It’s no secret that 2020 has been a little…hmm, how best to put it into words?… seriously f*cking traumatic. Personally, I started the year in Australia choking on smoke and watching a mountain burn before my eyes. And then, beyond all expectations, the year continued to get worse.
So now that it’s drawing to a close, you’d be forgiven for wanting to just drink the memories of the year away and try to move on as quickly as possible. But I personally think that’d be missing a huge opportunity to end the year on a high note.
To my mind, the best way to truly close out the old year and clear the way for a better future is to stop, reflect, and record the lessons of the past year. And the best way to do that is with an end-of-year ritual.
(I was originally inspired to do this by Denise Duffield-Thomas, who’s my #1 business crush/inspiration and who you MUST follow if you don’t already).
An end-of-year ritual is part spiritual practice, part success habit, and part mental health reset (especially this year, yikes).
What’s so great about it? Well, choosing to let the year go with some kind of closing ritual helps you:
a) ‘Lock in’ the positives from the year by acknowledging and recording them (which helps us combat “where-did-the-year-go-itus” and the tendency to only remember the negatives); and
b) Fully let go of negative aspects from the year, while acknowledging the lessons we learnt from them.
If we’re really going to say goodbye to 2020 forever (and god knows, we all want that) then it’s worth taking the time to properly reflect on what it’s given us.
So enough of the pollywaffle (as my sister would say), and let’s get into the how.
If you want a one-stop shop of instructions + digital journal to use for your reflections, you can download it below.
Download Your Digital Journal
I recommend setting up a quiet space and getting comfortable with the mood music of your choice. Smelly candles are great if they’re your thing. Then simply grab a journal and a pen or download the digital one I made for you below.
Now it’s time to rest, reflect, and write down your answers to the following questions:
#1 – What are your proudest achievements this year?
I know there might be some resistance to this first question, given what a weird year it’s been, but I want you to list out at least 10 things that you’re proud of doing in 2020.
Did you get to ten things without much bother? Then challenge yourself to double that number. We want to create a big long list that makes you feel a warm fuzzy glow of happiness as you look back on it.
There’s no filter here, either. Literally anything that you can remember to feel proud about is worthy of being recorded.
You might write down some big things – like getting married, buying Bitcoin at $5,000 (please give me a time machine) or maintaining a weight loss program in lockdown even with the world’s greatest excuse for binge-eating.
But don’t forget to list out some less-big things too. Like realising that being alone isn’t the hell you assumed it’d be, or growing your first potted herbs, or pressing stop on The Queen’s Gambit before binge-watching the entire season in one sitting (actually I changed my mind, if you did that then it’s definitely a BIG thing).
#2 – What do you know now, that you didn’t know this time last year?
This year has been so out-of-the-ordinary, that I GUARANTEE you’ve picked up some new knowledge or skill that you didn’t have this time last year.
Did you try to teach yourself something new while locked down? Or were you forced to do something that you wouldn’t have otherwise done?
Maybe you know how to homeschool now. If you’re like most of the parents I know, you may not have liked it very much – but it’s a new skill that the past year brought you so it totally deserves to be acknowledged.
Think back to the you of 12 months ago, then write down all the new things that today-you knows or can do.
#3 – How are you a wiser person than this time last year?
They say that wisdom comes with age. And here’s a chance for you to recognise the wisdom that you gained over your past 12 months of ageing. (Possibly prematurely, thanks COVID).
This prompt is about reflecting on the things you’ve learned and the insights you’ve had that have changed the way you’ll live from now on.
This year has been full of growth opportunities.
Uncomfortable, painful growth opportunities.
Go deep, and draw out the lessons you’ve learned. (And trust me when I say that everyone, everywhere has something they can take from 2020).
For example, you might want to consider how the mainstreaming of discussions around white privilege affected you this year. If you’re white, there may be things you notice now that didn’t even cross your mind a year ago. How has this knowledge changed the way you approach life or business now?
Write your insights down, acknowledge them, and embed those lessons as something you take forward with you into the new year.
#4 – What are you most grateful for from the past year?
If you forced me to choose just one new habit that’s guaranteed to improve the quality of your life, it’s the habit of cultivating gratitude. Gratitude is “strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness” .
Which is the Harvard Medical School way of saying that squillions of studies over years and years show that gratitude does amazing things to your brain, and it makes you healthier and happier.
If you’ve been keeping a gratitude journal throughout the year, now’s a great time to flick back through and remind yourself of those moments. If you’re not in the habit of writing down daily gratitudes, then use this time to think back and identify some things you can feel thankful for.
There are moments of gratitude to be found in even the worst situations. An unexpected connection. A heart-warming conversation. The kindness of strangers.
Write down as many things as you can think of. Then try to think of another 3. Gratitude is genuinely a human superpower that you’d be crazy not to tap into.
So that’s it, the end of year closing-out ritual that I use to scoop up all the good bits of the past year, say goodbye to the rest, and enter a new year with gratitude, appreciation and optimism.
I’d love to know if this was helpful for you. Let me know in the comments below, or say hi over on Instagram.