 

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Using Affirmations

Occasionally, when working on implementing some of these changes, feelings of guilt may arise. This could come up as you set boundaries at work, with your friends and loved ones or perhaps when you pull away from certain types of training and prioritize more time for yourself. In these initial stages, you have been (rightfully) encouraged to develop tools for  stress/distress tolerance including meditation, reading, journaling and gentle movement. Another way may be with affirmations (No, not the classic social media clichés “I am strong, I am beautiful types”). Affirmations that resonate with you personally. This may include such phrases as:

  • How my life feels is more important than how it looks
  • Doing my best will look different every day
  • Rest is productive
  • It is okay to be uncomfortable

The end of the year marks a threshold and invites a pause for reflection. It's a great time to take stock of the year behind and look ahead. The habit of reflection can build self-awareness, efficacy and resilience. If done right, it can also help you establish and achieve more meaningful goals and navigate the challenges life brings with greater ease and purpose.

As you reflect on 2021, remember the words of Soren Kierkegaard:

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Wishing you much joy, happiness and peace for 2022. Happy New Year!

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