How To Move Forward: End Of The Year Reflection Questions For The New Year

The new year always inspires reflection for me. 

I find inspiration looking back on the previous year and uncovering the lessons I’ve learned.

I love thinking about where I’m at now and the growth I’ve experienced to get here.

And I feel excited looking forward to the year ahead and deciding intentionally where I’m going. 

This week on episode 72 the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast we take a deep dive into the past year.

We explore the power of looking back on our experiences in order to move forward.

We talk about why and how to stop arguing with reality and embrace what is.

And we discuss three key areas to help us learn, grow, and enter the new year filled with joy and possibility. 

If you’re ready to find out how, you can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • The power of looking back on your past experiences in order to move forward
  • Why we should stop arguing with reality
  • 3 key areas to explore in order to learn, grow, and enter the new year with joy and possibility

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Episode # 72 How To Move Forward: End Of The Year Reflection For The New Year (Transcript)

Hello everybody. Welcome to episode 72 of the podcast. What’s happening? Thanks for tuning in today.

Before we dive into the episode and I forget to mention it, I want to tell you about a training that I’m teaching at the end of the month on Tuesday, December 29th, at 2:00 pm EST. And this training is all about gearing up and getting ready for our 2021 goals. 

Planning for 2021

Now, it’s still early in December. It’s very possible you’re not even thinking about 2021 yet. It’s very possible you’re still trying to get through the next few weeks ahead. And that’s totally okay. I’ve got you covered. Because that’s what we’re going to explore in this training. We’re going to talk about identifying and getting specific about your goals and resolutions. And you’re going to learn new strategies to maintain your commitment and motivation to stick to those goals past the first few weeks of January. 

Because I promise you, my friends, that is possible. So if you want to join us in that training, just head to and add your name to the list. I will send all of the details your way.

Alright. On with the episode. So today I want to talk with you about our past-focused brains, about second-guessing yourself, and about the importance of having your own back. 

So let me give you some context.

Looking Back on the Year

December always brings about a reflective time for me. I like to look back on the previous year, think about where I am at right now, and then look ahead to where I’m going to be one year from now. So I’ve been doing this work on myself over the past few weeks. I’ve been exploring these questions or some of my clients. And I’ve been having conversations with some of my fellow coaches in our Mastermind as well.

Now, I think there’s a lot of value in taking time to think about our past, the lessons we’ve learned, and how we can take those lessons with us and grow from them going forward. But there’s a potential pitfall here, too, if we’re not careful. And that pit we need to be careful of is not falling into the whole of dwelling in our past. We need to be mindful that we don’t flip into thought processes of dwelling on what we should have done or shouldn’t have done. You need to be mindful of not focusing on what we should have known or what we wish we would have known. What others should have done or shouldn’t have done.

Watch Out For “Should”

As I say over and over, “should” never feels good. In fact, it feels downright terrible. Because when we should all over ourselves, we are arguing with reality. And as Byron Katie reminds us, “When I argue with reality I lose – but only 100% of the time.”

This year in particular, I’ve noticed in our collective world an increase in these thoughts of should, the feelings of regret and frustration, and a yearning for the opportunity to just leave it all behind and not think about it again. And I’ve absolutely noticed myself in this category as well. I have definitely said to myself, I can’t wait for a fresh start in 2021. 

And let me say that there’s nothing wrong with that either. Fresh starts are an amazing thing. I think it can be a useful perspective to think about the new year as an opportunity to reset ourselves, to get clear on our priorities, and to decide intentionally how we want to show up in the world going forward.

It’s Okay To Have Negative Emotions

Where I see the problem, however, is that we are trying to escape 2020 with a big old “should.” In other words, this year just should not have happened. All of the challenges we faced and continue to face should not have happened. And we are essentially arguing with the reality of an entire year. 

