Today I want to help you make changes that last. Key to that is REFLECTION.
Having said that for those in recovery reflecting on the year (let alone the last week!) can feel daunting.
"Aren't I just gonna see what a failure I have been? How things never change? How I've hurt myself and others?"
Others of you might say "Isn't that the point of my acting out behavior: to not look at myself!? Why are you asking me to reflect on my year?"
Whether you are helping people in recovery or in recovery yourself REFLECTION is medicine for the tired, wounded and broken soul.
HURDLES TO REFLECTION
It's often more difficult than it seems; sometimes how jumping in a cold lake seems before your swimming around in it. Yes, it will sting but then you'll feel refreshed and renewed.
With reflection it may be that what keeps you at the edge of the cold lake is really a problem with self-acceptance.
Self-acceptance is about fully acknowledging what's wrong as well as what's right. It's acknowledging the good choices and the bad and saying "that's me." Only with a sane, honest view of yourself will you be able to see clearly what next steps to take in life. Self-acceptance is the birthplace for changes that last.
REFLECTION, therefore, is a discipline of self-acceptance.
REWARDS OF REFLECTION
REFLECTION is also a practice in making meaning of your life.
Meaning-making is powerful.
Viktor Frankl, one of a few survivors of his holocaust cohort said that meaning-making is what allowed him to survive the soul-crushing torture. Not only did it allow him to survive it is what allowed him to be kind to others and to strive to live fully every moment until his liberation. Here is what he wrote in Man's Search for Meaning:
For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment.
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.
Imagine how having clarity on your unique mission would impact your career, closest relationship, finances or recovery.
Here is my invitation for you to practice self-acceptance and to make meaning of your life. Here is an invitation to learn, grow and take one step closer to where you want to be. Ultimately, here is an invitation to making changes that last.
ANNUAL REFLECTION GUIDE
STEP 1: find a place you can unplug and relax for an hour
STEP 2: skim the reflection questions (below)
STEP 3: go through your photos
When I start to take stock of the year I go to my phone and start looking at photos and videos of the year. Facebook is helpful for this. I usually do both. Having skimmed the questions I start to look for answers in the moments I recorded. I don't take a ton of photos. The photos just jog my memory for the different themes and parts of the year. I have an unhelpful memory so this helps a ton.
STEP 4: fill in the blanks
With the questions and photos in front of me I start to sketch some answers.
STEP 5: journals, workbooks and blogs
After an initial perusing I take it to the next level and skim my journal, blog or anything else where I've written down thoughtful work. Usually this just adds to what I've already sketched. What's interesting about this part is tracking to see how my perception changes--my view of myself, of God, of issues. It can be pretty deep to see if/how your fundamental view of reality changes over time and to see what events influence the change.
STEP 6: (if you are a spiritual person) expressing gratitude to God
Often I end up seeing more clearly how God is a living actor in my life. I like to pause here and have a moment of conscious contact, to have a moment of thankful communion.
STEP 7: looking forward
After looking back I look forward. After or during my thankful communion with God clarity often comes with a phrase, image, poem, song or verse. This year the phrase that came to me was "pursue the path of peace." It's a way I've begun to think about all the decisions I make now...is this the path of peace?
PEACE is an interesting concept because the connotation is not necessarily with happiness, relaxation or an absence of stress. What this phrase leads me to ask myself is "Am I living at peace with myself, with God, with my values, with my body, etc.?" It's with this lens that I evaluate my family life, marriage, sexuality, health, vocation and all the decisions that will impact each part of my life.
I wonder what phrase or image you will have for 2015?
Annual Reflection Questions
1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
3. What were your best/worst decisions of the year?
4. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
5. What was an unexpected obstacle?
6. Pick three to five words to describe 2014.
7. Pick three to five words your family and friends would use to describe your 2014—don’t ask them; guess and ask them afterward if appropriate
8. What book impacted you the most? How?
9. What person impacted you the most? How? Share with them if it is appropriate to do so.
10. Relationships. How connected or disconnected did you feel with the most important people in your life? Who did you grow closer to? Who did you grow farther apart from?
11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
14. What was the most enjoyable part of your work experience?
15. What was the most challenging part of your work experience?
16. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
17. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
18. What were some of the important things you learned this past year?
19. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2014 for you.
20. (If you are spiritual) What meditations, concepts or scriptures shaped your 2014?
After all this reflection what most stands out? What do you have clarity on now that you didn't before? How does this inform your 2015?
Cheers! Happy New Year!