How to do an end of year reflection

Kat Nicholls
By Kat Nicholls,
updated on Dec 14, 2022

How to do an end of year reflection

If you’re winding down for the year and are keen to take a moment for reflection, this guide is for you

How are you feeling as the end of the year approaches? If you’re anything like me, the word ‘tired’ may well come to mind. When this feeling comes over me, however, I try to embrace it. As I type this, I’m cocooned in a cosy jumper listening to acoustic Christmas songs. I’m making plans for rest and am ready to hibernate a little.

I’m also making plans for quiet reflection. The end of a year naturally lends itself to this, giving us a clear endpoint to pause and look back at the last 12 months. I do this every year and it helps me appreciate what I’ve experienced, learn any necessary lessons and grieve for what didn’t go to plan. It also serves as a jumping-off point for setting intentions and hopes for the year ahead.

If you’re keen to try an end of year reflection, here are some steps to make it both meaningful and enjoyable.

Set the scene

The first step is to carve out time and space for reflection. Plan a morning, afternoon or evening and schedule it in your calendar like you would any other important appointment. When you get to it, make it special. Play your favourite music, light a candle, have a beverage and snack nearby (I personally opt for a glass of red and a mince pie) and get a writing tool of choice (pen and paper, notes app on your phone, computer, voice memo – whatever works for you).

Take a couple of deep breaths to centre yourself. Let go of what’s happened so far today/this week. Engage your senses and root yourself in the present moment. We have to arrive where we are before we look back.

If you had to describe the year in one word, what would it be?

To start with, it can be helpful to really zoom out for a bird’s eye view of the year. Thinking of it as a whole, can you think of one word that encapsulates the year? This can be a helpful starting point before digging deeper.

What felt tough this year?

I personally like to start with the lows so I can end on a high, but you may prefer to switch this order. Whenever you come to it, ask yourself what was difficult about this year. You may have a lot to note here, or not as much as you think. Remember, we all have different capacities for stress, so what feels difficult for one person may not feel difficult for others. So try not to compare yourself to others who may have had it ‘worse’. This is about you and how you experienced the year.

Find out how you can create your own sanctuary to shelter when things feel tough.

What lessons were learnt?

The lessons from the tough moments of the year may be obvious, or they may still elude you. They may have reminded you how important self-compassion is. They may have strengthened or weakened relationships. They may have helped you see what’s important to you in your life. They may have simply reminded you that this life is a wild ride sometimes and all we can do is hold on until things settle.

Who gave you what you needed this year?

Taking a moment to think about your relationships can be helpful during your end of year reflection. Who supported you? Who’s presence felt like sunshine? Who gave you what you needed? Remember to include yourself here if you feel you gave yourself what you needed. This can help you recognise and appreciate who you have in your life and perhaps open your eyes to those who aren’t giving you what you need from a relationship.

What felt joyful this year?

This is the fun part. Think back over the year (it might help to flick through photos or scroll through social media posts to jog your memory) and make a note of what felt good. Perhaps there were some big achievements and celebrations? Or maybe there was joy to be found in smaller everyday rituals? Write down everything that felt good.

What lessons were learnt?

Just as we can take lessons from the tough times, we can learn from the joyful ones. Why did these moments feel good? What was it about these experiences you enjoyed? Was it an activity? The people involved? The location? Try to pinpoint the essence of each joyful moment and see if you can spot any common or recurring themes.

What was your favourite day of the year?

This can be a tricky one to remember, but if you can, think about what day of the last year was your favourite. And again, consider why. What was it about this day that felt so good to you? By noticing the good, we can work on bringing more of that into our lives.

How can you bring more of what felt good into the New Year?

Thinking back on your answers to the previous prompts, consider how you can bring more of what felt good into the upcoming year. Perhaps it means more time with loved ones, more travel, or more new experiences. Maybe it’s more about rest, setting boundaries and prioritising alone time.

We are all different and, hopefully, after identifying what brought you joy this year, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what makes you happy and what brings you fulfilment. Awareness is the first step, then we can take action to make change.

If you’re looking for some guidance with this reflection, you can download our free wheel of life tool to identify any areas that feel out of balance. You can also use Life Coach Directory to search for a coach who can help you set intentions and reach your goals in the New Year.

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