Review Your Year with Our Favourite List of Year-End Reflection Questions

As we rapidly approach the new year, full from over indulgencing at Christmas and still promising ourselves that we really will keep our new year resolutions this year, it is nice to take time to review your year and to look back and reflect on how the last 365 days of your life have shaped you. Now is also the time to contemplate on how we want to shape our next 365 days.

Everything in your life is reflective of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, make a different choice


So, grab your preferred beverage, a large pad of paper and a pen and let our favourite reflection questions encourage you to muse objectively about the last year and perhaps set some realistic goals for the next one.


What were your favourite memories of this year?

What did you accomplish that made you feel proud?

What was time well spent?

What was money well spent?

What did you gain in the last 12 months?

What good habits did you form?

Was there a large important event this year?

Why was it significant?

What brought joy for you this year?

Did you progress towards any lifelong goals?

What moved you forward?

What were you thrilled with?

What really mattered this year?

What lessons were learned in the last 12 months?

What lessons did you learn about yourself?

Do you have any unfinished business hanging over the year?

Did you pick up any bad habits that you would like to change?

What did you lose in the last 12 months?

What hurdles did you hit this year?

What were your biggest challenges?

What was a waste of your time this year?

What would you change about this year if you could go back in time?

What results did you expect to get but didn’t yet?

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new – Socrates

 Looking ahead into the New Year

What large goals are you continuing to work towards?

What are you longing to try?

If you knew you could not fail, what would you start this year?

What is the best-case scenario for next year?

What would you like to change financially?

What would you like to change spiritually?

What would you like to change mentally?

What would you like to change physically?

What would you like to change in your relationships?


Setting Some Goals

Instead of the usual New Year’s resolutions, we like the idea of making promises to ourselves. Here are some prompts to create your personal promises to yourself.

In the next year, I promise myself to:

Be more:

Be Less:

Learn how to:

Be more confident at:





Finally, from all of us here at ILNI we want to wish you a happy New Year filled with joy. And, in the words of Coco Chanel: “Do more of what makes you happy”

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you are wonderful and don’t forget to make some art. And I hope somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself. – unknown


Surprising Ways You Didn’t Know You Were Being Rude – International Table Etiquette

I remember being horrified the first time I saw it, a grown man spitting fish bones onto the tablecloth at a business dinner in China. I wondered who had invited him. Later I learned that spitting bones on the table is normal dining etiquette in China. Why, because it is considered rude to pull bones out of your mouth with your fingers. People will spit fish bones and other inedible pieces of food into a pile on the table beside their plate to avoid touching the food in their mouth with their hands.

In Chile they take the touching of food with fingers further. You must not touch any food with your fingers. Even French fries must be eaten with a knife and fork.

But travel across to Ethiopia, India or Pakistan you will be expected to eat with your hands. But, only your right hand as it is the height of rudeness to use your left hand, as that is unclean!

In France the rules over touching food are not so strict, however, you must always keep your hands visible. When dining with the French keep your hands on the table, never on your lap. Some say this custom goes back to medieval days when people carried hidden daggers.

Another quirk to remember when in France is to never cut your lettuce salad with a knife. Instead, you must master the art of folding it around your fork to eat it. Likewise in Italy the locals will consider it the height of rudeness to cut your spaghetti. One must twirl it magically around the fork with the help of a spoon.

Yet, if you end up at a table in Thailand, a fork is almost redundant. The only use for one is to rake your food onto your spoon for eating. You must never bring food to your mouth on your fork.

If all these rules of engagement with cutlery leave you feeling confused, don’t think that it is any easier when you are in a country that uses chopsticks. In fact there are even more traps of rude behavior one can unwittingly fall into when using two pieces of wood to eat.

In Japan standing your chopsticks in a bowl of rice is not just rude, it is taboo. This is how the food offerings for the dead are presented; so don’t insult your host with this classic mistake.

Never pass food to each other using chopsticks. This is how cremated remains are sorted after a funeral. You don’t want your host thinking about that at the dinner table.

Chopsticks are only for eating. Not for making noise with or pointing with. Playing with them is seen as bad mannered just as playing with cutlery is. Your chopsticks should never be pointed at or touch another person.

In China, you can pick up your bowl and hold it to your mouth while using the chopsticks to shovel the food into your mouth. But you must not bite on the chopsticks or leave them too long in your mouth and it is also considered gross to suck on them.

Finally, only use the serving chopsticks to move food from the main dish to your plate. Do not make the mistake of using serving chopsticks to eat with.

All these rules to remember will make you want to reach for a drink. But, not so fast, if you are still in China or Japan you should never refill your own glass at the table. The only way to politely get a refill of your glass is to offer to refill another guest’s glass. Then they will return the favor and refill yours. Refilling your own glass is seen as rude and selfish.

The English also have a few particular customs, especially around their beloved tea drinking. When you are stirring your tea do not let the spoon clink against the cup unless you want your host to cringe. After stirring the cup always remove the teaspoon, never leave it standing in your cup. Once you have finished stirring the proper place for your teaspoon is on the saucer.