Now, let me also say that it’s absolutely okay if you’re not happy about the things that happened, okay? I’m not saying that you need to be happy. You don’t need to be grateful for it. I’m not saying that everything that happened this past year was good. As I’ve said before, it’s okay to feel negative emotions. It’s okay to feel sadness or loss. That is all part of the human experience.

What I am saying, however, is when you constantly argue with reality and think to yourself different versions of “this should not have happened,” you feel terrible.

Clean Pain Vs. Dirty Pain

I sometimes like to describe the distinction as clean pain vs. dirty pain. Clean pain is when something happens and you want to feel a negative emotion about it. It is a situation where you want to feel sad or worried or loss because it makes sense. It would be weird if you felt happy given the circumstance. Dirty pain, on the other hand, is when you layer additional stories and beliefs on top of those emotions, which feels even worse.

So for example, you might feel really disappointed because you applied for a job and didn’t get it. That is clean pain. That is pain that’s part of the human experience. If you really wanted the job, of course, you are disappointed about it. And that’s okay. You can take some time to process that. That is clean pain.

But when you add on additional beliefs of “this shouldn’t have happened this way. I shouldn’t have answered the question this way. I should have done this differently.” That’s when you enter the dirty pain territory. That’s when you start arguing with reality. That’s when you start arguing with what is. And that’s when it feels especially terrible.

Cancelled Plans

An area where I hear a lot of people getting stuck in the dirty pain right now is in terms of changed and canceled plans due to COVID this year. Maybe it’s changed travel arrangements, maybe it’s canceled celebrations, maybe it’s delayed weddings, etc. Many of us had to pivot our plans over the past 10 or so months, and there’s often the desire to move from clean to dirty pain pretty quickly.  

So for example, Ryan and I normally fly home to be with our families over Christmas. We spend Christmas eve with my family and then we head to Ryan’s family for Christmas day. This is what we do every year, and at the beginning of 2020, we had no reason to imagine this year would be any different. Of course, for most of us this year, things are different. And Ryan and I are no exception. We are opting to do stay in Boston rather than traveling like we usually do. 

Now here’s the deal. I definitely feel sad about that. I am sad that we don’t get to see our favorite people. And I’m sad that it will be over a year before we do. And that’s okay. That is something I want to be sad about. I don’t want to feel happy that I can’t see my family on Christmas. So when that sadness comes up, I allow it to be there, I breathe into it, and I process it. 

But once I notice my brain start thinking things like, “it shouldn’t be this way. I should be able to fly home without any concern. I should be able to celebrate Christmas with my family in person this year.” That’s when things start feeling really icky. That’s when I notice my emotions start shifting to helplessness and even indignation. And I’m feeling that additional layer of negative emotion simply because I’m arguing with reality by thinking to myself, it shouldn’t be that way.

Having Your Own Back

So again, you are more than welcome to think and feel however you want about the past year. But what I’ve been working on for the last few weeks, and what I encourage you to consider, too, is cleaning up our thoughts about 2020. How can we stop arguing with the past? How can we stop arguing with what happened: the decisions we made, the things we said, the experiences we had? And perhaps most importantly, how can we have our own backs? How can we look to our past selves with both compassion and gratitude and say “Thanks, past self. You got me here. You kept me going. And you made it happen.”

Because I promise you, once you get to that place of compassion and love and gratitude, you will be ready to plan for 2021 feeling energized and abundant for what’s to come, rather than desperate for a promise of some glimmer of hope, which is the perspective I’ve heard from most people recently. 

Stop Arguing With Reality & Retell Your Story

And in this episode we’re going to talk about how to do that. We’re going to talk a powerful three-step exercise to help us stop arguing with reality, reconsider our past experiences, and retell our story with us as the hero where we have our own backs.  

And then next week we are going to build from the heroic strength and energy that we find today as we plan for the abundance that’s coming our way in 2021.

So do this work, my friends. Set aside some time in your calendar both this week and next to really journal about the prompts I offer you. Not only will it help you see 2020 differently, but it will also help you strengthen your self concept and be ready to plan and follow through on the incredible 2021 that’s waiting for you.

