A few weeks ago, I wrote about some tips to help you stick to your resolutions this year. One of the first things that I do as I begin to look at what I want to accomplish in the coming year is take a look back at the previous year. By taking a look back, you can reflect, learn, and move on from last year as you prepare for a brand new year.
To reflect means to think quietly and calmly. If you have never taken the time to look back at your year, I challenge you to take about 30 minutes this week and look back. What went well? Where could you have improved? Did you reach your goals? What did you enjoy most?
Let’s take a look at a basic guide for looking back at your year so that you can learn, laugh, and prepare to move forward.
When I sit down to look back at my year, I follow a very simple process. Note that you can use whatever process works for you. I’m simply listing the process I follow as a guideline to help you get started.
So, here are the steps I go through when I am ready to reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of last year.
Clear your head.
You need to sit down somewhere quiet for this exercise. You need to eliminate distractions so that you can focus. For me, this means I get up early, sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, and just start writing.
Think about your life as a set of departments.
If you sit down and just look at your life as a whole and try to reflect, chances are that you will come up with a very generic reflection that really doesn’t accomplish much. Instead, think of your life as a company with multiple departments.
For me, I break my life down into the following departments: personal, professional, family and relationships, spiritual, health, and finance. This allows me to think about each specific area instead of allowing everything to blur together.
Write down your wins.
I always start with my wins. These don’t have to be huge wins with earth shattering results. Think about any relationships that grew, any progress you made with your finances, or any gains you made in your health. I like to find at least three wins in each department. Some departments are easier to rattle off wins while others can take a little more reflection. Now, write them down.
You must be specific. The more details you can write down, the better. You want to go back to that win. Think about how you felt. Allow yourself to go back and re-live each win.
As I am writing down my wins, I make sure to include things that I enjoyed throughout the year. Maybe that was a family vacation or a trip with your spouse. Maybe you learned to cook some amazing meals. These are wins, so don’t forget them.
I love to start with my wins because even if I think that the year as a whole was not so great, I often find that I had a lot of wins.
Write down your losses.
I use the word losses very loosely here. I try not to keep a negative tone when I journal, but when I look back at the year, I know that it’s vital to face the things that didn’t go so well. When you get to your losses, you must be honest. This reflection is for you, not for anyone else. Be truthful and be honest with where you could have improved.
Again, be as detailed as possible. Here is the biggest key when you are writing down what didn’t go as well as you wanted….do not, under any circumstances, make excuses. Just write. At this point, it doesn’t matter why you didn’t save money. If that was a loss for you, write it down. If you gained 20 pounds, just write that down. Don’t waste your time writing down every excuse about why you didn’t exercise or why you had to eat fast food four nights a week. No excuses here.
A few things to think about….Where did you waste time? What did you do that you did not enjoy? Are there any areas where you know you should improve? Did you move toward your goals? What barriers did you allow to stand in your way?
I don’t put a number on my losses. I simply try to really think about what didn’t go as well as I would have liked.
Put it all together.
Now, take a few minutes to sit back and read through what you wrote. Is it a pretty accurate reflection of your year? Did you miss something? I like to end with a brief summary of my thoughts on the year.
If your reflection is on point, now you can begin to look forward.
Next week, I will share my format for making my goals and intentions for the year. I will also share what I will be working on in 2019.
My Personal Reflection of 2018
This gets a little personal, but to help inspire you to get started, here is my reflection from 2018. This is not a complete list, but these reflections come straight from my personal journal.
- Did a much better job of saying “no”
- Implemented a journaling habit, and have been consistent with daily journaling and gratitude practice
- Less time on social media, distractions
- Stepped out of my comfort zone, got uncomfortable, and tried a few new things
- Vacations – Mt. Cheaha, cruise, North Carolina
- Less worry, more focus on controlling the things I can control and letting go of things I can’t
- Great training and race at Mt. Cheaha 50K
- Created and successfully launched 12-week online health coaching program
- Launched blog
- Impacted the lives of people around me in a positive way
- Continued the commitment to learn as much as possible through books, audio books, podcasts, blogs, and consistent research
Family and Relationships
- More present in conversations, activities, and family time – deliberately put phone down and away as much as possible to give my full attention to the person I am speaking with
- Removed a few relationships that were draining
- More intentional to move relationships past the surface
- Working out because I want to, not because I feel like I have to
- Improved strength and overall fitness level
- Nutrition dialed in, did a better job of indulging and then getting right back on track
- Mastered pistol squats and improving pull ups
- Got out of consumer debt
- Reduced weekly grocery bill by an average of $30/week
- Established a consistent savings plan
- Consistent with quiet time
- Went through Freedom Group
- More intentional with prayer
- Began serving at church
- Allowing the opinion of others to influence me more than necessary
- Wasted time comparing myself to other people or businesses
- Too many “what ifs” followed by a negative instead of reframing it to a positive
- Still overcommitting in many areas so that I stretch myself too thin
- Poor work / life balance on many days
- Didn’t make community a priority
- Focused on too many different things
- Poor job of delegating
Family and Relationships
- Not enough date nights
- Worked too much
- Lack of prioritization of family time
- Self care – started year off well, but started to slide with yoga, tissue therapy
- Spent more than I would have liked
- Focused more on materials than experiences
- Not as consistent with quiet time on weekends / Wednesdays
Putting it together.
Honestly, 2018 was a major year of learning for me. I am not incredibly sad to see it go, but I can say that I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself, how to deal with adversity, the danger of getting comfortable, as well as how big of a difference it makes when I simply slow down.
When I looked back at my 2018 goals and intentions, my biggest goal for 2018 was to simply be present. My goals were specific, and overall, I feel like I moved forward in most areas.
I hope that you enjoy the process of looking back at your year. Reflect, learn, move on.
I implemented this practice a few years ago, and I always enjoy going back to the year or two before and reading my reflections. I’ve found that this process has allowed me to really see how I have grown, and it always encourages me to keep moving forward.
Get your pen out, open your journal, and start looking back. Celebrate your wins, and be honest with your losses. Allow yourself to learn from your year so that 2019 can be your best year yet.