Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of daylight in the year.
Fun Fact: the earth is closest to the sun around the winter solstice approximately 2 weeks after the winter solstice, even though it is still pretty dark and very cold.
This is just one of life’s many paradoxes: in the darkest moments we are closest to the source of light.
Fun Fact 2: Although Winter Solstice is the shortest day, it’s not the day with the earliest sunset. That’s because there’s a discrepancy between clock time and sun time. Yet another reminder that the concept of clock time is an illusion.
Anyway… Winter Solstice.
A Time to Pause and Reflect
The Winter Solstice is one of the four major turns off the earth during the annual cycle of the year. It’s a natural time to pause and reflect, to assess where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.
I know many people who don’t engage in a year-end review. Instead they like to get a jump start on planning the coming year, as if starting with a plan on January 1 will put them ahead in the race to wherever people race to in life.
For most of this year the collective sentiment has been that 2021 can’t come soon enough. Even if you typically engage in a year-end review, maybe you’re thinking of skipping it this year.
After all, 2020 has been a shit show. Who really wants to rehash all the horrible stuff that has happened this year? Let’s just skip the look-back and move forward.
It’s tempting, but it would be a mistake.
I’ve engaged in my personal year-end-review ritual for the past decade, and here’s something I’ve noticed:
The years that on paper were “great” years were often filled with niggling disappointments that left me feeling depressed. And the years that appeared on the surface to be “bad” years often revealed themselves to be much better than I thought, filled with insights and wisdom.
Don’t be fooled by the surface appearance.
It’s in the darkest moments that we are closest to the light.
How Your Mind Tricks You
What and how we remember things is shaped by three key mind tricks:
(1) Recency bias causes us to remember that which happened more recently over that which happened further away in time.
(2) Negativity bias causes us to remember the “bad” events more than the “good” events. We remember pain more than pleasure.
(3) Emotional weighting creates stronger memories for events that produce stronger emotions.
Unless we actively deprogram these mind biases, they shape how we remember a year.
Find the Light
It’s no coincidence that all the holidays at this time of year revolve around the theme of light. After Winter Solstice the days slowly begin to grow longer, as we welcome more daylight.
In the same vein, a year-end review is an opportunity to celebrate the light in the year that is ending.
There’s no question that 2020 was a challenging year. We all have a lot of loss to grieve. (In the coming days I’ll share more about this, so stay tuned or sign up for updates.)
But 2020 also offered magic moments, growth to celebrate, and learning to cement. And undoubtedly a lot of wisdom earned.
No matter how much darkness there was, there was also light; we just need to look for it.
Rather than throwing away the year that was, pause to look back and gather what might be useful to you as you move forward. Seek the light and use it to guide you into the next cycle.