Each November, I book a night away at the beach. I spend the evening of the first day reflecting on the year so far—where am I in relation to my goals, what’s working in my life, what has not worked and what have been my most joyful moments.
I spend the next day using these reflections to plan for the coming year—what are my hopes and dreams, what goals will I work toward and what memories do I want to make with my family. I’ve even created a retreat agenda for myself to help me to reflect and plan.
This is no easy task. As a mother of four and co-owner of a busy custom jewelry studio, it feels difficult to make the time to get away. Yet, I have found that when I take the step of making space, the time is exponentially rewarded with creative ideas and deeper memories of my year. The quiet time away is an added bonus.
The quiet time away is an added bonus.
This year, my retreat had even more significance as this is the year I turned 40. Several incredible opportunities arose for my birthday year. A friend and I had planned a trip to Italy to celebrate both of us hitting this milestone. Because I married my high school sweetheart, I’ve never taken a trip away with friends and relished the chance to travel in a completely new way.
My husband and I also stumbled upon ridiculously cheap tickets to France, which would have me drinking wine on my birthday in the City of Lights. Unfortunately, my birthday fell on the first Friday of the shelter-in-place order. Both trips fell apart. While I was obviously disappointed, this disappointment was a gift. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reflect on my life more deeply.
We took the money we were going to spend on vacation and spent it on a will. Not a will, exactly, but a living trust. This forced me to take a cold, hard look at the gifts already present in my life and also to have a ledger sheet to look at all the areas with growth potential. My double disappointment ultimately led to my husband and I discussing with a lawyer the life we had built, and more importantly, the legacy I was leaving to my children both materially and spiritually. Looking ahead to the end of my life was a call to look at the life I’m living now.
Looking ahead to the end of my life was a call to look at the life I’m living now.
The past couple of American generations have come to call this period of our lives a “mid-life crisis,” and certainly the emotional upheaval that sometimes accompanies very deep internal reflection can feel like a crisis, at times. However, after turning 40 in 2020, I have come to view this period instead as a “Mid-life Legacy Review.” Because this year of looking more closely at what is working and what isn’t throughout my life so far is not a crisis.
We have seen real crises. Turning 40 is not a season to survive. Instead, it’s the chance to look over the legacy I’ve created so far and see how it compares to the legacy I’d like to leave behind over the course of my life. This shift in perspective also frees me to be curious and forward thinking about my life, rather than being judgmental about what isn’t expected or encouraged.
Turning 40 is not a season to survive. Instead, it’s the chance to look over the legacy I’ve created so far.
In short, it allows me to see my life through a lens of gratitude and hope. It allows me to see my praxis—where I am in any given time and space, with respect to a higher purpose.
You don’t have to wait for mid-life to start a legacy review. You can start the practice of annual (or even monthly) legacy reviews right away and perhaps plan for more detailed reviews every decade. I have found that creating an agenda with reflection questions helps tremendously.
I like to take mine near the ocean so I can incorporate multiple walks out in nature throughout the process. Be completely honest with yourself. This practice is not for judgment but so that you can align your actions more closely with your own individual hopes and dreams.
Write out your answers. This will help you see your journey each year. Some questions to consider are:
- What brings you joy?
- What were some disappointments or unmet expectations this year?
- What were the year’s best experiences?
- When did you feel most alive?
- What’s overwhelming?
- What do you commit to building over the next year?
- What boundaries will need to be in place to accomplish these goals?
- What do you want to create five years from now?
As cooler weather pushes us to settle inside our homes, this season is a great time to reflect on our interior minds as well. Just as we focus on gratitude, we can use that lens as we reflect on ourselves. Because, like all seasons, this too shall pass. Let’s make the most of the time.
What parts of 2020 are you grateful for? What is the legacy you hope to leave behind?
Image via Tony Li