Whether this was a banner year or one you’ll be happy to see in the rear-view mirror, December often feels like a turning point. Before rounding the bend into the new year, take the time to check in on your well-being, and whether you need to change tack going forward. That’s going to involve a little reflection.
What is reflection?
The word “reflection” derives from the Latin reflexio, which suggests the act of “bending back” to take a closer look. Reflection helps you create clarity so you can understand your self better and experience a change in perspective. In other words, reflection helps you grow.
More than thinking
Reflection doesn’t simply involve thinking about “what happened.” Instead, it’s a process of understanding your role in an experience and involves considering your thoughts and emotions during and about the experience, as well as the memories it evokes.
Reflection inherently involves self-evaluation, as you explore what you did well, what you did poorly, and what you could do differently in the future. As such, reflection is critical to goal setting, personal growth, and life satisfaction—and it’s an important activity as you set about planning for the year ahead.
The richness of experience
“We don’t learn from experiences. We learn from reflecting on the experiences.”—John Dewey
Forget about everyone else
Self-evaluation can lead you to compare yourself to others and bump up against other people’s expectations. Often, these comparisons aren’t in your favor and can be harmful to your emotional well-being.
Instead, check in with yourself to be sure that goals you establish are aligned with what you truly want and aren’t simply what’s expected. Let go of any goals that aren’t really yours and any negative feelings you may have about not achieving them. After all, they weren’t your goals anyway.
Likewise, be sure you aren’t following health trends simply because they’re trendy. Not everything that fills your social media feeds and the evening news is good for you. Use discretion when making decisions about your well-being goals.
Reflect on well-being
Well-being involves much more than simply your physical and mental health. In fact, there are multiple other facets to consider, including emotional, social, spiritual, professional, and financial well-being. As you reflect on your progress in the past year and make adjustments for 2023, be sure to consider each of these areas.
Not sure how to begin?
Create columns on a chart with a heading for each facet of well-being. Reflect on how you did in each of the facets, regardless of whether you had an established goal in that area for 2022. Be sure to include what you learned about yourself as you reflect on each facet. This exercise will also help with goal setting for the new year.
Celebrate your victories
If you’ve been keeping a journal, it’s a good time to read through your year’s musings. If you don’t journal, flip through your calendar for memory prompts. List everything you’d like to celebrate from the past year.
Include big gains, such as reaching a weight goal, bringing home a baby, or making your final mortgage payment. But small things count, too, such as applying for a job, finding your old (but still perfectly wearable) cowboy boots in the back of the closet, or asking that cutie out on a date. Record at least 30 little victories. (Yes, you did have 30 victories!)
Acknowledge your losses
Crappy stuff happened this year, too. Maybe you were restructured out of a job. Maybe your relationship ended. Maybe you lacked follow-through on your “get fit” strategy. To learn from these experiences, consider your personal responsibility in each of them. Which leads to …
What would you do differently?
Reflect on what you learned from your victories and losses. What new things did you or could you try? Where do you repeat patterns? Are you stepping out of your comfort zone enough so that you can experience new things and personal growth? Are you being authentic? Do you need to put your fitness goals front and center? Is it time to change your relationship with money?
How do you want to feel?
When you have clarity about who you are and what you want, creating goals is enjoyable, because they mean something to you. And when something is fun, you’re more likely to do it.
Reflection requires noticing
When Labor Day rolled around a year ago, Kathryn realized that her summer had dwindled away without many highlights. Worse? She recognized it was an annual pattern for her because she let her work take over. Kathryn committed to planning ahead so another precious summer wouldn’t pass her by.
By spring, she had booked an overnight spa getaway with a friend for July, and a week at a family cottage. She also purchased an inflatable paddle board and set a goal to get on the water 30 times. While she was at the cottage, she spontaneously accepted a last-minute invitation to join friends at a music festival—and had a blast. She enjoyed her summer so much, she’s decided to “seize every season” and has extracurricular activities planned for the coming year.
Tools for reflection
- being in nature
- a reflection buddy
- acknowledging feedback, even when it’s difficult
- tuning in to your body