When a new year approaches, on the calendar or through events in our personal lives, we instinctively begin setting out goals. What we forget is that the way we end a year is as important as how we begin another one.
Neatly tying up the loose ends that the year left hanging is crucial to self-fulfilment. These four steps can help you close the year with purpose and start the incoming one with meaning.
Spread out your calendar and mark the key events that took place each month. Flip the page back to January and jot down any memorable moments from your life, work, personal relationship, friendship, health. Do it for each month after. It is funny how easily we forget everything we achieved or simply did through the year. Only when we settle down for a recap of all that happened do we really begin to remember. ‘Ah, yes! That happened too.’
Human memory is limited. And our world is always buzzing with activity. We live every day and forget every day. Sometimes things that happened only yesterday feel like they happened years ago. Trace your footsteps back to the start of the year to relive all that was significant on the road you walked down.
Take a moment to focus on all that you are grateful for. Start with people – those who supported you, engaged with you, helped you in your happy and sad moments. Calendar tracking your activity helps here. When you retrace your journey, you re-encounter those people who were important to your growth during the year.
Next, express gratitude for the events that shaped you. Write down not just the good events, but the ones that were uncomfortable or signified failure too. Often it’s the hurdles that make a journey meaningful. That you crossed all those and have reached where you are standing today is a symbol of everything you learnt.
Last but certainly not least, shower some gratitude on yourself! The outgoing year was a collection of moments of decisions you made, of how you managed yourself, what you reflected upon and all that you did. The going may not have always been easy but you came through. Be appreciative of yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back and say, ‘Well done, you!’
Reflection of Achievements
During coaching sessions, the focus is always on achieving the goal. But as important as actually setting the goal is a total reflection of what you have achieved. With the events, people and moments that you look back on from the year, expressing gratitude, you reflect upon what you gained and what you learned.
It helps that the timeline we are reflecting upon is a span of just one year. So one is not very attached to any events or emotions and is able to see things objectively.
Now, it’s essential that you turn your thoughts into words. Put faith in the power of writing down what you feel, because thoughts by themselves are vast and vague. But when you string everything out into words, the learnings are clearer. Use keywords about the summary of the year: What did 2021 mean to you? What was the year trying to teach you?
But don’t dive straight into the learnings from the year. First, put down straight facts of significant events that occurred. What you have learnt is a consequence of those events and so when you recognise those events in an objective capacity, the learnings come forth easily.
Everyone yields different answers from this self-reflection exercise. Since human experiences are not identical, your answers will be unique to you and the year you had. Once you give words to your ideas, you will impart a sense of fulfilment to the year and feel appreciative about all that happened. You will even find meaning in the experiences you thought were bad and be grateful to them.
Do the exercise consciously; it is important in closing the loop of the year (or any other milestone) with satisfaction. It holds meaning, not just momentarily, but even long-term. When you look back on your life five years down the line, the records will show how far you have come. You will feel grateful for it all, once again.
The Top Five
Speaking from experience and personal recommendations, this final step is a vital one. Pick out and list your top five events from the year. These could be about lost love or personal development or something that helped you grow. From these, distinguish between what you achieved by yourself through your own efforts and what was out of your control.
For events that you controlled, appreciate yourself and express self-gratitude. All that happened beyond your control were gifts from the universe. Of course, it would be difficult to consider your not-so-happy moments from the year as gifts, per se. But know that everything happens for a reason. It is possible to create and attach relevant meaning to those events you felt were distressing. Recognising that will give you a sense of humility.
Life gives us lessons every day and understanding their meaning to effectively gain from them is on us.