New year prep, part 1: Year in review

 Photography: Karina Carvalho

Photography: Karina Carvalho

Today as I write this, it’s December 1st. This reminds me that the new year is just one month away. Time to think about wrapping up the old year and begin preparing for the new one.

Hoo-boy! Are you ready?

Everyone has their own way of preparing for the new year. One way that I have done this, and know that others do it as well, is to take the time to reflect on the year that is coming to a close. 

It’s up to you how detailed you want to get with your review. But here are some tips based on my own experience:

  1. Prepare ahead of time by pulling out or buying a notebook and a pen for journaling.
  2. Set aside plenty of time for the journaling exercise. You can do it all in one day on December 31, or if you have a lot of stuff to reflect on, start a week before, like the day before Christmas. 
  3. I recommend writing this journal by hand, so that you are not distracted by your computer’s alerts, or the Internet.
  4. On the day, or days, you are journaling, carve out at least an hour or two of uninterrupted time for yourself. Get comfy, quiet, light a candle, perhaps put on some music. In your journal, go through each month, beginning in the previous January, and write down anything that you remember — people you met, places you visited, accomplishments, events, blessings, lessons learned, struggles, funny moments and so on.
  5. You can set yourself some questions to ask yourself, such as: “What did I do?” “How did I succeed or overcome obstacles?” “What real results did I achieve?” “How did I move myself forward?” “What did I learn?” 

Christine Hassler writes about her process thus: “I record [my memories] in my journal and reflect upon them. What is so great about looking at the year in this way is I am able to notice how I have grown and express gratitude for all the year's blessings. What is also interesting is to think about the behavior, beliefs or habits that I'd like to leave behind. We all have our regrets and learning experiences, yet a lot of us tend to cling to them much longer than we need to.”

Chris Guillebeau does quite an extensive process with his annual review. He says: “To begin the process, I ask myself two questions and try to come up with at least 6-8 answers to each: What went well this year? What did not go well this year? For these answers, I’m mostly interested in events I have control over. If something did not go well that I couldn’t prevent or control, it doesn’t need to go on the list.”

Sid Savara suggests seeing how far you’ve come: “It’s great to ask how your year has been and how you feel, but we should also look at what really made a difference in your life this year.” 

The Benefits

This review process might be all you do for your preparation of the new year. And this alone can provide you with amazing benefits:

  • You’re writing, and that alone means you are taking time for yourself, which you may not do on a regular basis. 
  • It’s a mindful practice, requiring you to focus on your task at hand, something that in our technology age has become a challenge.
  • You gain insights into whether the choices you made in the past year helped you to live the life you want to live.
  • Honesty. Reflecting on yourself and what you experienced, did, or felt is an exercise in getting real with yourself. You don’t need to share this with anyone, if that feels better to you. However, even doing just this part of the exercise could generate a wonderful and intimate conversation with your loved one(s).
  • You get to feel good about yourself. Remember, this is not about bashing on yourself or making yourself feel regret about the past year. Focus on not just the positive, because that wouldn’t be honest. But if something did not go so well, the main lesson you want to take from it is that you survived, have a chance to move forward and can perhaps even try to resolve it in the next year.

Next: Celebration and Clearing

I invite you to go even further. The next step to preparing for the new year is to celebrate and clear the past, so that you are ready for what is to come. Check back next week when I review that process. 

Oh, and I also plan to publish the result of my own annual review. Look for that in January 2017.