Well, we’ve done it: with just a couple of weeks left in 2019, another year is almost in the books. In my therapy room, my clients and I spend a considerable amount of time looking backwards in order to best inform next steps moving forward. So naturally, I think it’s high time for us all to take a moment to pause and reflect on the year that was so that we can confidently look ahead to a fresh year, a fresh decade, and a fresh start in 2020.
How do we do that? With this year-end reflection guide, of course. Consider this your primer on taking stock of the year behind us and moving forward with intention into the year ahead. Below is a checklist of sorts with tasks that I urge you to prioritize as 2019 winds to a close. While some are more time-consuming than others, I promise they are all worthwhile.
Make time for you
This is an incredibly busy time of year for many of us between the holidays, work-related year-end activities, and lots of family and friend obligations. Amidst it all, be sure to take some time to slow down and recharge by doing whatever it is that rejuvenates you. As long as it brings you joy, it qualifies!
Here are some ideas for your me-time:
- Take a short solo trip
- Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Tackle that home project you’ve been meaning to do for a while (make sure it’s a fun one!)
- Start a new hobby
- Have a day centered solely on pampering yourself (e.g., massage, hot bath, decadent dinner)
Spend time with the people who matter most
The people who matter most to you may or may not be biological family members! The key here is to surround yourself with people who fill you with love and joy.
In the event that you do find yourself in social gatherings that have the potential to get tense or awkward, try to mitigate that by setting ground rules around discussions. If the other attendees aren’t interested in setting boundaries or establishing structure for the conversations, create a plan to take care of yourself and self-soothe in case you get flooded or overwhelmed during the discussions. This could mean committing to taking a walk around the block or even a bathroom break when you notice yourself having a strong emotional reaction to whatever is being said. Above all else, remember that attacking someone for their viewpoint, raising your voice, or getting aggressive in any way practically never works. Instead, make yourself the priority and identify ways to calm down and come back to center even in the midst of difficult engagements.
Another important task in this category is making amends with people whom you’ve hurt or have hurt you in the past. This could mean sending a text, email, or letter or picking up the phone to give them a call. Such outreach attempts are also appropriate for people with whom you lost contact and are interested in rekindling the relationship. Handwritten messages are almost always hugely appreciated, so I encourage you to take the time to craft them if reestablishing relationships is an important year-end goal for you.
There is no time like the present to remind yourself of all of the things for which you are grateful. This is a constant theme in my blog posts, mainly because it’s a practice that I personally strive to uphold on a daily basis. An excellent way to accomplish this is through gratitude journaling. There are so many benefits to it and (pro-tip) it can double as a space to reflect on various meaningful experiences throughout the day, similar to a standard journal.
Practicing gratitude provides the space to express appreciation for the loved ones who are here to celebrate the end of the year with you. It also opens the door to commemorating and memorializing the ones who are not here to see another year/decade come to a close. The holiday season is difficult for many since it can highlight the void left by a loved one’s passing. If this applies to you, be sure to take the time to reflect on that person’s legacy, think fondly of them, and express gratitude for the role that they played in your life while they still walked among us.
Reflect on the year that was (2019)
As cliché as it may sound, it is actually incredibly beneficial to take the time and space to think about your life this past year. Use the below prompts to reflect on 2019:
- What were your wins this past year?
- How would you characterize your losses?
- Write about your successes.
- Write about your failures.
- What did you learn about yourself?
- How have you grown this past year?
- What are important life lessons that emerged for you this year?
Establish intention for the year to come (2020)
With the advent of 2020, we are looking ahead not just to a new year, but to a fresh start to an entirely new decade. What an exciting time! Let’s make the most of it.
See below for some ideas about how to step into it with purpose and intention:
1) Set realistic, achievable, and sustainable goals. I’m talking about more than just your garden-variety New Year’s resolutions, here (because we all know that they tend to fail at a remarkable rate). The better approach is to sit down and write out your priorities for the next several months, year, or multiple years and, most importantly, the steps involved in actually attaining them.
To guide this work, I highly recommend the “passion roadmap” provided by the folks at Passion Planner. It encourages you to set a timer to think of your most important goals (the pressure forces your brain to conjure up your top priorities) and list out the actions required to achieve them. I have personally utilized this for several years now and highly recommend!
2) Establish a word of the year. Think of one word that you would like to guide your actions and goals in 2020. Commit to that word, then regularly remind yourself of it to make sure that you remain on track and are living according to the intention you established at the beginning of the year.
3) Reflect on the following prompts to move into the new year with purpose:
- What would you like to leave behind in 2019?
- What would you like to gain in 2020?
- What would you like to personally improve upon this upcoming year?
- In what ways would you like your life to be different at this time next year?
- What are you most looking forward to in 2020?
My hope is that this reflection process will bring you peace and closure as you round out the 2010s. Wishing you a joyous start to the new year. See you all in 2020!
Shy Porter, MS, LCMFT provides individual, couple, and family therapy in our downtown Bethesda office. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with Shy.