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3 Rhythms of Reflection to Navigate Your New Year with Clarity & Purpose

Do pain and regret seem to be burdensome taskmasters, finger-waggers, or shadowy intruders in the crevices of your soul, clouding out clarity? Are you wondering how this New Year could ever be a happy one? 

Maybe, you’re excitedly anticipating donning the new calendar on the wall, throwing out old planners, and filling a crisp, clean planner with your goals, aspirations, and dreams. 

Or maybe, you’re walking into the New Year regularly. Nothing dramatic or fancy, just a subtle saunter—maybe a sideways smile. It’s just another day, after all, except you need to remember to change the last number of the year: 202_what was it again?

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Whether it’s any or none of these scenarios, we are still walking into another season carrying thoughts, feelings, and questions—known or unknown, lying just below the surface of our awareness.

But the longer we push those feelings and questions below the colorless obscurity of our conscious, the more likely they are to become louder and more insistent: anxieties, worries, sadness, shame, or a whole host of other distractions.

So how do we peer just below the surface of the watery depths to uncover those thoughts, emotions, and questions legitimately requesting our attention?

One way to move forward with more clarity is by looking back to discover what we’re learning, what stresses we’re holding, and what hopes, dreams, and questions we’re carrying. 

Reflection is a rhythm of understanding, so we can discern moving forward in a direction of wholeness and clarity. 

There are a plethora of tools at our disposal. But today, let’s look at how to narrow our focus, decerning what we want to carry with us into the New Year or the season ahead. 

I cultivated this rhythm a few years back, and it has shaped my seasons with colors of clarity I had not experienced previously. Continuing with last week’s questions, let’s reflect* together:

1. Grab your journal or phone, and look through your notes, entries, and calendar. Watch for themes to develop regarding:

  • Ways you’ve grown
  • Where you feel stuck
  • Questions your carrying
  • Feelings or emotions you’re holding close

2. Themes, or arrows, point us in a direction. As you read, think about whether you want to continue, change, or conclude what you found from your observations.

For me, things I want to continue to cultivate are:

  • Life-giving relationships
  • Rhythms such as solitude, time with God, and prayer
  • Family together-times
  • Date nights with hubby
  • Intentional time with my children/grandchildren

Things I want to change or conclude:

  • Anxiety regarding my recent loss
  • Fractured living 
  • Relationships that have shifted since my Mom’s death

Things I want more of:

  • A quarterly (or biannual) overnight get-away for reflection and planning
  • Beach walks
  • A scheduled time for writing (again)
  • Clarity regarding my job

Questions I’m carrying:

  • What does the next year hold for my family?
  • What should my career look like in light of question 1?
  • How should my schedule shift to accommodate what’s ahead?

3. Once you’ve spent time in prayer and discovery with Jesus, peer into the next season and decide what you want out of all its possibilities, problems, and potential. 

Maybe a single word will materialize from your reflection, tying your desires, dreams, and doubts in a bright bow of discernment. For me, I’m still deciding on a word for the year, but a few have emerged:

  • Surrender
  • Settle
  • Slow
  • Heal 

One of my most consistent decision-making practices is to reflect on my life as I live it, so when the moment of decision comes, I’m a little more ready. Emily P. Freeman

This week, observe your life as you actually live it, and ask: 

Am I living my life, or is life living me?

Whatever you find, allow compassion to accompany you. This is not a test; there is no right answer. What you find may lead you to ask this final question:

What does my soul require of me in the coming season?

  • More sleep?
  • Walks in nature?
  • Solitude?
  • Tending to important relationships?
  • Organization?
  • A little more wiggle room in the schedule?
  • More self-compassion?
  • Fewer wasted hours?
  • More time with Jesus?
  • Heartfelt, honest, down-in-the-mire prayer?

My son, the human heart tends to be hard. We set the Word upon our hearts so that, as life breaks our hearts, the words can fall right in. Unknown Rabbi

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Finally, this week, implement one thing from your observations you can do to increase, improve, or include what you need most in this New Year. Then get to it!

*I learned the art of reflection from Emily Freeman, and I highly recommend her resources for decision-making and discernment, particularly The Next Right Thing Guided Journal.

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