How often do you make time for reflection?
Seriously. When was the last time you scheduled a block on your calendar to quietly and consciously reflect on your day or your week or the last month—or even the year? Don’t feel badly; very few actually take the time to quietly reflect, except perhaps as New Year’s Eve approaches.
But self-reflection is so important! Making time to consciously review every aspect of your life—and perhaps more importantly, to consider how you might be able to live it even better—is the very foundation of living a well-designed life. And you know we’re all about that here at Day Designer.
So as we approach the end of the year, here are five important reasons to reflect on your year (and the number one way to do it right!).
1. To Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Too many New Year’s resolutions are based on what you’re doing wrong or what you want to fix. Why not start your yearly review by focusing on everything you got right? You’ve probably experienced a lot more success over the past 12 months than you even realize. And yes, every little thing counts: celebrate the compliment from your boss after your presentation at the board meeting. Celebrate remembering your best friend’s birthday. Celebrate when your kid wrapped their arms around you and gave you a tight squeeze—for no particular reason. Review each month in your Day Designer and allow yourself to reflect on everything you did right, everything that went well, and everything that was beautiful about this season of life. You made it!
2. To Consider What You’ve Learned
After a hefty dose of celebration (and yes, a flute of some bubbly is encouraged, if not required!), take a moment to consider the lessons you’ve learned over the past year, too. These don’t always have to come from big mistakes or tough situations (though they might); these are just the things you don’t want to forget as you move into your next year of life! Perhaps you learned that you want to shift careers. Or maybe you learned that if you leave your folded laundry sitting out, the new puppy will nest in it. Don’t write these things down to shame yourself for not learning them sooner; write them down with the gratitude that you know now. And feel comforted by the fact that you get to carry this knowledge with you into the next year!
3. To Figure Out Where You Find Joy
Have you ever focused on what makes you happy? It may be something that’s always brought a smile to your face—like the sound of a baby’s giggle or or a big bowl of ice cream. Or it may be something you discovered this past year, such as hot yoga or Instagram Stories. Whatever it may be, take some time to reflect on what brought you joy over the last 365 days—and perhaps start brainstorming for how to incorporate more of it into your life next year. Feeling happy affects every other area of your life: It makes you more loving, more kind, more productive, and it even combats stress and disease! And often, it is the very simplest of things that snap us into that joyful state. Identify the past year’s “happy triggers” for yourself and make a note to add even more of them to your life.
4. To Design Your Next Year
This is usually the first step in most people’s New Year’s resolution process, though it usually comes from a place from the wrong place: “What is wrong with me, and what can I do to fix it?” They want to lose weight, so they make a resolution to go to the gym every day. They want to get a promotion at work, so they make a resolution to work longer and harder. They want to spend more time with family, so they schedule weekly family activities. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these resolutions, but this process leaves out an important step. Instead of starting from a place of “what’s wrong with me/my job/my relationships/my life?,” start from the proactive perspective of “how do I want to feel?” Then, design your life from there! Do you want to feel more healthy? Or more connected or more peaceful or more smart? What are the experiences, people, and activities that will get you into that state more often? Design your life first, then build your goals or resolutions from there.
5. To Set Aligned Goals
And speaking of setting goals—that’s the last step in our yearly review process! Resolutions often get a bad rap. And that’s usually because far too many people aren’t able to sustain them. That’s because their resolutions—or their goals for the new year—are not aligned with who they are or how they want to feel. Remember our last point? One great reason to reflect on your year is to intentionally design the next one in a way that will make you feel great almost all of the time. And the last reason to put self-reflection into practice is because intentionally designing your life will help you set goals that are actually aligned with the life you want to live. Imagine that! If you want to live a life where you go to the gym every day, great! You should. But if that’s not what will truly make you feel the way you want to feel—head back to the drawing board and set a goal that will. Whatever goals you set for the next year, just make sure they’re aligned with the life you truly want to live.
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And the only right way to reflect on your year? Well, that’s to actually do it.
In the hectic hustle-bustle of everyday life—and especially that of the holiday season—it can be all too easy to write this activity off as an unnecessary to-do. But there’s value in reflecting on your year, and in making self-reflection a more regular practice.
When you slow down enough to carefully consider the people you’re spending time with, the activities you’re engaging in, the amount of time you feel happy and content in your own life (and conversely, the amount of time you don’t), you have the unique and valuable opportunity to acknowledge what you’ve got right and change what is no longer working.
In other words, you can proactively and intentionally design not just your year, but your life.
And there’s no better New Year’s resolution than that.