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. 

For those of you who haven’t experienced our printed 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.

Getting Ready…

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. The deeper I dig, the more I learn.

Be gentle. The past is the past. I observe and try not to judge myself too harshly.

Our Reflection Framework

Mike and I, along with many in our community, have been using this framework for our personal annual reflections 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 second year that I have kept a consistent journal inside our digital journaling tool: Reflection.app. Having all my entries in one place makes my Annual Review much easier. If you are not already using Reflection.app it’s something to consider for 2022!)

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 the pandemic and its continuing 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: When did you feel clear-headed, engaged, and intellectually challenged?

Body: When did your body feel healthy, nourished, and strong?

Soul: When did you feel at peace and connected to the world around you?

Work: When did you feel interested in and fulfilled by your work?

Play: What were some activities that brought you joy?

Love: How did you feel about the relationships in your life this year?

Looking at your responses above, what, if anything, do you want to change in the year ahead?

Part 4. The Hits of 2021

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 it’s worth the effort. 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,

Dave Radparvar

Co-Founder, Holstee & Reflection.app

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Living with intention is an ongoing practice, not a destination. Inspired by this, we’ve created a range of products to help you on your journey to live both fully and mindfully, including the Holstee Membership, Reflection Cards, and our recently-launched Reflection.app.



This article is part of our series on the theme of Reflection.

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