Reflections on the past year

Just a few days into 2021, my dear friend Brian shared a reflection document with me which he had been using more than once in the past to reflect on the previous year.

Some of us might have been doing a similar exercise to take stock of the last year, reflect on what’s happened, and also set an intention for the next one. As 2020 was quite an unusual and highly challenging year for all of us, such an exercise is now even more important to get the perspective right. After all, even in this challenging year not everything was bad.

What I really like about this approach is the focus on things to be proud of, enjoyment, connection, inspiration, gratefulness, new experience, growth and learning. 

Good to get started early in January while the last year is still fresh on our minds, before we get swept up by our daily life, work and all the tasks that need to be done. We tend to forget so quickly, and it would be a pity not to pause for a moment, contemplate our successes and learning, and especially all these invaluable, joyful moments we had. 

Focusing on our achievements and experiences will also help to set the balance right. Because the human mind has a tendency to remember negative things far easier and more strongly than positive ones, there is a need to counterbalance.


  • What are you most proud of and why? What dream did you achieve?
  • What did you begin last year that you will stick with? And what might you abandon in turn as it is not serving you anymore?
  • When did you take a risk, have a pleasant surprise or exceed your own expectations?
  • What new experience did you enjoy most and why? Which new skills did you acquire?

When it comes to being courageous and trying something new, especially if treading a new pathway that might be risky, we are often not sure about where it will lead us or if we can succeed at all. Sometimes we doubt ourselves too much and are in for a nice surprise when we achieve something we did not believe we could manage that well. 

That happened to me last year when I started taking singing lessons. My goal was to improve the strength of my voice – not only for singing but also when speaking – as I need to speak a lot in my job and my voice usually got hoarse very quickly. 

Being a contralto I had no ambition to sing high notes, but to my surprise my vocal coach told me that this was definitely within my range. Her encouragement made me selecting and practising musical pieces outside of my comfort zone and making good progress as a result.


  • Which value did you bring to others? Who did you help?
  • What inspired you – people, events…? Who had the most influence or biggest impact on you?
  • What gave you most joy – being yourself, in the flow – and who were you with?
  • What are you grateful for?

Connection with others is particularly important for us – we need other people. This became very painfully clear last year when we suddenly had to stay away from elderly family members, and maintain a physical distance to our friends and neighbours on a daily basis. We skilfully managed to find creative workarounds though – which are helpful – but of course, they cannot replace the real thing. 

We will need to continue the distancing for some time still, but thankfully there is hope to return to a more normalized way of life this year.


  • Any loose ends to tie up, e.g. relationships, apologies, any unfinished business?
  • Where did fear prevent progress towards your goals and how will you overcome this next time?
  • In hindsight, what would you have done differently? What was your best decision? What advice would you give yourself?

Sometimes things work out and sometimes they just don’t. Whatever we discover about ourselves in the process has an impact on the path we are walking, on our mindset and our approach to life. It is important to know what we want to change from now on, continuing on our way to find our purpose or at least getting closer to it. 

Such insights always make us grow as a person and we need to approach them in a non-judgemental manner.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Contemplating like this on the past year feels comparable to a success diary focusing on achieving the next level – so it’s important to invest the time and take notes, before our busy mind takes over again.

Once I got started answering those questions the list quickly became quite long. You could easily spend a few hours on it and still revisit it later to complete some bits and pieces which had almost evaporated from your memory. 

Let’s not forget our unique value we are adding to the lives of others around us – and also what makes our own life worthwhile.

I found it to be a very uplifting exercise and hope you will enjoy it, too.

And so the story begins…

Thanks for joining me on my blog journey!

The most challenging year

2020 is drawing to a close and we all are hoping for the next year to be better.

Not being able to go out and live our lives as usual and facing many restrictions forced us to change our behaviour, adapt to and question many things. It also meant learning and growing on the inside.

Looking at how emotions spread on social media it concerned me for a long time how hatred, fear and lies appeared to overwhelm people making them fearful for the future and insecure not knowing what to believe anymore.

The good thing is: Emotional content always spreads like wildfire – no matter if positive or negative. So then, why not trying to counterbalance all the negativity out there and spreading joy instead? We certainly can’t do that enough and should never underestimate the effects on people. And we need that now more than ever.

I have written about hope and positivity before. It is never a given, but a choice we make each day. And it is not an easy one. For some of us it is a real challenge depending on our individual circumstances.

Being very well aware how privileged I am in many regards I feel blessed for the factors contributing to my wellbeing and staying mentally sane during this year. Among them first of all my friends and their calm and down-to-earth approach. The fact that I still have my job, nature in front of my doorstep and a nice flat making it easy to work from home. Not everybody was and is that lucky. 

I am especially thankful for my friends, and all the people crossing my path this year, teaching me in so many different ways, encouraging, supporting and motivating me, opening new horizons.

Realizing how much I have and how little I actually need made me feel grateful. That is exactly why I decided not to worry too much and to encourage people about a positive outlook to the future whenever the need arises. It is one way of making a difference and giving back, even if it appears to be only a tiny piece of the mosaic. 

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense – no matter how it turns out. (Vaclav Havel)

So what makes sense to me right now?

For once, being positive about the future. And that doesn’t mean being optimistic. It means having the confidence and faith that things – which could turn out either way of course – don’t have to turn out automatically negative.

There is certainly no rule about the inevitability of a downward spiral because things simply do not remain the same. No reason to assume bad things will last forever – they just don’t.

Whenever reading an opinion piece about no matter what: this pandemic, political or social change – I see the effect it is having on me: I am immediately becoming more hopeful feeling my beliefs reinforced. Same when talking to people. It feels so good to notice that everyone I have been talking to those last months utters their hopes for the next year. And so do I.

Hope is what drives us.

Let’s allow ourselves to be hopeful and confident in the face of the new year approaching.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. (Jane Goodall)

In order to be a realist you must believe in miracles. (David Ben-Gurion)

Have a good year 2021 and may you never lose hope!

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