Here in New Zealand we are lucky to have our annual summer holiday coinciding with the end of the year. But it can also be a bit of a rush. Parties, family events, entertaining, long car trips, packing to get away for the holidays. It is a busy time. It is also quality family time, as we make the most of the school holidays. Kids, BBQs, entertaining and outdoor activities take over. Holidays can often be spent surrounded by other people, and just as busy as work, but in a different way.
So as we start to near the end of the holidays, slow down and get some space, it is perfect timing to review yourself, and how last year went. If you paint a fence, you stand back and take in your handiwork. It would be insane not to stand back and get some perspective.
Some people find the process appealing. Others may feel it is a little contrived, a bit earnest, to formally review yourself. It is like giving yourself a school report card. It may feel like the sort of thing an over-enthusiastic HR manager would ask you to do. So many don’t do it.
Going with the flow may sound appealing and simple to some. I think it is more like sleepwalking through life. We can fall into routines and habits and ways of thinking without realising. If you want a better life, or to reach your potential, or to live with purpose, you need to be more intentional than that.
A year-end review doesn’t need to be formal. But it does need to be thoughtful.
So kick off your jandals, and give it some time.
“an unconsidered life is not one worth living” – Socrates
I do it every year, I add a few pages of notes to my journal and jot down what worked, what didn’t and what I am going to do differently. I dig into each item, getting some perspective on it. I am getting better at it each year.
For example, I had some specific business goals this year, and I reached them. I cannot describe how great that felt. However, they were a few months behind the schedule I had initially devised. So was that a success or a failure? Was late better than never? It was beneficial to consider, was I behind time because I was being lazy? Easily distracted? Or did I have competing priorities? And if forced to stack them up, which was my biggest priority? So in retrospect, did I manage it correctly? And how about my personality, what have a learned this year about working to a deadline? Is my ‘leave it to the last minute’ streak a flaw or a strength? How can I work with it better? How about those perfectionist tendencies? How do they impact on my deadlines?
So it is never a simple review, but it is highly informative. When I get to stage ofmaking plans for next year, I am less likely to over commit, over promise and then eventually feel I have let myself down. And I run it by my own coach, is this on track? Will I still meet my goals if we take this slightly different approach?
So how will you approach your own planning?
The new year brings a wonderful opportunity for a clean slate, a fresh start.
You may have seen some standard templates doing the rounds, no doubt you might have even been given one at work. Fill out the form, and review how your year went. It probably includes questions like the following:
- What were your biggest achievements?
- Your biggest failures?
- What didn’t go well?
- How will you fix them?
They are extremely sensible questions and work well at a simplistic level, if you live a reflexive, robotic life. Which you don’t. You may see that your fitness programme didn’t go well, so you will resolve to start getting out of bed earlier. You will note that you spent too much money, so next year you will spend less. Wishful thinking? Most likely.
For you are a messy, complicated human, and even though you know what you should be doing, you often don’t do it. There are deeper more complicated reasons for your behaviour, or lack of resolve than simply pointing out you have a problem. The diet industry, the fitness industry, budget advisers, many therapists, most life coaches would be out of work if you just did the things you know you should do.
But I still think that reviewing your year is important. A life without forethought or planning is random, and reactive to events around you. And self-reflection is a significant part of living a purposeful life.
Asking more meaningful questions will help you gain clarity. Skip the simplistic questions and dig a little deeper. Following are a few of the questions taken from my year-end-review that my clients complete.
- Were there any specific memories of great moments?
- Who did you spend most of your time with during the year? How do you feel about that?
- Was there much change from the prior year? Were circumstances different? How were you different? How were the outcomes different?
- Did you learn any lessons? About yourself? About others? About life?
- What lit you up this year? What made you excited? Was there anything that made you shine from within as you did it?
- Were there any hardships? Things that happened to you? what did you learn from them?
- What are you feeling you didn’t handle well during the year? How were your reactions to events different to how you would like?
- What good or bad habits did you practice?
- Any regrets? Disappointments, opportunities missed or annoyances that you can’t shake off?
- Was there anything you feel you wasted your energies on?
- Did you practice self-care? Self-kindness?
- How did you handle your money this year?
- How does your body feel at the end of the year?
- How do you feel emotionally as the year draws to a close?
- Were you happy this year?
- Did you work hard and give it your best?
- Were you kind? To others? To yourself? To the planet?
- Did you live a good life this year?
Digging a little deeper into why things went well (or didn’t) is valuable. Asking from a different angle makes you think differently. Some questions are broader than you would expect, some are narrower. But they will get you thinking, and questioning. They will all give you a much-needed fresh perspective.
If you want to see the complete list of questions, I am very happy to share. Email me, and I will send you a copy.
Take some time. Sit down somewhere, print the list and open your mind. Drop your defences and have a frank look at yourself, your life, your habits and where you give your precious energy. The first step toward living a more purposeful life.
Here’s to a happy and fulfilling 2018.