With the ‘silly season’ well upon us, and the feverish last minute preparations for Christmas celebrations, it’s not necessarily the best time to stop and take stock of the year that was. Usually before a new year starts we often think about what we are hoping to achieve, and some of us dutifully write down a list of ‘new year’s resolutions’. However, before we do this it’s a good idea to reflect on the year that’s been in order to help us set a solid foundation for what we want to achieve the following year.
Usually when someone asks us, ‘how was this year for you?’ we tend to think of whether it was a successful year based our achievements, either in relation to our work or business, our health and fitness, home improvements, places we’ve travelled to, new friends we’ve made, relationships we’ve nurtured, and good times we’ve enjoyed among other measures. While these are all admirable ways to review the year, they don’t go far enough in answering the ‘fundamental question ‘was this year one in which I was able to flourish?’
In order to answer this question we need to understand what it takes for us to truly flourish. Flourishing often evokes images of abundance, beauty, sunshine, joy and growth. According to some experts, there are five key elements which are measures of flourishing and which can help us answer the question “how was this year for you?”
The first of these is Positive Emotions, the degree to which we have been able to understand and manage our emotions effectively. What highs and lows have you experienced this year, and how well have you been able to navigate these? Every year brings with it unique challenges and while it’s important to experience a full range of emotions, at the same time, we need to be able to balance these effectively, keeping positive and optimistic about our ability to deal with setbacks and our future.
The second element of flourishing is Engagement, the degree to which we are connected to the world we live in and the work we do. How have you been able to be involved in whatever you’re doing, emotionally, physically, intellectually and socially? Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed by the pressures and stresses of our lives, that we ‘shut down’, withdraw or ‘disengage’ as a way of protecting ourselves and reducing stress. While in the short term these may be effective strategies, the danger is that in the longer term we can become disconnected from the world around us, and ultimately ourselves.
We all understand the importance of Relationships and Meaningful Social Connections in our lives, but rarely take stock of how these are supporting or hindering our lives. Who has supported and encouraged you this year? Who has been challenging and unsupportive? Taking stock of our relationships and how they impact on us is important to our health and wellbeing. Reflecting on how we may be contributing both positively and negatively to our relationships with others is also an important factor in our ability to thrive.
Meaning and purpose provide an anchor and a reason for our existence, helping our goals to have relevance and substance. What has been meaningful for you this year? What do you want to achieve with your life and how has this year contributed to that mission?
While we often reflect on our Accomplishments, we usually do so mainly in terms of the outcomes we have achieved, rather than focusing on the personal development we may have worked on through the achievement of our goals, and the skills and confidence we have gained in the process. As well as celebrating our achievements, it is good to reflect on what we have learnt in the process, and how we may have built up our resilience, patience, tolerance, motivation, compassion and other important attributes.
So in order to review ‘the year that was’ a little differently this year, perhaps we could ask ourselves the following questions:
· How well did I acknowledge and manage my emotions this year?
· On balance, did I focus more on the positives or negatives of situations that occurred?
· What activities and things did I do where I felt ‘ in the flow’ and totally absorbed and enriched by what I was doing?
· How much did I interact with people and situations mindfully by focussing my whole attention and being ‘present’?
· How connected have I felt to people close to me, and what support have I provided to others?
· How have I developed meaningful social connections this year?
· Did this year help me achieve a sense of meaning and purpose to my life? How have I lived out my values in tangible behaviours?
· What have I achieved this year that I feel proud of?
· What have I learnt and how have I developed my skills and capabilities?
The answers to this questions will help you not only to assess your achievements this year in more meaningful ways but will also help you to set some new and rich foundations for the year to come.
Looking back over your reflections, how well have you been able to flourish this year?