From reflection to direction: How to wave goodbye to one year and welcome another

Two new year rituals can set you on the path for personal growth: reflecting on the past 12 months, and creating a compass for those to come.

Personal Growth

As a firm believer in the power of Mondays and the allure of brand new notebooks, It is no surprise that I find that there’s something inherently magical about the start of a new year. So, let’s embark on a journey of self-reflection, much like the way we eagerly dive into the power of new stationery.

In the past four years, I’ve cultivated two rituals that have proven invaluable in setting the tone for the upcoming year. First and foremost is the art of evaluating the year gone by.

Indulge in your own annual reflection

Go as lush as you can. Find a quiet spot, perhaps a cosy café or maybe a room in your house (but light that candle that you have for special occasions) and gift yourself the luxury of time – a full morning or an afternoon – to reflect on the highs and lows of the past year. I know it sounds excessive but, realistically, investing four hours annually in introspection is a small price for the clarity it brings.

The first ritual is all about reflection. These are the questions I like to journal about:

What were your goals, your intentions for the year?

Acknowledge that where you find yourself now may not be precisely aligned your initial expectations. But rather than fixating on those perceived shortcomings, celebrate the unexpected victories and moments of personal growth that were not even on your radar a year ago. I tend to find that I am closer to my goals than I think, even if the journey looked very different than what I thought.

What do you want to carry forward into the new year?

Reflect on the habits, insights and connections that have become an integral part of your new self. Recognise and celebrate these aspects as the building blocks of your personal growth.

What are you ready to release?

Some things are a relief to let go of (caring about weight was a life-changing one for me) and some are more difficult (stop volunteering for that organisation you don’t have time to support, or stop seeing a friend that you love but who doesn’t respect your boundaries). This is the time to be honest with yourself and explore the possibility of moving on.

What have you learned?

Life’s lessons, both big and small, shape us into the individuals we are becoming. Cherish these moments of growth, even if some of them came with pain, and use them as stepping stones for the road ahead.

What are you proud of?

Finish by celebrating your victories, no matter how small. Whether it’s the day you held your tongue in front of the kids and didn’t swear, the time you navigated a challenging conversation, or a bold step taken towards something you desired – even if you didn’t get it. Celebrate all the wins. We don’t tell ourselves enough that our lives are full of them, and of moments that should make us proud and happy to be in our skin.

Choose your word of the year

Change the candle if you need to, order another coffee, or go for a small walk, and come back refreshed for the second annual ritual: choosing a word of the year.

This is not a resolution or a specific goal. Rather, your word of the year is like a guiding star, a compass for the journey ahead.

I have been using this technique for years and like to think of words to encapsulate my journey: ‘growth’, ‘abundance’, ‘joy’, and, this past year, ‘essential’. Looking ahead to 2024, the word ‘open’ feels right and exciting, promising a year of new possibilities and expanded horizons.

Choosing your word of the year is a very personal process and there are various techniques to explore. Whether a word resonates instantly or emerges through a deliberate process, trust your intuition. Remember: you’re not marrying the word. Think of it as a lighthouse in the sea, to bring some light and direction while navigating this new year.

Ask yourself: Who do I want to become? Take the time to visualise vividly how you want to live, how you want to feel, and how would you like to see yourself. The clearer and more honest you can be, the better.

Then start writing down words that describe that person and what would you need to do to get one step closer to that version of yourself. (My husband’s word of this year is ‘habits’ – a perfect example!)

You can also just Google ‘word of the year’ for inspiration. It sounds a bit like cheating, but you can easily get a list of hundreds to get you started.

If you want to do it from scratch, try to write at least 50 in a full brainstorming mood. Write lots of words, every word that comes to mind, and don’t get too hung up trying to find the perfect one. It is quantity over quality at this stage.

When you find yourself with a list full of words, start reducing them. Pick your 10 favourites, then just five, get to the big finale between two words, then choose a winner.

Once you have chosen a word, see how it feels. I like the idea of ‘trying them on’ to see if they fit. I have found that some words felt too big for where I was in that moment in time; they were overwhelming and distracting. Others felt too small, not challenging me the right amount. I know when I choose the right one because I feel excited and ready to get going.

The idea of the word of the year is to serve as a reminder of your purpose. It won’t be an exact map, but it will point you in the right direction.

As we approach 2024, I wish you the excitement of this new page, blank and full of possibilities, and invite you to intentionally use it as a gift to yourself. I encourage you to make it count!

Virginia Mendez
A feminist author, speaker and co-founder of The Feminist Shop, Virginia draws on her corporate background and experience as a mother of two to create a career focused on positive change. She believes in transforming the world one conversation at a time.

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