How to Use the Monthly Reflections in Your Passion Planner: 6 Ideas for Greater Intention and Personal Reflection
When a dear friend gave me a Passion Planner a few years ago, I couldn’t have predicted that I would soon be a Passion Planner evangelist. Goal-setting. Roadmaps to pursue hopes and dreams. A few pages of both blank and dot paper tucked away at the back. With enthusiasm, I began populating the perfect planner for me.
Sure, I’m smitten with setting intentions for the week and the month, or mapping out 3-month, 1-year, 3-year, and lifetime goals (knowing these are ever-changing). However, one of my favorite parts of my planner is the Monthly Reflection. Pausing to consider the month just passed brings me satisfaction, encouragement, and sometimes a needed dose of conviction.
What is Reflection
Reflection is an opportunity to take stock of something with intentionality. This “something” may be a period of time in our lives, an experience we had, an interaction with another person, etc. We break from the chaos and noise that often exists in each day. Instead, we choose to look deeply in a quest to illuminate new understandings. In the case of the Monthly Reflection, we turn our gaze backwards to the previous month. We do this in order to help us see our patterns, our growth, and ourselves.
Sometimes though, all the insight I gain during my personal reflection each month gets lost across the year. Perhaps you’ve noticed the same pattern. To aid in retaining these valuable insights, here are a few ways we can bring greater intention to this time of self introspection.
1. Chart It
In each Monthly Reflection, you are asked to rate your month from 1-10. I track the numerical value of how I feel about the month in a bar chart at the back of my Passion Planner. With a glance, it’s easy to spot trends and themes in my overall year.
Such a practice also helps me further know myself. I tend to be an optimist. Rankings often skew high for me. The absolute value matters less, though. What matters is the relative value between one month and another. In general, it seems like an average month for me will be somewhere between seven and ten. A four for November! That’s a significant outlier and indicates a challenging month.
Tracking each month can help you find your own average space and recognize the true outliers. Also, as you pursue goals, make improvements, and learn lessons, you can see the impact these activities have on your life’s unfolding trend.
2. Expand It
Surely, you can have an overall number signifying how you feel each month, but what if you want to track specific areas in your life? It’s your Passion Planner! Consider recording your feelings about whatever categories you’d like. Some suggestions: work, play, spirituality, family, friends, physical health.
If you expand your ranking system, you might also keep a bar chart of your categories. Again, look for trends. Does one area skew much higher or lower? Does your life appear in balance or out of balance? Also, look for ways in which one category might impact another category. If spirituality is low in my life, relationships often feel more challenging. If physical health is high, typically, my other areas will be high.
3. List It
I love the second question about lessons learned in the Monthly Reflection. However, I’ve noticed that from month to month, I often forget which lessons I identified. Those blank or dot pages become the perfect place to keep a running list of the monthly lessons learned. There, I can easily remind myself of the significant insights I’ve gained across the year.
A central place for my lessons also helps me identify themes I may not notice in the absence of an amalgamated list. Your Lessons Learned list might help you recognize what your subconscious is telling you that you need to verbalize in your conscious life. A personal reflection example from my own vault: I struggled to make time for my creative pursuits. Each month I added new learnings about prioritizing my creative life. One day, I realized it was less about prioritizing and more about implementing better boundaries in other areas of my life in order to protect my creative time.
4. Send It
The question about who or what you are especially grateful for this past month exemplifies the reality that we do not live our lives in isolation. Yes, we may work hard and dream big dreams and check tasks off our to-do list. However, our stories of soaring often involve motivation spurred on by another’s encouraging words or helpful act or solid presence. It matters that we take time to identify who or what.
I try—with varying degrees of success—to make a monthly practice of writing a thank-you note to the people I identify, letting them know that I am grateful for them. I tell them why. Taking time to thank a person or organization invites us to be present in our lives. This act also reminds us we are part of a larger community. And what a gift for the other person! Have you ever received an unexpected note that came at just the right moment? You can be that encouragement for someone else.
5. Return to It
The Monthly Reflection asks you to name three improvements you can make going forward into the month ahead. Returning to this list at the end of the following month can be a great opportunity to consider if the improvements you identified helped your life.
If you did implement your improvements, you can observe the impact and, if applicable, celebrate. However, if you didn’t, no need to be hard on yourself. Instead, take notice and observe. Did something happen that made it difficult to implement your improvements? Or maybe you had a shift in thinking, and those improvements no longer make sense? Or perhaps an emotion such as fear is present?
6. Celebrate It
At the end of each year, I enjoy creating an “I Did It List.” Around January 1st, I build a list of everything I’ve done over the past year in my writing life (I focus on my writing life, but you can certainly focus on whatever area you want).
The list becomes a way for me to acknowledge and celebrate all I’ve accomplished. I often discover patterns and themes that can help me set my writing intentions and goals for the coming year. Returning to the monthly question about what you accomplished is the perfect entry point to start building your annual “I Did It List.”
Make It Your Own
It’s been several years now since I received my first Passion Planner. Back in August, a few weeks into the virtual start of the school year, I bought my middle schooler an Academic Passion Planner. My daughter faces many uncertainties in this unusual school year, and she also has to track tons of Zoom calls. I thought a Passion Planner might help her dream about her future and keep her present life organized.
When it came time for her first Monthly Reflection, we sat with our planners in our laps, and I shared a few tips for making the most of hers. I handed her some colored pens and left her with these words, “Make it your own. These are just ideas and thoughts and suggestions. Take what you like and make it your own.”
I leave you with similar words. Consider the suggestions:
- Chart It
- Expand It
- List It
- Send It
- Return to It
- Celebrate It
And make it your own.
Do you have a favorite Monthly Reflection question? Or do you have further ideas about how to self reflect using the questions? Please share in the comments below.