What Went “Wrong”?

Alright, so how do we begin? The first thing I encourage you to do is a big thought download of all the things that went quote-unquote “wrong” in 2020. Now, this list could be pretty long and also rather eclectic. It might include the big national and international things, and it might include challenges at home or at work, and it might also be things that went wrong strictly for you. 

When you look at your past self throughout 2020, when do you notice yourself thinking: “I shouldn’t have done this instead. I should have known better than to… He shouldn’t have done this. I wish that hadn’t happened.

So more specific scenarios might sound like: I shouldn’t have bought all of those clothes, I never wore any of them this summer. She should have been more supportive of my business ideas. I wish I would have started working on this goal sooner. I had the time this summer when things were slower, I shouldn’t have wasted it like I did. My summer travel plans shouldn’t have been cancelled. I shouldn’t have taken that job – or I should have taken that job. I should have been more organized, prepared, supportive, patient, etc. during the unpredictability of this year. 

Do any of these things sound familiar?

So in situations like this, all we are doing is arguing with reality, right? These instances happened, people said thing, we bought stuff, we did or didn’t do something, and looking back on it now, we think it should have unfolded differently. And because we’re arguing with what is, it feels terrible. 

You Did Your Best

Now, the first thing I recommend doing after you get your list is to take note of the areas where you are either arguing with reality about what you did or didn’t do or what other people did or didn’t do. And the first thought that I like to explore and remind myself is this: In whatever situation I’m thinking about, I showed up doing the best I could with the information I had. And I try to extend that to other people as well, if I find myself focused on other people. They showed up doing the best they could with the information they had at that time.

Of course, this is a thought. But it’s a thought that I like. It’s a thought that serves me. And it’s a thought that I truly believe. Because I know for myself, I am never thinking: how can I do a really bad job? How can I set myself up for failure? How can I made a decision that I’ll regret later?

Nobody thinks that way, right? We are all doing the best we can with the information and resources we have. And when I can remind myself of that thought, I have a much easier time dropping the judgement and deciding intentionally how I want to think about it going forward. 

Drop The Judgement

So for example, if you are thinking to yourself, I should have gotten started on that goal sooner, and you’re beating yourself up because of it, what if that thought just isn’t true? What if, when the opportunity presented itself, it wasn’t the right time for you? If you showed up at that time, doing the best you could, with the information you had, then what? What do you think about it now? 

If you’re thinking to yourself, I should not have taken that job. What if that’s not true? What if you did what was best for you at that time? How could that be true? And what do you want to think about the situation now?

Once we remove that first layer of judgment in regard to ‘I should have known better, done better, acted differently.” Or “they should have known better, done better, or acted differently.” Then we get to decide intentionally what we want to think about it without that extra negativity mixed in. In fact, I actually feel physically lighter, my chest feels less tight, my shoulders are less tense, because I’ve dropped the extra weight of judgement that I’d been carrying around.

Okay. So we have lightened the load a little bit. We’ve recognized the fact that we showed up in the best way we could at the time. and the next  exercise I encourage you to try is to flip each scenario and tell yourself the opposite story than the one you’ve been believing.

Flip Your Story

So if you tell yourself something shouldn’t have happened, play around with the  question, “why should this have happened?” Or that question doesn’t feel quite right, perhaps you could ask yourself, “how is this happening for me?”

So if we go back to the two examples I gave before… if you are dwelling in the fact that you did not start your goal sooner, ask yourself: “why is it perfect that I did not start my goal until now? How is this situation happening for me?” And let your brain explore these questions. As always, don’t allow for “I don’t know.” Don’t let your brain just shut it down. Give yourself some space to truly answer the question.

