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2020 lessons: ready to reflect on what you’ve learnt this year? Try asking yourself these 5 questions

Get ready to face the new year with this reflective guide, full of prompts to help you look back on the lessons you’ve learnt in 2020.

2020 has forced us all to do things a little differently. Whether you switched your annual summer holiday for a staycation or cancelled your family Christmas plans to stay at home, this year has forced us to reimagine our most ingrained of rituals. And as a result, the way we reflect on 2020 needs a revamp, too.

At the end of a normal year, you might look back over the previous 12 months and use the memory of what you’ve achieved to guide how you plan for the following year. And though it’s definitely worth celebrating any wins you’ve had in the chaos of 2020, it’d be wise to resist the temptation to apply the same expectations to this one as we would a normal one.

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“Given the upheaval and uncertainty we have experienced in our lives this year, it makes sense that our 2020 reflections might have a different spin on them,” says Carina Lawson, a time management coach and founder of Ponderlily Planners and Journals.

“Reflecting on the year enables us to acknowledge and honour what we’ve been through, what we’ve learnt and how we can take those lessons into the new year,” Lawson explains. “It gives you an opportunity to pause, untangle your thoughts and hold space for yourself. By acknowledging the events of the year, both on a personal and global scale, we can reflect on what it meant to us, the impact and what we need to do going forward to respect it.”

She continues: “Reflection also allows us to process what happened, increase self-awareness and challenge our thoughts and ideas. In doing so, we become aware of the part of us that imagines what is possible and create intentional, aligned action into the new year.”

Instead of diving straight into end-of-year reflection, it’s important to approach this year a little differently – not just focusing on achievements and how ‘productive’ you’ve been, but looking back on the silver linings that have been carved out of 2020 and the lessons to take forward.

A woman looking to the side
2020 has been a whirlwind – taking just 15 minutes to reflect is well worth your while.

In this way, this year’s reflection may carry more weight than any you’ve done in the past; while you might not be able to round-up 10 big achievements or document all the amazing projects you’ve worked on, we can sit back and digest all the changes you’ve had to make to survive the ups and downs of the pandemic – both in your career and in your personal life, too.

Lawson explains: “In 2020, our reflections would benefit from more introspection inward. Look at how 2020 made you feel.

“How did it challenge your beliefs about yourself? About others around you? What did you need to change within yourself and your immediate surroundings that enabled to you persevere and even thrive this year? Did you change the way you ran your business or approached your career to adapt to the ever-changing landscape? What priorities do you want to commit to? And most importantly, which of these lessons will you take with you into 2021?”

It’s clear that reflecting on 2020 isn’t just a way to think about the year ahead – sorting through everything that’s happened this year (and it’s been a lot), can help you process the emotional rollercoaster of the last 12 months, and better prepare yourself for the uncertainty we continue to face.

With this in mind, we asked Lawson to provide us with her guide to reflecting on 2020 in a constructive and mentally healthy way. So grab a pen and paper and get ready to look back on the whirlwind that was the last year – congrats, you made it!

How to reflect on 2020, according to an expert

A notebook and pen
Ready to reflect? Grab a notebook and pen and jot down the answers to the following questions.

“It’s always important to reflect at the end of the year but this year, reflection takes on a special significance. Reflection allows us to assess what has happened, how it affected us, what changes we can make and how we want to show up in the future. We decide what we want to leave behind and that which we’d like to bring with us into the new year. 

“Reflecting on the past and what we learnt from it helps us think about what will continue to serve us into the future or things we might need to change. It also helps us recognise what we are grateful for in our lives and how to honour this going forward.

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“In reflecting on 2020, it’s helpful to have some questions to help guide your reflection. Think about what happened both in your personal sphere and in the wider world. Go through each month of the year, consider events in your own life and journal the following questions:

  • How did you adapt to what happened around you?
  • What did you change and how did that change serve you?
  • What new habits have you formed?
  • How did you align yourself with your core values?
  • What is the most important lesson 2020 has taught you?

“Next, move to thinking specifically about your business or career. How did you change the way you do things year? If you were affected by the lockdowns or had to work from home, what impact did that have on you and how did you adapt? What was something you did for your business or career in 2020 that you would never have considered doing before? How did that work for you?

“It’s also important to take the time to celebrate your wins in 2020. What was your biggest achievement this year? What gave you energy? Is it something you can continue doing in 2021?

“On the other side, look at what didn’t work for in 2020. What was something that got in the way of your success? What drained you? Is there something you left unfinished? Consider these in the context of 2021 and how you can move to let them go.

“And finally, consider this: if you were to write about 2020 like it was a story, what would it read it like?”

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