We Learn From Reflecting

Dr. Elizabeth Ríos
4 min readDec 30, 2023

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Some thoughts and tips as we end the chapter that was 2023

Dr Rios

I usually do tons of reflection at the end of the year (and my birthday month). I think many of us do since it’s a time-honored tradition to sit back and reflect on the months that have passed. It’s a moment of introspection, a quiet corner in the whirlwind of life where we ask ourselves: Did I do enough? Have I reached the goals I set out for myself?

This ritual of self-assessment often leads us down a path of measuring our achievements and productivity. It’s a mindset deeply rooted in a capitalist framework, where more is always better — more work, more success, more accolades. But in this pursuit, we often overlook the essence of what truly enriches our lives: more rest, more vacations, and more quality time with family and loved ones.

In setting our goals, we seldom account for the unpredictable nature of life. We plan for progress and success, but not for suffering, grief, death, or loss. Yet, these elements invariably weave themselves into the tapestry of our year. They remind us of our vulnerability, our humanity, and the preciousness of the moments we often take for granted.

Despite these unforeseen challenges, it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate our resilience and accomplishments. Looking back at the year, it’s not just about the goals achieved or the milestones reached; it’s about the journey, the growth, and the strength we’ve garnered along the way. It’s about the small victories in the face of adversity and the lessons learned from each setback. I never imagined I could even breathe again after the loss of my special son, Daniel Jeremiah (DJ) in 2022. But here I am, still living but different.

So as we stand on the threshold of a new year, it’s a time to appreciate the progress we’ve made, both tangible and intangible. It’s a moment to recognize that our worth isn’t solely defined by our productivity or societal standards of success. Our worth is also in our ability to endure, to adapt, and to find joy in the simple things.

So, as we bid farewell to this year and welcome the next, let’s carry with us not just aspirations for more achievements but also for more balance, more compassion, and more mindfulness in our lives. Let’s set goals that nurture not just our ambitions but also our well-being and our relationships. Those matter most!

Remember, each year is a chapter in the larger story of our lives, and every chapter has its own value, regardless of how it unfolds. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished this year, and know that you are capable of doing great things in 2024.

To help you reflect or reflect differently, I share some tips below.

John Dewey said “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience,” here’s how you can apply this insight to your year-end reflections:

1. Pause and Review: Instead of just breezing through your experiences, take a deliberate pause. Look back at the significant events of the past year. This could include successes, failures, challenges, and unexpected turns. The act of pausing allows you to move beyond merely experiencing these events to deeply analyzing them.

2. Analyze Your Reactions and Decisions: Think about how you reacted to various situations. What decisions did you make under stress, joy, or sadness? Reflecting on your reactions and choices helps you understand your natural tendencies, emotional responses, and decision-making patterns.

3. Identify Lessons Learned: For each significant experience, ask yourself, “What did I learn from this?” Sometimes, lessons are clear; other times, they’re more subtle. It’s important to recognize both the obvious and the nuanced lessons that your experiences have taught you.

4. Connect Experiences to Personal Growth: Consider how each experience has contributed to your personal and spiritual growth. Did a particular challenge make you stronger? Did a failure* teach you resilience? Reflecting in this way helps you see the value in all experiences, not just the positive ones. *I no longer believe in failure, everything is a lesson in my book.

5. Plan for Application: Reflection becomes truly powerful when it informs future actions. Think about how the insights you’ve gained can shape your decisions and behavior in the coming year. This might involve setting new goals, changing certain habits, or even altering your perspective on life, faith and yes, the people you surround yourself with!

6. Embrace a Mindset of Continuous Learning: Recognize that learning from reflection is an ongoing process. Each experience, each reflection, adds to your understanding of yourself and the world around you. Carry this mindset of continuous learning and reflection into the new year. E v e r y t h i n g is a lesson. EVERYTHING.

7. Share and Seek Feedback: Do you have a Personal Board of Directors? Sometimes, discussing your reflections with others can provide additional insights. Share your learnings with your BOD, if you don’t have one consider creating one. In the meantime, share with family, friends, or your faith community. They might offer perspectives you hadn’t considered and help deepen your understanding.

By reflecting in this manner, you honor the depth of your experiences and extract meaningful lessons from them. This process transforms mere events into wisdom and prepares you for future challenges and opportunities, aligning with the essence of the quote and enriching your journey as you step into the new year.

Tomorrow, I’ll share Part Dos: Five Key Areas To Consider As You Step Into 2024. Hit the follow button so you don’t miss it.

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Dr. Elizabeth Ríos

NY Diasporican thinker/writer, former pastor, church planter educator and Jesus & justice advocate. Wife and Mom to two boys (one in heaven).