There’s a sense of mystery in the air.  What will the new year bring?

No one can answer that question with any certainty, though our dreams, hopes and fears arise on their own, regardless, and can stir us with their energy.

But we are about to bring closure to the year.  Many of us are naturally inclined toward introspection and reflection at this time.  We become aware of our struggles and losses, our mistakes, our moments of joy as well as the kindness of others who crossed our paths. We have an opportunity to consider our good fortune in celebrating the gift of another year of life.

Somehow our energy for the coming year seems to fill the space that would be available for celebrating the gift of this past year.  Not that everything went in the direction of our desires.  We’re usually acutely aware of our disappointments, losses and suffering.  Yet, somehow, the experience of life seems to be worth bearing our difficulties.

Self-Reflection should be more than just a sentimental experience.  It can inform our decisions and choices for the year ahead.  It can help us live in a more conscious and deliberate way as we consider what was done and left undone. And what we hope to change. And how we can discover and share our unique gifts with the world.

So I encourage you to take time and PAUSE before jumping into goals or resolutions.  Whether you take a few minutes, or an entire day, invest some time in looking back and reflecting on your life.  It’s a great investment in the next year of your life.

The following suggestions are adapted from Naikan: Gratitude, Grace & the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection (Stone Bridge Press) by Gregg Krech – (p.172-175)

1. Reflect on your mother, father or other people who have supported you during the past year. You may have received things during an earlier time period, but still benefited from them during this past year.

2. Do Naikan reflection on someone with whom you’ve had difficulty, conflict, or tension during the past year. This is often the type of self-reflection we don’t feel like doing. We have our story – we are the good guy and they are the bad guy.  Sincere reflection allows you to modify that story.

The basic format of Naikan reflection is simple: You look at a specific person for a specific time period. You then consider three questions, writing down your answers in three separate columns on paper.  In general it is useful to spend 45-60 minutes for each period of reflection:

– What did I receive from _____?
– What did I give to _______?
– What troubles or difficulties did I cause ______?

3. Reflect on your unfinished business.  What important work or projects have been left undone?  What important matters need resolution?  What important relationships need attention?

4. Make a list of up to fifty things/services you’ve received this past year without providing any compensation or consideration. These could be things you received as gifts, things you stole, or things you used without payment.

5. Write thank-you letters to those who have cared for you and served you this past year. Be specific and personal.  You can end the year by thanking those who have supported you and they can begin the year by knowing your gratitude for their efforts.

6. Make a poster of your joys and sorrows for the past year.

Don’t try to resolve your reflections and tie them into a tidy package of goals or resolutions. Just sit with the questions and consider your life and your conduct this past year. Sit quietly with your reflections  before you come to any conclusions about what needs to be done in the coming year.

In a later post, I’ll offer you an alternative to the traditional New Year’s resolution.

Enjoy the remaining days of the  year.

And here’s to the mysteries and adventures of the New Year! 

Gregg Krech is a leading expert in Japanese Psychology and the author of several books on self-reflection including, Question Your Life: Naikan Self-Reflection and the Transformation of our Stories (2017). He will be leading the online course, Living on Purpose, which begins on January 8, 2024.  It’s a wonderful way to get a healthy start in the New Year.  REGISTER HERE.



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