2020 was a year unlike any other. More than anything, it felt like a blur. When I think back to where I was in January and February, it feels like a lifetime ago. Perhaps that’s why it feels even more necessary to take some time to recall and reflect on how I spent my time in this unusual year.
For those of you who haven’t experienced our Annual Reflection Journal or Reflection.app’s Annual Review, I want to share some of the steps of our process with the hope that they can help inform your own reflection practice this year.
First Things First
Every year when I sit to do my annual reflection, I try to make sense of the flurry of events by revisiting my memories, seeing patterns, observing where I struggled and where I grew, and, more often than not, realizing how much I have to be grateful for.
Before I start, I get in the right state of mind by reminding myself to:
Enjoy the process. I find a comfortable seat, prepare my favorite beverage, and put on my favorite album. The right setting can make a big difference.
Make it my time. Some years I fly through my reflections in one sitting, and some years I take more time, coming back over a few sittings. Every year is different, and so I remind myself that each reflection can be too.
Dig deep. I try to be honest with myself, even if it isn’t easy. When we reflect, the deeper we dig, the more we learn.
Be gentle. The past is the past. I observe and try not to judge myself too harshly.
Our Framework for Reflection
Mike and I, along with many in our community, have been using this framework for our personal annual reflections for the past few years. Here is a breakdown of our approach in five parts:
Part 1. Look back and record the meaningful moments of the year
Look through your calendar, journal, and photos to recall and write down your Highlights (positive experiences) and Lowlights (challenging experiences). If you haven’t already been keeping a journal this can take the most time, but it’s a critical step in the process.
(Sidenote: This was the first year that I have kept a consistent journal inside Reflection.app. Having all my entries in one place made my reflection much easier this year. I was able to jump right to Part 2 without having to add all my Highlights and Lowlights. Something to consider for 2021!)
Part 2. Reflect on your highlights and lowlights
Highlights. What did you do? Where did you go? Who were you with?
Are there any patterns? Take a moment and be grateful for all the highlights you experienced.
Lowlights. In this rollercoaster of a year, it’s likely that some things didn't go so well. Reflect on what happened so you can find peace, grow, let go, and move forward.
Choose a couple of the most challenging Lowlights and ask yourself: Was this within my control?
If yes → ask yourself what you would do differently next time.
If no → like in the case of COVID-19 and its devastating effects, ask yourself how you can find peace with the past.
Part 3. Reflect on six key areas of your life
Looking back, check in with yourself on the following key dimensions: Mind, Body, Soul, Work, Play, and Love.
Mind: Did you feel clear-headed, engaged, and intellectually challenged?
Body: Did your body feel healthy, nourished, and strong?
Soul: Did you feel at peace and connected to the world around you?
Work: Did you feel interested in and fulfilled by your work?
Play: Did you engage in activities that brought you joy?
Love: How did you feel about the relationships in your life?
Looking at your responses above, what, if anything, do you want to change in the year ahead?
Part 4. The Hits of 2020
Wrap up with a few fun rapid-fire questions. Answer in just a few words...
Favorite Song(s): ___________
Favorite Book(s): ___________
Favorite Movie(s) or Show(s): ___________
Favorite Meal(s): ___________
Favorite Place(s) Visited: ___________
This year I was most inspired by: ___________
This past year in one or two words: ___________
Part 5. Looking Forward
Now take a few moments to look ahead. What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming year?
Reflection complete! We hope these steps are helpful in your reflection journey. :-)
I know it can seem like a lot. But as we shared last week, we believe strongly that the perspective and clarity that comes with reflection has the power to change lives.
To make things easier, you can complete all of the steps above digitally in Reflection.app’s guided Annual Review (it’s free!).
And if you would like to complete a more in-depth, offline personal reflection, consider supporting our work and picking up our Annual Reflection Journal for just $12.
Wishing you many moments of clarity in your reflection,
Begin your day feeling grounded and inspired.
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This article is part of our series on the theme of Reflection.EXPLORE Reflection →
Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.VIEW OUR THEMES →