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How to Write a New Year Reflection

These days, each New Year has become even more significant as we continue to dig our way out of the pandemic. Since the end of 2020, we all secretly hoped that the ball dropping would symbolize the end of our isolating restrictions & the start of something new. Only to be disappointed when it didn’t quite work out that way. And yet again…the pandemic provides the perfect metaphor for the uncertainty of life. Anyway, my New Year’s resolution is to stop giving COVID-19 the attention that it doesn’t deserve. 

Moving on. Let’s talk self-reflection as we wrap up 2022 feeling burnt out and sad. It’s time to remember those little (or momentous) moments throughout the year that brought us a sense of joy or accomplishment. On the other hand, maybe you’re feeling like you crushed it this year. Great! Then you can take the time to recognize all of the things that helped you crush it and continue those habits into 2023. 

This is the ultimate guide on how to write an end-of-year/new-year reflection. It includes questions to ask yourself and how to use this tool for positive change in 2023. For me, this task provided clarity on my current mindset. By chronologically laying out the events of this year I arrived at an understanding of how my big and bright future plans came to be. It left me determined to make things happen in 2023. 

Step 1: Get Cozy

 This is not a willy-nilly task that can be done in the middle of your workday…no matter how bored you are. I suggest setting aside some uninterrupted time and getting yourself in the so-called “zone”. Yes, that means to turn your phone on do-not-disturb and lock it away to resist the Tik-Tok rabbit hole. By the way, read Should I Delete Social Media? you’re trying to kick some old social media habits. Anyway, whether cozy means on your couch with your favorite blanket & candle, in the wee hours of the morning with a cup of coffee, or at night while you sip a glass of wine, find your zen and get to writing. Of course, you have an entire year to review, so writing in chunks of time is totally acceptable. Full disclaimer, I’m still working on mine. 

Step 2: Select your Medium

A new year reflection should be personal and private. You should feel free to write whatever you please without judgment. So, choose a medium that feels safe to you. Whether that’s your tattered old journal, loose college-ruled paper shoved in a drawer somewhere, or (my preferred method) a word doc on my 10-year-old computer that is sure to die and erase all memory of this reflection soon. Don’t have the time or energy to write? You can record several voice memos as your reflection or even talk into a camera. Finally, maybe you reflect with someone that you trust and can be truthful with. You might even make it a game and pull questions out of a hat. 

Step 3: Outlines & Question Prompts

It’s nice to have a rough outline of your writing, especially for something as comprehensive as a new year reflection. If you ask yourself a series of questions to outline your thoughts, it makes the task less daunting. To find the perfect template, I referenced an outline from my own therapist and did some research (which got a bit more scientific than anticipated). The University of Edinburgh’s reflective toolkit was extremely thorough in providing several models for reflection, question prompts, and examples of reflections. In the end, I think all of the different models follow a similar arc. It starts with a description of an event, then how it made you feel, an analysis of what went well vs. what did not, and finally, relating this experience to your values and future.

  • Reflection Guided Questions: 
    • Describe the event in detail
    • How did I handle the event?
    • How did it make me feel?
    • What went well or what would I do again?
    • What went poorly and what would I NOT do again?
    • How does the outcome of the event, how I handled it, and how it made me feel align with the values I have for my life/future?

From here, you can decide whether you want to write on a month-to-month basis, by larger events chronologically, or just about the year as a whole. Or maybe you just reflect on that one major life-changing event that shaped your entire year…

But hey man, if using a model or outline feels confining to your ~reflective flow~ then opt for a free-form reflection. Do what works best for you. Honestly, I fall somewhere in between. I find it nice to review the questions when getting started or leave them at the top of the page and then work them into a giant paragraph that answers them in no particular order. I’ve always been a cross between type A and B…is C an option? 

Step 4: Intentions

 Next, take everything you learned from your experiences in 2022 and set intentions for the upcoming year. Intentions are different from resolutions. Intentions are guided by your values and, in general, how to want to behave in the upcoming year. Resolutions focus on a specific goal that is either achieved or not. An intention for the new year might be “Because I value my health, I intend to move my body more”. Whereas a resolution is “I want to lose 10 lbs by December 2023”. It’s really all semantics and “woo-woo”. But to me, intentions feel more achievable. Finally, it might help to make a list of your values, take stock of what seems to be out of alignment based on your experiences this year, and then move on to writing your intentions. Here’s a more in-depth guide to determining your values and examples of intentions. 

Step 5: Affirmations

Affirmations help to wrap up your new year reflection in a nice little bow. Affirmations are the part of this that makes you feel better about yourself. At the end of the day, affirmations are the reason that therapists recommend this shit. When you’re writing affirmations, you’re taking the time to appreciate just how far you’ve come since January 2022. Affirmations are short and sweet. If you’re a rookie, it helps to start with the phrase “I am…” and fill in the blank. For example: “I am passionate”, “I am confident”, or “I am allowed to take up space”.  Also, while affirming your badassery, it’s helpful to name things you’re grateful for that led you to this fully affirmed and confident state of being. 

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