Every once in a while I reflect on where my life has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Retrospect can offer so much of what we need in life—joy, encouragement, lessons, rebukes. When Facebook throws memories at me from 1, 3, 5, or 8 years ago, sometimes I cringe, sometimes I laugh or smile fondly, sometimes I get a little nostalgic and sad. It’s good for us to remember those things and to reflect on what has changed, what stayed the same, whether we’re happy about it, and whether we can do anything if we’re not.
My primary reflection tool is my journal. I don’t write every day, only when something meaningful happens or when I really need to process something emotionally or psychologically. So my journal holds a lot of the really deep parts of myself, things worth reflecting on.
In one particular season of time recently, I felt like my life wasn’t going anywhere, that I was “stuck” in a rut/cycle. I was a little depressed, and I knew that when you’re depressed you cannot really trust that everything you feel is objective and factual. So I decided to dig up the evidence that my life was actually moving forward, even if it was moving forward slowly and only in some areas. The evidence, for me, was in the journals. I divided my life up into categories of importance (Marriage, Health, Community, Finances/Job, Family, and Leisure/Rest) and timeframes for benchmarks (1 year ago, 6 months ago, and 1 month ago) to assess how my life was then and how it compared to now. I used my journals to read the past, write the present, and dream about the future.
This process helps to encourage us in the areas we’ve grown in and to bring attention to the areas we’ve degressed in. Not to fuel our egos or deflate us but to give an accurate picture, celebrate the growth no matter how much or little, and help set modest goals for growth where it’s needed.
What I found more often than not was that I’d made leaps and bounds of progress in one category, regressed in a different category, stayed roughly the same in another category, and made modest improvements in the rest. My depression had only let me focus on the areas of my life that hadn’t gotten better, which pulled me deeper into depression, but the journal reflection process helped me to see that overall, my life was heading in the direction of thriving, even if it was taking baby steps. And that helped to ease my depression, have more hope, and set realistic goals for more steps in the right direction.
Whether you’re a journaler or not, I hope that you can find a way to reflect on where you’ve been, to take courage about where you are, and to take one step at a time towards your own (and your family’s) thriving life!