“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln
To do something well, you need to prepare.
And part of preparing to have an incredible year is to reflect on the last year, capture highlights, identify learnings, and turn all of this into personal wisdom that you carry with you forever into the future.
I’ve been doing annual reviews and planning since 2013, and my process gets better every year.
Below is a taste of some questions (out of 55! 🤯) I ask myself to complete a year-end review and planning exercise.
If by changing your questions, you can change your life — the questions below are designed for just that.
1. What were your top moments of 2022?
What happened this year that you want to capture for the future, regardless of how big or small it might seem?
This question is designed to have you stop and take note of what happened because life happens fast, and without reflection, it’s easier for these beautiful moments to slip away forever.
2. What were your top learnings from 2022?
What did you learn about work?
What did you learn about yourself?
What did you learn about your relationships?
What did you learn you like to do or not do?
What did you learn about what’s important to you?
What mistakes did you make that you can turn into learning?
Write them all out, regardless of how big or small they might seem.
3. What did you want to be acknowledged for but weren’t?
Take a moment to acknowledge yourself now to meet your own needs instead of seeking them externally.
4. What gave you energy, & what drained it?
Creating a two-column list of what activities, projects, and situations gave you energy and what drained it will help distill what you should pursue more of in your life and what you can leave behind.
5. What do you need to say, do, or acknowledge to feel complete with 2022?
Maybe you have had your best year yet, and want to celebrate that.
Or maybe you feel like this year purely sucked, and you want to sit with that for a moment.
By taking a moment to acknowledge what might be lingering or needing to be said, you give yourself permission to feel it, which makes it easier to let go and move on.
6. What would make 2023 amazing for you?
Simple but profound, sit with this question for a while and do not hold back.
This isn’t about actually doing it or living it; it’s simply about IMAGINING what would be amazing.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” — Albert Einstein
Give birth to your own evolution by imagining what would make this year great.
7. What does each of these specific goals give you?
If you want to lose 10 pounds, what will that give you?
If you want to travel more, what will that give you?
If you want a new job, what will that give you?
This question is probably the most important because it will shift your goal from something you force your way through into something you wake up excited to take action on.
Can you spot the difference between these two goals?
- Goal 1: “Lose 20 pounds by July”
- Goal 2: “Lose 20 pounds in July so that I can be healthy enough to play with my children, have enough energy to get me through the day, and look freaking fantastic in my clothes.”
The first one is emotionless, making it lack the juice a person might need to stick with it even when times are hard. It might even result in the feeling of forcing their way through it the whole time.
Alternatively, the second goal is juicy, exciting, and connected to the greater reason for the goal in the first place, making is a more enjoyable journey and increasing the likelihood they’ll reach it!
8. What goals/habits/rituals can you set to achieve your dream year?
A goal without a plan is just a wish. — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
When I wanted to run a half marathon, there was a training plan for that.
When I wanted to do a 30-day vegan challenge, the plan was straightforward: no meat or dairy.
When I wanted to travel to Europe, the steps to making this possible were pretty clear too.
But as I began to set bigger goals in my life, ones I hadn’t achieved before, the plan or habits to get me to success became less evident.
This step is essential if there isn’t a clear-cut plan for the goals you’d like to achieve.
So break down your goal into smaller steps, and set time-frames.
And always focus on what’s within your control.
For example, if you have an income-related goal — like increasing income by 20% — create habits around what you can control. Those goals might be to improve your resume, apply to X number of jobs every week, and other leading indicators that will get you to your lagging indicator of a 20% income increase.
9. Imagine you’ve had the best 2023 ever…
To get the full power from this question, you need to make your vision for 2023 real in your mind first.
Close your eyes and imagine you’ve done all the above things, AND THEN SOME. Imagine it; life is so good!
Imagine that you’re genuinely living a life of complete joy, authenticity, and alignment.
From that place:
- What are the top emotions you feel?
- How do you start your days?
- What foods do you eat?
- What projects do you take on at work, and how do you show up while doing them?
- (Here are some other questions you can ask)
And once you’ve made this vision real, now think back and ask yourself what you had to let go of to get here.
The answer might shock you, and that’s a good thing.
10. What might prevent you from achieving these goals?
Once you set forth on a path of change, all sorts of obstacles will show up to prevent you.
It’s part of leaving your comfort zone in search of something greater.
Decide right now how you will respond when blockers inevitably pop up.
11. How will you hold yourself accountable to these new habits?
You might shy away from the word accountable if you’re like me. Part of me loves it, and the other part despises it.
If that’s the case for you, I’ll ask you this instead, how will you make these habits/rituals a reality, and what structure do you need to put in place to track your progress?
Here are some ideas:
- Have an accountabilibuddy to report back to
- Add it to your calendar
- Set alarms or timers on your phone
- Create an inspiring vision board to look at
- Put a post-it note on your computer
12. How will you have grace for yourself when you get off track?
Again, anytime you’re striving toward something new, there will be learnings (ahem: setbacks) along the way.
This is part of the journey.
Decide now how you will have compassion and grace for yourself when this happens and what your plan will be to get back on track.
13. How will you celebrate each moment along the way?
When I first started celebrating my achievements, it felt SO WEIRD. I was a perpetual high-achiever, and the second I met a goal — I’d move on to the next.
This was a recipe for an unfulfilling life. I was achieving, but I wasn’t taking a moment to stop and smell the sweet roses of progress. I became a personal-growth-obsessed robot thirsty for more goal boxes to mark off.
It turns out that this is the exact opposite of how you should approach habit change in life.
BJ Fogg, Charles Duhigg, and James Clear have all written about The Habit Loop and how good and bad habits form.
If you wish to create new positive habits, you must celebrate every single time you make the desired new habit, not just when you reach the intended goal or milestone.
For example, if you want to run a marathon, you reward yourself every time you complete a run, not just when you finally run the marathon.
The celebration or reward doesn’t need to be HUGE either. It can be as simple as giving yourself a pat on the back, doing a little dance, or giving yourself a high-five, as Mel Robbins says.
Our questions significantly impact us, and I hope you feel a bit more ready for the year ahead.
I’ve spent the past 9 years asking myself better questions to get out of my plateaus and design the life of my dreams.
The questions above are just a few of the many questions I (and my clients) go through.
If you want a comprehensive process that covers every area of your life, from career to relationships, finances, health, and more, so that you can confidently close out this year and start the new year strong — check out my Year-End Self-Reflection & Annual Planning Workbook here.