New years and retrospection: How ritualizing retrospection and long-term thinking is helpful

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learnt to appreciate new years more and more. Mostly because it means for a few days self reflection becomes the norm. Not just individually, but collectively as a society. Media of all stripes becomes filled with articles and programs looking back on the past year as a collective whole, trying to find a collective theme.

This is of course purely arbitrary. New years for the part of the world I inhabit has decided when the new year begins and ends based on a calendar created, then heavily modified, by Roman emperors many hundreds of years ago. But I find the act of self reflection and stepping back to be a useful tool.

Retrospection as medicine

Do I think this annual act of introspection will lead huge gestalt things like news sources and governing bodies to actively change their behaviour? Probably not, but then again maybe it does spur the people within those systems to act a little bit better than their previous failings, and this shift the whole, like an oil tanker changing its path by degrees.

I do believe having more markers in our lives urging us to pause and examine our behaviour over long periods would be a wonderful thing. We live in an age where its all about instantly communicating our immediate thoughts, feelings and reactions. The instant updated on news cycles. The constant, always reachable state we now exist in. being able to slow down and think on the scale of weeks and months instead of minuets and seconds is badly needed for both our individual and collective mental health.

Part of my pagan practice is working by the wheel of the year, and that gives not one yearly time for pause but 8. 8 waypoints to check in and reflect on how things have been going and how they may continue or even how we need to update our goals to something new.

I don’t think you need to follow a spiritual path to do this. Just as a way to practice good self care making the space in your life for thinking about the longer term is a healthy way to be.

So I invite you to try something. It may seem a bit hokey and a bit self-helpy, but I want you to take out your phone and go to the calendar app (if you have one, otherwise use your pen and paper calendar) and set a repeating event for the last day of each month. Set it to remind you to take time to reflect on the last month of a whole, and how the year has been so far, as a whole. And then to think about what you want for the next month, and how it fits into your plans for the rest of the year.

Resolutions take time

Its kind of taken for a given not all new years resolutions will be succeeded at. But that’s no reason to try. I would advise people to not give in to the impulse to jump headlong into new projects deep in the middle of winter when you strapped for light, money and recovering from a 2 week period of excess. You’re planing for change over a whole year, so you have time. Use this time to research and plan. You wanna start the gym? Now is the time to do research into nutrition and exercise routines, learn what works and what is just fad. The actually gym membership can wait until after the January rush. This philosophy of preparation and education before physically starting will take you much father with most goals you want to accomplish.

And here’s the thing, trying and failing can be just as valuable as succeeding at a goal, if you take the time to examine why it didn’t work out for you

No “new year new me”, just “new year, evolving me”

So I suppose I should commit to writings my reflections on the year gone by and what I hope to achieve in this coming year.

This past year I have:

  • started long form blogging again.
  • Slowly learnt, through much error and dead plants, the basics of keeping plants
  • taken a step back from unhealthy behaviours relating to my gym going habits
  • really dedicated myself to my pagan practices

In the coming year I aim to:

  • use social media less, and with more purpose. Not just as a way to fill empty time.
  • Continue to get better at keeping plants, and to use that to start growing some medicinal herbs
  • restart my powerlifting training.
  • Use more practical solarpunk ideas and practices in my life.


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