365/366 – Reflection Danger At Year’s End

It’s near the end of the year, and as the calendar seeks to increment another number and start the entire process of going through 365 days once more, people’s thoughts not surprisingly turn inward, reflecting on a year spent, what happened to them and what happened around them, and what seemed to influence them throughout. There’s nothing wrong with this – in fact it’s natural considering that you’re looking behind at what’s about to be placed in the books as “another year” – but I do think that in reflecting, there is an inherent danger to look out for.

That danger is in becoming too invested in what has essentially passed and happened. It’s easy to look at the year you’ve spent and recall many of the hardships, bad events, things that changed your life that put it in a direction that you weren’t expecting that wasn’t great for you. It can threaten to mire you in a sort of morass of unfortunate despair, one that keeps you in it and thinking about what could have been, or what was and was terrible, or what awful things befell you. It’s even worse when the events, like some of the objectively bad ones of 2016, generally affect more than just one person. Whether it’s a beloved celebrity dying or a loss suffered on a more personal level, the weight of it can feel suffocating and very much depressing.

The real problem with this kind of negative reflection is that it can carry over into the future, into what you’re slated to accomplish in the next year, into things that you want to do but feel like you can’t do due to the fact that it’s been such a rough time. This is where things get bad – wallowing in the misery of some of the bad stuff that’s happened affects your present, but it can also affect what hasn’t even happened yet, and which you actually have some measure of control over. The depression of a poor bunch of events of the past year continues to spill over into the new year, and compounds upon itself, making every notion of an accomplished task even more difficult, like scaling a mountain that never seems to end.

This is why it’s important that, as you look back on the year’s events, that you realize that that’s what it ultimately is – a look back – and that it shouldn’t stop you from looking forward or trying to do better. It doesn’t mean have heedless optimism, for the other extreme of feeling unrealistically good about things can be a setup for disaster, and it also doesn’t mean that you don’t think about the awful things that happened. It just means that when you set new goals or resolutions or things you want to accomplish in the new year, that you aren’t anchored by what’s already happened and which you essentially cannot change. For better or worse, 2016 is what it is and will be, once tomorrow night is in the books, and the important thing is not to completely forget it but to ultimately learn from it. History exists in part to teach lessons, but by no means should it completely dictate how we decide to move forward and create new history in the times to come. I hope people remember that, even as times get rough and we suffer losses and things that aren’t great, that if we can, even if it takes the help of friends and loved ones and coping mechanisms, that we get up, dust ourselves off, and after reflection, decide to create a better future for ourselves.

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