Do You Remember
Updated: Oct 30
If you know me, you know that I have a love of everything goals! Most of all how they allow me to define what is important to me, narrowing the many down to the few to focus my energy. I get to define how I want to make progress towards these things that are important to me, and I get to see my progress, correct my mistakes, acknowledge both successes and setbacks. Then, I get to do it all over again the next year!
As I’ve said many times, the first step in preparing for the next year is reflecting on the one that is coming to a close. In my blog “Are we there yet?” I talked about tracking goals. In reality, the tracking process is really mini reflections, done consistently all year long. The end of the year reflection, however, is a special process, that caps off all the hard work done over the year. It’s like the tracking done all year is the longest, slowest pass part of an alley-oop & the year end review is the slam dunk. OK… that may be a stretch of an analogy but hopefully you get my point – consistent tracking all year is the best way to prepare for the year end review. But it’s not required – you can do a year end review from wherever you are starting!
First question is – when to start? Just like my Christmas preparation, I like to start preparing for the next year right after Thanksgiving. That leaves plenty of time to do a little, reflect and let things sink in, soak in. To let ideas build. To come back and do some more. Let things marinate even more. To finalize before New Years Eve so I start the year ready to go, without feeling rushed.
Second question is – how to start? Regardless of what you include in the year end review, one of the most important things to do is to write it down. You can use simple notebook or notepad, type it on a computer or create a note in your phone. You can always transfer it somewhere more permanent later if necessary but it will be pretty hard to remember everything you do in this process later if you don’t capture it somehow. I often grab a note pad and start scribbling and then I keep those pages in a binder so I have my notes year over year in one place.
If you have set goals and tracked them all year – the first step in the year end review is to read through your notes. You don’t have to look at weekly entries, but you can if you want a long, slow drive! At a minimum, review the quarterly entries. You may need to read monthly entries for the last quarter (as you won’t have written the final quarterly review yet). Although I’m pretty sure I’ve never, my entire life, kept a journal or diary for more than 2-3 entries, I’ve been ‘tracking my goals’ for years now and these notebooks serve that same purpose! So, the notes from tracking throughout the year are a great place to start.
What I’m looking for in reviewing notes from the year is: what stands out? Are there wins? Are there ‘failures’? Are there patterns? Consistent themes? Are there things that were really important at the time that I’ve already kind-of forgotten about? Did I have ideas for what I might want to do ‘next year’?
Fret not if you haven’t been tracking your goals week over week, month over month. Anything you have written can be a good source to draw from. For example, if you keep a diary, a gratitude journal, if you wrote a blog regularly, anything written that captures what you did or how you felt would suffice.
Perhaps you have absolutely nothing to look back through from the year – that is totally fine too. Remember, the best place to start is where you are. Embrace that! An intentional reflection on can be done using your memory, your calendar, your photos, your posts on social media! You can just talk about the year with people close to you – friends, family members – and see what they remember or jog in your memory. Come up with some categories of things to reflect on – and write it all down. Here are some examples:
What are the 10 greatest things from the prior year: This can be things you did – like learn to ride a skateboard. It can be things that ‘happened to you’ – like getting a new job. Some years 10 seems like a lot of things to come up with. Some years the list is really long. You can write 100 great things from the prior year if that suits you. If your list is really long – the exercise of picking out the top 10 can be really enlightening.
Where did you travel: Some years (ehem… 2020…) this list may be really short. That’s OK. Travel doesn’t have to mean leaving the country or even the state. Maybe you finally went for a hike and saw a waterfall you’d heard about. Maybe you finally went “into Boston” and did a Duck Tour for the first time! Or maybe you don’t care about travel at all – then skip this one.
What or who had the greatest impact or influence on you: This is an interesting one for me – it stretches my mind a bit. My list has included people (such as my coach or a friend that played a particularly big role that year), podcasts, books, a course I took… COVID.
I’ve seen “Biggest risk taken” – while I agree taking some risk is important, getting out of my comfort zone and all – there’s something about this category that shuts my brain down. But maybe taking risks is important to you, something that you want to do more. In that case, capturing this each year may be a really valuable exercise!
There are so many iterations of the ‘biggest’ or ‘most important’ categories: What resonates for you? Here are some ideas that might get your creative juices going. Any given category can be a “choose one” or “top 5” or whatever feels right.
“Fun” categories: What was fun, made you laugh, made you happy
“Entertainment” category: Best books, movies, plays, TV series, concerts or shows
“Growth” categories: Skills, lessons, hobbies, personal improvements
“Proud moment” categories: Athletic achievements, positive habits developed, standing up for yourself or what you believe in
“Giving” categories: Top charities you donated to, ways you gave back to your community, thoughtful acts
“The down side” categories: I wouldn’t recommend a lot of these, but at least one in the ‘call it like it is’ section is important… things like mistakes, disappointments, “things I would have done differently”, negative habits – however you phrase this just remember it is about learning – not bashing yourself
Choose a reasonable number of categories. If this exercise is overwhelming and takes too long, you’re not going to want to do it. If choosing what lists to create is overwhelming – find one online and just go with it. By this time next year, I’ll make one to share with you!
10/30/2022 note: I have created my tool! If you are interested to try it out, contact me and request a copy! ($39 value but my gift to you if you enjoyed this blog!)
Most of all, this should be an enjoyable process. It may be somewhat painful – a rude awakening – some years, but if you lean into the pain it can still be enjoyable (as weird as that sounds). Because by virtue of doing this, you are setting yourself up to try, or try again, so that next year the reflection is a step more rewarding!
Don’t be afraid of the mirror 😊
You are unique and you deserve to absolutely love your life! This is why I love working 1-on-1 and in small groups to help you find ways to create beautiful, dynamic balance in your life! If you are interested in a discovery session to learn about working together, please contact me.