Every so often, I catch myself saying something “interesting”, and so I write it down in case it will be useful in the future.
So let me open this article with a couple of quotes I hope will get you thinking.
Those who don’t learn from the past will always be newbies.
Many people tend to dwell on the past and get stuck,
I learn from it and get better.
Our past is an extremely valuable resource of learning opportunities.
Anything we’ve done well or badly points at what’s working and what is not.
Unless you always want to be winging your way through life, which may be fun, you must regularly reflect on what’s working (for you) and what’s not, learn from it, make adjustments, and improve.
I do this every week for most areas of my life, but I also do a BIG reflection on the past 12 months at the end of the year. I highly recommend you give it a go. It’s extremely valuable and therapeutic.
It will help you be:
- More effective next year
- Grow faster
- Understand yourself better
- Have more gratitude for people and things in your life.
- Be more excited for the coming year
- Most importantly, it will help you create a better plan for the coming year.
Here are great questions to ask yourself to get the most out of this reflection.
NOTE: I recommend you to sit down with this and write all your answers down. You can do it on paper or digitally. You’ll get so much more from it that way.
1) What are the highlights of the past year for you?
This one is often harder than it may look. Not because there weren’t any highlights but because we forget easily. What I do to help me remember this is:
I go through my calendar as important events are usually scheduled there.
I go through the photos on my phone because I usually capture such things.
If you use social media a lot, you can go through your Instagram or Facebook and go over your posts over the last 12 months.
With every highlight, write down a short answer to WHY it was a highlight for you.
Example: I was approached by the Guardian to be featured in the relaunch of their lifestyle magazine. It made me feel proud that they approached me out of all the coaches out there.
Now, this would be a big one for me, but I’d write down small things like: After months of taking care of my orchids, seven of them simultaneously blossomed. It made me happy that my care made them thrive.
2) What have you achieved in the last 12 months?
Write down a list of everything noteworthy, big or small. Anything that you feel proud of (regardless of what other people may think of it).
Here as well, I recommend you go through your calendar and photos.
It’s amazing how easily we forget about what we’ve worked hard for and achieved.
Again, write down all the wins and achievements, big or small.
You painted your bedroom, ran your first 10km, lost 5 pounds?
Write that baby down.
Ideally, write down a line about what it took you to achieve it.
Example: I ran a 58km Solo Ultramarathon. I achieved it because I put months of training into it, I prepared well, and I did not quit when I totally could have.
3) When did you feel most alive, inspired, or excited this year, and why?
This is a great question that will help you identify what really gets your heart and soul going.
Don’t be afraid to write down silly things. No one is going to read your list. It’s for you and your self-discovery only.
4) What have you failed at and why?
I was going to sugarcoat this one, but let’s just cut the BS, take full responsibility and call it what it is. Filing, falling short, making mistakes, throwing in the towel is part of the game. Everyone fails sometimes. I certainly do. I’ve been setting the goal of finishing my book for two years now, and I’ve made zero progress with it this year, and it’s 100% my fault. Well, there you go.
The power of this question (and answers) comes from several points.
- Actually owning up to failing.
- Growing thicker skin and not melting like a snowflake just because something didn’t work out.
- Identifying WHY you failed so you can correct it in the future.
- Possibly recommitting to the goal with a better plan.
I’m a big fan of Elon Musk. At SpaceX, when they fail and their rocket prototypes blow up, it costs millions of dollars. How bad are your failures?
By the way, they are one of the fastest-growing and tech developing companies. Hint hint.
5) What should you have done more or less off and why?
We are the results of our habits. We don’t always have to start brand new habits and turn our life upside down. Sometimes little corrections can have a profound impact over a long period of time.
Think about the adjustments you could have made, and you can apply in the next 12 months.
6) What has this year tried to teach you?
This is one of my favourite questions because it reframes challenges and obstacles into lessons. Life will keep teaching us the same lesson until we learn. 😉
Think about the situations you’ve encountered, highs and lows, challenges, people, losses, failures, but also wins and accomplishments.
7) What lessons have you learned?
Ideally, work with the answers above.
From your experiences, what new knowledge are you taking forward?
8) What activities, habits and decisions advanced you or your life the most?
Learning from mistakes and correcting them is great, but you also want to know what has worked.
Look at your progress and growth and reflect on what’s had the biggest impact on it.
9) Who were the most important and/or influential people in your life in the past 12 months, and why?
The people in our lives, whether close relationships or people we have short interactions with, can greatly impact who we are and how our lives evolve. This may be positively or negatively.
Show gratitude and appreciation to the people who have impacted your life positively, and set boundaries or distance yourself from the people who have affected your life negatively.
10) What have you wasted the most time with in the last 12 months?
Here, I don’t mean things you’ve put your time into that did not work out, such as relationships, business, work projects etc. You simply couldn’t have known (unless you did know it was a dead-end).
What I’m referring to are things like:
hanging out with people you knew were not good for you
binge-watching pointless TV
endlessly scrolling through social media
… things you knew will not give you anything apart from a temporary escape from what was important.
11) What should you have prioritised more?
This question is not about looking back with regret. It’s about learning from the past and going into the future wiser.
12) What feedback would your idol (or someone you look up to) give you on your past year?
I love this question. You must keep it as feedback: honest and useful critique, directly pointing out the flops and supportively suggesting improvements.
Don’t let your inner critic go off the hinges and commit character assassination on your best intentions. (Unless your idol is David Goggins, but then you’d probably get a kick out of it… like me!)
You want to be leaving this exercise empowered and inspired, not demotivated and broken.
These are some of the questions I ask myself during the annual reflection, and I always finish it feeling inspired, wiser, and empowered. If you combine it with the tips on how to stick with your new year’s resolutions I shared recently, you’ll be going into 2022 more prepared and ready to succeed than ever before.
I hope it’s been useful.
If you have your own questions, you’d like to share or anything you’d like to ask, please share it in the comment section.