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Nostalgia is a powerful feeling. It's that bittersweet longing for the past and the way things used to be. As the new year approaches, nostalgia tends to set in as we reflect on the events of the past 12 months and how quickly time seems to pass.


  • The dictionary definition of nostalgia (Merriam-Webster) is "a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy associations. It often involves a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition".

  • There are a few reasons why nostalgia hits us, especially at the end of the year:

  • We crave simpler times. Life seem to move so fast nowadays. The past seems simpler, even if it wasn't.

  • We want to relive happy memories. Our brains have a tendency to filter out the bad and remember the good. We get nostalgic for joyful times and the people we shared them with.

  • We're seeking comfort. When times are uncertain or stressful, nostalgia gives us a sense of warmth and reassurance. Familiar things from the past feel cozy and safe.

The Bittersweet Nature of Reflecting on the Past Year

Looking back on the past year is bittersweet. On the one hand, nostalgia makes the good memories feel warm and cozy. But on the other, it highlights the struggles and pain points along the way.


Finding meaning in the ups and downs

The key is finding meaning in both the highs and lows. The accomplishments and milestones deserve celebration for the effort and growth they represent. Even small wins, like learning a new skill or hobby, are worth appreciating.

The challenges and setbacks also have value if we look for the lessons. When times were tough, you likely discovered inner strength and resilience you didn’t know you possessed.

Focus on progress, not perfection. You’re a work in progress, so compare yourself only to your past self (not to the false perceptions of your peers on social media).

While nostalgia holds both sweetness and sorrow, you can empower yourself and make the choice to extract the meaningful over the melancholic. Find the inspiration and empowerment in your reflections. Then move forward into the new year with clarity and wisdom to guide you.


Learning From Our Successes and Mistakes

As the new year approaches, it's only natural to reflect on the ups and downs of the past year. Take time to recognize both your successes and mistakes—there are lessons to be learned from both.


Learn from Your Successes

What worked well for you this year? Did you achieve any long-held goals or make progress on important projects? Analyze what enabled your wins so you can build on them. Maybe you improved your time management, pushed out of your comfort zone, or strengthened relationships. Look for the common factors in your successes and think of ways to apply them in the new year.


Face Mistakes Head On

Would you rather be right or be happy? This is a question that a therapist asked me a long time ago and it still sticks with me. Ask yourself what went wrong and how you can avoid or mitigate similar issues going forward instead of fighting your point to the death. Rather than dwelling on regrets, look for the lightbulb moments and growth opportunities. Perhaps you took on more than you could handle, didn't communicate effectively, or hesitated taking calculated risks. Be willing to accept imperfections in yourself and others. Learn what you can, then forgive yourself and let it go - you're human after all.


Take stock of the highs and lows of the previous year and determine what you want to repeat, improve, or avoid altogether. Success is a continual process of building on what went well and learning from what didn't. Approaching each year with an open and willing mindset to grow will help ensure steady progress and fulfillment. The future is unwritten, so make the most of the present by embracing each moment as best you can.


Embracing the Future With Wisdom and Optimism

As the new year approaches, it's only natural to feel nostalgic for the past and uncertain about the future. The past year likely held both joyful and painful moments that shaped who you are today. While it's important to honor the lessons from the past, you don't have to get stuck there. The new year can represent a fresh start and opportunity for growth.


Look Forward With Optimism

Approach the future with wisdom, courage and hope. Wisdom comes from learning from both triumphs and failures. Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone at times. And maintain an attitude of hope about the possibility of things getting better.

  • Set inspiring yet realistic intentions to work toward. Start with small changes and build up from there. Break down big goals into manageable steps. Celebrate small wins along the way.

  • Surround yourself with a strong support system of people who share your vision and values. Their encouragement can help motivate you to achieve your goals. Offer the same support to others in return.

  • Take calculated risks when opportunities arise. While change can be uncomfortable, staying in an unhealthy situation will only make you feel stuck. Have faith in your abilities to handle whatever comes your way.

  • Maintain an open and willing mindset. The world is constantly changing, so make a habit of continuous learning and expanding your perspectives. What seemed impossible yesterday may be possible today with an open and willing mindset.


Though nostalgia for the past is normal, keep sight of the future and all the potential it holds. Wisdom from the past, courage in the present moment, and hope for the future — this is a powerful recipe for success.

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