If you prefer coffee in Italy to tea in England, then it is best you know that it is considered strange to order a cappuccino after a meal. While not rude, it will certainly set you apart as a tourist in a country where only an espresso is ordered after a meal. The reason? According to Italians, milk hinders digestion.

With all these rules to remember in order to avoid being rude, it might be a light relief to know where you can behave in ways we would consider rude.

In China it is not rude to leave food on your plate. In fact, it is best if you don’t finish everything on your plate. By leaving a small amount of food you are highlighting the generosity of your host for supplying more than you can eat. And, the bonus is you get to leave behind anything that was not to your particular taste.

If you are worried that the amount of food you have left on your plate might offend your host, a large burp is fully acceptable as a sign that you appreciated the good food your host has provided.

Still in China, you are free to light up a smoke in the middle of dinner and no one will blink an eye. Be prepared that other diners will be puffing away and breathing smoke over the food. Perhaps in time, this rule will change but until now, it has never been considered rude to smoke and eat.

Slurp and make as much noise as you like while eating noodles in Japan. Making such a noisy meal out of a bowl of noodles is not only not rude it will make your host happy as it shows you are heartily enjoying the meal.

It is also perfectly ok to stuff your face full of food, especially if you are eating sushi. It is considered rude to bite a sushi piece in half, but not rude to shove the whole piece in your mouth. So go ahead and enjoy the chance to fill your cheeks with sushi without shame. After all, keeping up with all of these international table etiquettes can really work up one’s appetite.


Three Questions That Will Change the Way You Buy Clothes, Forever.

Too often we buy on a whim. When we buy clothes we rarely give thought to whether we really need them. We don’t stop either to think about where our purchases came from and we never think about where they will end up when we are done with them. We get caught up in the intoxicating mix of anticipation, desire and panic when we see an item of clothing we want to own. We want it, we need it and we will hunt for it. We get caught in the cycle of always looking for the next shiny new item.

In the name of slow fashion and learning to be more mindful of our buying habits, I would like to suggest we learn to pause before buying and ask ourselves three important questions. Do I love it? Am I ok with where this came from? Am I certain I will use it fully?

In pausing long enough to consider our answers we might begin to reduce the number of unwanted items of clothing being added to our ever-growing landfills daily. We might begin to demand change from the companies who exploit low paid workers to produce items for our next fashion whim. And, we might regain some control over our wardrobes.

Do I love it?

We all know that a poor quality wardrobe filled with cheap and easy fashion items, is just a hot mess. We are all guilty of buying items we regret, buying items we didn’t really need and buying things that we have worn only once.

A transformation needs to take place, not just in our closets, but also in our minds; buying less and choosing better. Take time to question if you really love each item you buy. Notice the design, the details and the quality of the workmanship. If you really love it, get it. If you only kind of love it, leave it in the store. Choose instead to buy quality items that are unique, well-made and that you can treasure and enjoy each time you wear them. By embracing a more mindful style of consumption we can build our wardrobes around one created with items of quality, made for longevity, and designed to be cherished.

Am I ok with where this came from?

The fashion industry is a very labour intensive one. Just look at what you have on right now. Think about how many hands were involved in the making of your clothing. Someone had to cut, by hand, the pieces of fabric. Someone else would have sewed the main seams. Yet another person would have sewed each of the smaller seams. It would then have been passed to another person to snip the threads and tidy up any loose ends. Someone else would have put in the label and finally packed it ready to sell. Your clothing did not come from some automated system; it was made mostly by hand. Now think about whom these hands belong to. Consider the millions of people who are employed for low wages in poor conditions in factories that are built out of our line of sight. Companies do not want you to think about where your clothing came from. They do not want you to ponder on the vulnerable workers in factories where abuse and exploitation are the norm. But ask yourself how can we find beauty in an item that creates hunger and unhappiness?

By supporting ethical brands producing clothing made by fairly paid workers, we encourage others to also think of where their clothing came from. And, perhaps pressure companies to also think more about the most vulnerable in the fashion industry.

Am I certain I will use it fully?

 Buying high-quality items that are made well and durable reduces the build-up of waste from the fashion industry. When we buy an item to wear once to an event we are essentially buying that garment as a disposable item. Are we ok with that? Are we ok that we recycle our plastics, buy organic food and avoid overly packaged food, yet we will buy an item that took hours to make, used large amounts of resources only to wear it once and throw it out? Unconscionable! Yet, how many of us are guilty of it. Our planet is just not built to cope with us disposing of clothing at this rate. Consider instead buying quality that is built for longevity. Take care of the clothes you own.

My challenge to you is to take the time to answer these three questions each time you are tempted by a sale or new trend on the high street. In doing so I believe you will find you begin to only buy items you love, that can be treasured and that last. And, as we start to value quality items that are made by fairly paid workers perhaps we will also provoke a change in the fast fashion industry towards a more mindful production with less waste and zero exploitation.