I’m always on the look out for new ways to set meaningful goals or intentions for the new year. I’ve found that looking at what happened in the past year is a key step before I get down to cooking up my new goals.
It’s a mix between recognizing wins and growth but also taking a look at what didn’t quite work out. My intention is always to see things for what they are honestly — wins and losses — so I can squeeze out the best lessons and insights.
Here’s how I like to approach my year in review:
1. I start by sketching out the months of the year on a big piece paper. I create a grid for all the months of the year, but you can make circles or boxes around each month.
2. Now, start by going through some of the tools you use to manage your days and months to jog your memory. Look at things like your desk planner, paper calendar, or digital calendar and record the major events that happened in the past year on your paper under the month it happened. It’s kind of cool to see your whole year in front of you and look back on what took place when.
3. Next, look through your photos, social media, texts, maybe your journal for more reminders of significant happenings from the year. Here are some things to look out for:
- Significant events — birthdays, weddings, etc.
- Trips you took.
- Visits from friends or family.
- Illness or injury.
- New friendships or relationships.
BUSINESS OR CAREER
- New clients or job.
- A major project or launch.
- Conferences or workshops you attended.
2. Then, look at your goals for the past year and review these questions:
- What goals did you reach?
- Which ones did you miss?
- What were the major insights of the year?
- What was hard?
- What did you let go of?
- What were your biggest wins?
- What are you most proud of?
- Where did you show up as your best, highest self?
- Where did you fall down?
- What new habits or practices did you adopt?
- Where did you get stuck?
- What surprised you this year?
- What were your biggest mindset shifts?
4. The next step is to consider your biggest lessons of the year. Give yourself a few days to do this. Go back to the list of questions above a few times. Start with the easy stuff and then let your mind ponder the deeper things — your biggest lessons, insights, or mindset shifts of the year. These are the areas of real growth.
5. Last, take a look at the goals you didn’t reach, and ask:
- Why do you think this thing you wanted didn’t happen? Be honest with yourself, but don’t forget to also go easy.
- Was there something not available to you (time, money)?
- Was there maybe an unexpected event that affected your goal (illness, an unexpected extra work project)?
- How did you feel about the goal? Did you look forward to reaching it or see it as a burden?
- Did your focus change and the goal became unimportant?
The truth is that you’ll always have things that don’t get done or goals that didn’t quite work out. We have our plans and then life has a way of showing up on its own terms. Let’s face it, as much as we’d like to believe that we run the show, we don’t have complete control.
And then there’s also the fact that many times we put things on our lists that we think we should want. But then when it comes down to doing it, we resist the heck out of it. When this happens to me, it’s usually because before I made the commitment to doing it, I didn’t really connect with the deeper reason why I want that thing in the first place.
But, no matter what took place in your past year, there’s a lot to learn by reviewing it. If you can glean the lessons — positive and negative — it will be a big help in setting more meaningful goals for the new year and the years to come.