Year end is a powerful time – a time of great celebrations and gatherings, a time of reflection and resolution and hope for the future. A time of letting go of past goals and lost possible selves and investing in the present and future best possible self.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus a two head god was the god of beginnings and transitions, and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January in his honour. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange, war and peace and he was also concerned with travel.
On December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.
The period between Christmas and the New Year is a great time for self-reflection- A time to look back over the past year and a time to plan for the year ahead.
Reflecting on the Past – Looking Back
As we look back over the past year we have two alternatives :
- An abundant mentality (glass half full to over flowing world view); or
- a deficit mentality (half empty world view).
I prefer the former view, directing my energy and attention to the positive outcomes, progress or learnings I have made during the year. I focus on what worked, what went well, and what I feel was successful. I've discovered that this strategy is critical to building my emotional resilience.
One of the other things I’ve learned is that the only thing I have control over is how I tell my story -- how I interpret my experiences and make sense of them. If I create a story that is one of learning, growth, and empowerment, I feel better.
We design our lives, in part, by the stories we tell ourselves and others. We create our realities through these stories. This is especially true when we experience change, and perhaps change that we didn't initiate and that initially doesn't feel good. We can tell a "victim story" such as: “When you move towns it’s difficult to make new friends. People are not interested in including new people into their circle. The people I would like to befriend just don’t seem interested or reject my offers of connecting”. Can we tell another story; such as “Making new friends requires reaching out and taking a risk. Relationships take time and effort to build. They also take energy and opportunity.” Which one of these interpretations feels better to you? In which story might you have more control? Which story will serve you best?
We can tell stories about the past and we can design stories for our future that can lead to our own personal transformation. A turning point in my life was when I began to consciously work on renovating my own stories which weren't serving me -- they weren't energizing me to get up in the morning and focus on opportunities to connect with other women.
I made excuses for not reaching out, I blamed others when I felt disconnected, and I built walls around myself. As I began reinterpreting my reality, my daily life changed, my friendship circle improved, and I felt happier.
I went from: Creating a circle of true friends is hopeless; it's too hard, and there’s no way I can build meaningful reciprocal connections, to: I can and will build relationships where I am valued, appreciated, welcomed, and respected?
So how are you telling the story of your past 12 months?
In Gregg Krech’s book, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection (Stone Bridge Press, 2002), he suggests using the following three simple questions to reflect on our relationships, or some other theme:
- What have I received from _____?
- What have I given to ________?
- What troubles and difficulties have I caused _________?
- I’d recommend substituting the last question with
“What have I learned or how have I changed by the circumstances of my life? as it focuses on a growth and a positive personal narrative.
These questions were originally developed by a Japanese man, Yoshimoto Ishin, who developed the method of self-reflection called Naikan. Naikan means “looking from the inside.”
Other Questions Prompts to help with your reflection About Relationships
- Who were the three people who had the greatest impact on your life last year?
- Did anyone close to you give birth (literally or symbolically)?
- Did anyone close to you die (literally or symbolically)?
- What important relationship improved the most?
- What important relationship suffered the most?
- What event merited celebration?
- What event appalled you?
- How did you positively influence the next generation this year?
- What well-known person, dead or alive, influenced you the most this year?
- Who made you laugh the most this year?
If you’d like more reflection prompts visit “New Year's Reflections and Resolutions: How to End the Year Mindfully (with 100 Discussion Questions)” by Carly Sullens
If one of your New Years Resolutions is to make better connections and strengthen relationships, connect with us by joining Soul Sister Talks and begin a fasttrack to friendship course.