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4 Questions to Help Creatives Reflect on the Past Year

As the end of the year creeps up on us, I’ve found myself doing a lot of self-reflecting, especially after the crazy year we just had.  A lot of what I had planned for this year was either cut short or didn’t happen at all, leading to some disappointment, some relief and a seemingly constant adjustment of expectations. 

We all have to play the hand that we’re dealt but for a big portion of 2020, it seemed like one we’d rather just fold.  But looking back now, taking stock and getting ready to move into the new year, it’s easier to see that there were some silver linings that we may not have realized while we were in the thick of things.  

A lot of what I had planned for this year was either cut short or didn’t happen at all, leading to some disappointment, some relief and a seemingly constant adjustment of expectations.

For better or worse, this year we were gifted an abundance of time.  I spent a lot of it thinking and reflecting on my life and I like to think I’ve come out a better person because of that. If you too find yourself reflecting on the past and planning for the future, I invite you to ask yourself a few questions and contemplate the answers as you prepare for the year ahead. 

1. Where did I allow my fears and self-doubt to take over?

If you experienced a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of fear and self-doubt this year, know that you are not alone.  We have all been stretched, and often pushed to capacity, in more ways than one. Fear and self-doubt can be hard feelings to handle. Sometimes I find myself pushing them down so I don’t have to deal with them, especially when they seem ever-present, but in my experience, ignoring hard feelings hardly ever makes them go away.  Rather, they tend to resurface at inopportune times, demanding our attention, when we may not have it to spare.  Instead, I suggest accepting that those feelings are there, reflecting on why you feel the way you do and trying to identify a solution. 

Sometimes the solution is obvious. Other times, it may be out of your control – and that’s okay! If that’s the case, as hard as it may be, I have to tell you how freeing it can be to just LET IT GO.  Trust that the universe has your back.   Know that this is exactly where you are supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be feeling.  Easier said than done of course, but if you take small steps to change your mentality, you’ll release that negative energy and great things are bound to follow.

Trust that the universe has your back.   Know that this is exactly where you are supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be feeling.

2. Where did I recognize patterns of self-sabotage?

We self-sabotage when we actively or passively take action that prevents us from reaching our goals.  It’s hard to imagine that self-sabotage is so common in this day and age, but it’s more prevalent than you might think.  Why might that be?  We might not believe in ourselves.  We might fear failure or, worse, our own success. We might be craving control of our lives.  Sometimes it’s a conscious effort to halt our own progress, but other times, we might not even be aware we’re doing it. 

To identify whether or not you’ve been subconsciously thwarting your own efforts, I suggest asking yourself a few questions:

  • Do I regularly procrastinate or make excuses for why something isn’t getting done?
  • Am I not making time for my personal wants/needs?
  • Do I allow negative self-talk in my life?

If you’re able to pinpoint where your self-sabotaging habits are rooted, you can recognize the patterns.  That is the first step towards making a change. Try to be more acutely aware of when you’re making these choices and prompt yourself to make a different one.  It will be a challenge at first, but the best way to make new habits is to continue to mindfully practice them.

3. Where did I find inspiration this year?

This year made it difficult for me to get my creative juices flowing and I doubt that I’m alone in this.  I typically find that most of my inspiration comes from life experience, from being out in the world, and opportunities to harness that were certainly lacking this year. I realized that I had to adapt and find new ways of inviting and receiving inspiration. 

Fortunately, there was another silver lining.  I found myself realizing that inspiration can come from the simplest of places. It can be a flower that catches your eye on your walk to grab a coffee. Or the smell of your mom’s homemade biscuits on Thanksgiving. It doesn’t always have to be fancy.  It can be something natural.  It can be something comforting.  All that matters is that it gives you the inspiration to be creative. 

Take note of what brought you the most inspiration this year and find a way to intentionally incorporate those things into your plans for 2021.  It’s that simple.  

4. Was I able to establish and maintain balance in my life?

Balance is a concept that’s simple to understand but nearly impossible to achieve with consistency.  I don’t know anyone who claims their life is perfectly balanced. I struggle with it on a daily basis. Because the only thing that’s truly constant in our lives is change, once you find yourself striking a balance, something typically comes along and demands you make a shift.  In all sincerity, maintaining perfect balance in our lives just isn’t realistic.  Chasing after it will almost certainly lead you to feelings of disappointment.  

We all need a balance of creativity, fun, relaxation, work, play and fostering relationships in our lives.  That’s a lot of balls to juggle! But we have to remember that everything ebbs and flows.  Instead of trying to capture and maintain the elusive mystique that is balance, set small goals for yourself.  Focus on making sure that your weeks, or even days, don’t have too much of one thing and too little of another. Maybe you spent all day finishing up a creative project you’d been working on for a while, but because of that, you missed out on grabbing drinks with a friend or running some errands.  That’s okay!  Give yourself credit for what you accomplished and make sure you balance tomorrow by making time for something you didn’t get to today.

Reflect on the gratitude you have for the silver linings you found.

Give yourself a pat on the back for the amount of lemonade you made out of all the lemons you were handed in 2020 because you deserve it.  Mourn the losses of the things you weren’t able to do.  Reflect on the gratitude you have for the silver linings you found amidst the challenges you faced and get ready to take the lessons from this year and forge ahead into January with passion and purpose. 

Let me know if you have any questions, I would love to help you prepare for the year ahead. Did you find yourself reading this and making a huge mental list of things to improve? Head over to my coaching page. We can work together on a plan to make 2021 your most creative year yet.

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