Looking Back to Help Us Look Forward

 In Better Life

This time of year, we often hear a lot about setting New Year’s Resolutions. But on New Year’s Eve, my husband, daughter, and I flipped it around and reflected on the past year; what we were proud of, what brought us joy, where we found comfort, and our hope for 2021. We had a long and amazing discussion that not only made me appreciate my 2020, but also brought me closer to my family.

Honestly, it wasn’t my idea. I was inspired by an email from Kelly McGonigal, PhD. Kelly is a research psychologist, lecturer at Stanford University, and an award-winning science writer. Her email shared a series of reflections that she says “has supported me in years that were difficult, to deal with disappointment or loss. And it has helped me celebrate the good, clarify what matters most, and look forward to the future.”

You can watch a video on YouTube where she shares the practice and each theme. You can also view or download this document, which describes the practice and includes all of the themes and questions she’s chosen to focus on for 2021.

It wasn’t until I started studying and applying Positive Psychology that I came to appreciate the value and power of reflecting on my past.  And I’ve discovered it’s more fun to do it with others like my family or close friends.

As I look back (I like to review my calendar),

  • I’m reminded of many good things I’ve forgotten; adventures, conversations, projects, meetings, presentations.
  • I feel happiness and gratitude for these experiences and the people I was with
  • I think about the things I enjoyed that I want to do again or want to do more of in the future
  • I boost my feelings of self-worth by thinking back on my accomplishments
  • I reflect on the regrets and disappointments and what I would do differently next time and what I’ve learned

“Reflection:  Looking back so the view looking forward is even clearer” – Unknown

“We don’t learn from doing; we learn from reflecting on what we’ve done” – John Dewey

It’s not too late! As 2021 gets rolling, take some time to think about (or talk about) the questions in Kelly’s download. I would love to hear how it goes.

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