If you are beating yourself up thinking “I shouldn’t have taken this job. I should have known better. Ask yourself: why is it perfect that I did take this job? How is this happening for me? Maybe it’s perfect because it introduced you to new people and helped you make more connections in your industry. Maybe it’s happening for you because it sparked a new business idea or project that you want to pursue on your own. Perhaps it’s happening for you because it helped identify problem area in your field that you can now focus on solving. Maybe it’s perfect because it’s helping you learn more about yourself, your values, and what’s most important to you.

Ryan’s Band

I’ve been thinking a lot about this one for my husband this year. He is a musician and his band, Closing Time, had a fully booked year in front of them. Ryan had every weekend scheduled playing weddings and events from March through December. In fact, it got to the point where they had to turn away a lot of gigs because they were just too busy. And this is amazing. Ryan was so excited about the year ahead. And then when covid-19, all of this came to a screeching halt. And there was definitely a whole lot of “why is this happening to us? This shouldn’t be happening. This is awful. Etc.

And again, this is where we had to spend some time sorting through the queen and the dirty pain. Feeling disappointed that all the shows were canceled, we decided that’s okay. It is a bummer. He wanted to feel sad that all of these shows he was so excited about weren’t happening. He wanted to feel sad that he wasn’t going to perform all year, which is what he loves loves loves to do.

Arguing With Reality

But it started feeling icky when we started thinking to ourselves, this shouldn’t be happening. It shouldn’t happen this way. It’s not supposed to happen this way. Because again, that’s arguing with reality. It is arguing with what is.  and as I look back on this year, I see several areas where the cancellations happened for him. Because the shows were cancelled, he had the time to put together two other outstanding bands. He created three incredible music videos – one for each band – so that he and his different groups will be ready for the enormous influx of weddings and events over the next couple of years. 

Now, there is no way that Ryan would have had time to put together these groups if his schedule would have gone as originally planned. But he was able to find an opportunity within the challenge presented, and he made something amazing out of it.

So again,  you are welcome to think about any circumstance that unfolds in your life in any way that you want to. That is one of the most beautiful things about being a human. You get to choose what you think at any time. Nobody can take that from you. And there are times when you may want to think thoughts that make you feel sad or disappointed or frustrated or angry. Ryan wanted to feel sad that he couldn’t perform live for people this year. That’s okay. I am not trying to minimize that. But there are also opportunities to find the possibility within these challenges. There are opportunities for growth and change, and by considering how these experiences might be happening for you, it can help give you an alternative perspective. 

Who Did You Become?

And the last set of questions that I encourage you to consider as you look over your list of all the things you believe went wrong, shouldn’t have happened, what should have happened differently, focuses on your areas of growth.  Who did you become because of that challenge? What did you learn because of that experience? I promise you, these are two of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself when you’re thinking about your past. What did I learn from this experience? Who did I become because of this challenge?

So often we get stuck focusing on the negative. We get stuck arguing with reality. But the experience happened, right? We know that arguing with the past is not going to change anything. And what’s more, I guarantee you that you either learned something from it or you grew as a person because of it. Or both.

What Did You Learn?

How have you grown from the multitude of lessons and experiences 2020 taught us? From Global, national, and local news, to family experiences and personal challenges. What did you learn from the canceled plans? How have you grown because you turned down that job? What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned about your priorities? 

Despite all of the very real challenges, and the situations where we want to be outraged, sad, or worried, I think there are also so many valuable lessons about the importance of connection and asking for help. 2020 has taught us about the power of compassion and of considering different perspectives. It’s taught us about the importance of staying open to new possibilities, of being creative, and of trying things differently.

And this week I invite you to take a look back at the past year. Find those experiences that really stand out to you. Find the moments where your brain offers, “it shouldn’t have happened that way.” And consider finding how that experience may have taught you a powerful lesson, may have happened for you, and may have challenged you to grow into the next version of yourself. 

What if this past year not only challenged you, but also made you stronger and more resilient than you ever imagined possible? And you now get to take that resilience with you into the year ahead to do amazing things?  

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