What are your tools and rituals for reflecting on the past year?
December 24, 2013 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Around New Years I enjoy rituals or activities like filling out little surveys in my journal that help me reflect on my past year and make a record I can revisit in the future. Do you have (or know of) any year-end rituals that you find satisfying and/or specific questions or surveys you use for self-reflection?

I'm interested in any broad/creative/new age/funny/cynical answers but more from personal experience, less "I hear in Spain they eat twelve grapes" type of thing, but that stuff is fun too.
posted by dahliachewswell to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
I've been filling out the same survey since 2005 or so, and it's interesting to read over previous years' answers to see how I've changed.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?
2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. What countries did you visit?
6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
7. What date(s) from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
9. What was your biggest failure?
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
11. What was the best thing you bought?
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
13. Whose behavior made you appalled?
14. Where did most of your money go?
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter?
iii. richer or poorer?
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
21. Did you fall in love in 2013?
22. What was your favorite TV program?
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
24. What was the best book you read?
25. What was your greatest musical discovery of 2013?
26. What did you want and get?
27. What did you want and not get?
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
29. What did you do on your birthday?
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
32. What kept you sane?
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
35. Who did you miss?
36. Who was the best new person you met?
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
posted by coppermoss at 10:06 AM on December 24, 2013 [29 favorites]

I was going to post the exact same survey as coppermoss! It's really fun, especially when you do it several years in a row and can compare.
posted by jeudi at 10:45 AM on December 24, 2013

My ten-year journal has a page for "goals" that I fill out January 1st, and then a page for "outcome" at the end of the year. The lists I produce are similar to the one here, but much more specific to me. For instance, last year one of my goals was "Have a family Thanksgiving as satisfying as Canceling Thanksgiving was this year." (And we did! My son cooked a vegan Thanksgiving, with vegetable tamales as the central dish, and it was wonderful, and somehow didn't carry the baggage that turkey/potatoes/cranberries/etc does.)

One comment about the long survey: it seems to lend itself to the kind of bias so obvious in Oscar nominations. Easy to remember what currently interests you, easy to forget what was really, really interesting last February. And you can only keep so many lists to refer to at the end of the year.
posted by kestralwing at 12:46 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Susannah Conway has a free downloadable workbook called Unravelling the Year Ahead, somewhat similar to the list of questions above.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:15 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like to create a collage of pictures from the previous year. I go through my hundreds of pictures - both from regular photography and from my phone's photo stream - and pick a few from each month. It's a nice visual reminder of what I was up to all year.
posted by gemmy at 6:50 PM on December 24, 2013

You might want to check out Jess Lively's "Future Letters."
posted by foxjacket at 8:21 PM on December 24, 2013

OK, this is long and will sound really corny but we've been doing this for about 20 years. We call it "welcoming the new year with intent" and have been doing it since friends invited us to their celebration a little more than 20 years ago. It's pretty new age-y, but our kids--who aren't in the least new age-y, nor am I--think it's the most important thing we do all year and they look forward to it more than Christmas.

First, we create a buffet of finger foods and sweets, and something bubbly to toast in the new year. We set it up on a table in the living room. You also need two candles, plus whatever ritual objects you think are important. My husband creates a "circle of sacred space". He does a lot of First Nations (aboriginal) ritual in other parts of his life, and it's brought in here, but anything you do to create a sense of meaningful occasion and connectedness would work. Light one candle; it represents the passing year. Take turns talking about how the year was for you, the good, the bad, the whatever. We often talk about how much we've appreciated something we've done for each other. We use a talking stick--no one can say anything except the person with the talking stick. No one talks back, no one says, "Well you may have had fun at Disneyland because you were always bossing everyone around...." Everyone is heard.

Eat. Laugh. Tell jokes.

Once the kids were old enough to stay up till midnight, at the stroke of 12, we'd light the second candle with the flame from the first. When they were too small to stay up, we'd do it before they got too tired to participate. We're doing it early again this year because our kids want to go to their own parties later in the evening, but don't want to miss our ritual. In any event, light the new year's candle, douse the old year candle, and take turns talking about hopes and aspirations for the new year. Same rules as above. After everyone's talked all they want, the talking stick goes away because now we all want to chatter. Then we do a divination thing; my husband has Medicine Cards and we each select one. We share, talk about what came up from the cards, eat more and toast the new year with something bubbly. Then we pull crackers, put on the funny hats and talk, eat, and/or drink until we decide it's time to go to bed. The new year's candle is doused and saved to become the passing year candle for next New Year's Eve. Hugs and then my husband "breaks" the circle.

We've invited other people to participate with us, and everyone's had a good time, but my kids said they felt shy about talking about important personal things with folks outside our immediate family, so for the past few years it just been our immediate family.
posted by angiep at 8:50 PM on December 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

I came to write the same questionaire that coppermoss had posted. I've done it since I was in high school in 2003 and originally found it on livejournal.com. Interestingly, mine had one more question that yours: Did you have any one night stands? listed right after #21, Did you fall in love in 2013?

Completing it and reading over past years answers has been immensely satisfying: writing all that I accomplished or did for the first time this year (#1,8) had made me realize how much I truly had done and had an effective antidote to my depressed self saying to myself that I don't accomplish anything.
posted by fizzix at 10:35 AM on December 25, 2013

On the flipside, I have followed HotToddy's advice in that thread once before, and found it very cathartic.
posted by coppermoss at 9:59 AM on December 26, 2013

I have an Episcopal rosary, which is different from a Catholic rosary in many ways, most obviously that it has a different number of and arrangement of beads.

Several times a week, I use it for prayer, but being me I made up my own way to use it (there's no long history or tradition of Episcopal rosary prayers, so I felt completely free to do this). It has four "weeks" that consist of 7 beads. For the first week, I think of one bad thing that happened that day per bead. For the second week, I think of one good thing that happened that day per bead. For the third week, I think of one thing I am dreading about the next day per bead. For the fourth week, I think of one thing I am looking forward to about the next day per bead. I say a few other specific prayers for the cross, invitatory and cruciform beads.

Last year, I prayed a New Year's Eve version of my rosary, substituting "year" for "day" in the above. I found it calming, centering and clarifying, and I plan to do it again this year.
posted by OrangeDisk at 11:56 AM on December 30, 2013

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