Every year when I sit down to do my year-end-reflection ritual, I write an invocation, to remind myself that as I reflect on the year that is ending (or has ended, as is often the case when I’m still doing this in the first week of January) I will naturally miss moments.
Sure, I can go through my DayOne journal, in which I keep ridiculously detailed accounts of how I spend my days. It contains cataloging of thoughts, emotions, time logs, activities. It’s as complete a record as probably any human being keeps on their days — more comprehensive than a time log, because I’m also capturing mood, emotions, attention, distraction, and energy. And even those records are incomplete. In fact, I notice that my best days contain fewer journal entries than my more challenging days.
My point is: a lot happens in a year.
And any reflection or review process is inherently flawed because we are human beings.
We do not remember our days in linear fashion. We remember moments. And we don’t remember perfectly.
As I’ve been informally reflecting back on the past year over the last several weeks, before engaging in my formal reflection ritual, I’ve remembered many moments. A “typical” year for me is a whirlwind of experiences, but in 2019 I moved 30 times, lived in several distinct areas and climates and time zones.
Moments blend together out of the construct of time.
Our inherent biases skew our memory.
If I asked you to tell me the highlights of your year, without reference to a calendar or journal or photo album — no memory jarring aid — you would likely give me moments out of sequence. Your inventory more be heavily weighted to the most recent experiences, because of recency bias, our propensity to remember what happened most recently over events further back in time.
Negativity bias would cause you to include more challenging or painful moments.
You’d likely spotlight the big milestone moments — the significant deal you closed, the birth of your child, your divorce, nailing that great offer — over smaller moments like reading books to your kids or sharing a warm hug with an old friend.
And if you’re anything like me — a high-achieving, striving, tending-to-perfectionism, soul-driven person with a big mission and high standards — its likely that even the biggest of wins is laced with disappointment.
Each year when I offer my reflection ritual workshop, I force participants to stop before the “but.” As in:
I did [insert your achievement], but ….
As I wrote in my invocation a couple of years back:
Success is tinged with disappointment.
Love is laced with betrayal.
Desire begets expectation, which creates suffering.
It all entwines in a big ball of mess.
This is life.
To be clear, the disappointments and the losses are equally important to recognize, honor, and process. I remind my clients and participants that my ritual includes a dedicated section for recording what we didn’t do, what we regret, and what we lost. Every year must be celebrated and grieved.
But accomplishments and disappointments only go so far. In the long arc of time, the big accomplishments and disappointments fade away and seem less important.
It is those small moments — that magic sunset, the hug from a loved one, the chat with a stranger on a train — are what will stick with you and shape your life.
Write them down and file them away. Return to them when you need a boost.
You will find that those moments, when properly recorded and remembered, create magic for years to come. That’s why I call them Magic Moments.