I’m a big fan of performing regular self-reflections. Self-reflections are about systematically asking yourself thought-provoking questions to develop a deeper level of understanding yourself (thoughts, feelings, visions, goals etc.) and your environment (relationships, trends, opportunities etc.).
Not to sound too abstract, performing self-reflection means that you take some alone time, grab a pen and a piece of paper, and reflect on your goals, beliefs, behavioral patterns, emotional knots, changes in your environment, and everything else that’s happening in your life.
The biggest benefit of self-reflection is that you gain a better overview of your life – you better understand yourself and your life situations (and other people), and thus you can directly impact how you think and feel about certain events in your life; and most importantly, in the end you can act more wisely.
New understandings lead to new thoughts, new thoughts lead to new emotions and consequently to new actions. But there’s even more. With regular self-reflections, you can act smarter, you can make sure that your goals and environmental forces are aligned.
One big part of self-reflection is to analyze as much information as possible that can help you shape a superior life strategy, progress towards your goals faster and, in the end, live a better life. The good life.
Self-reflections are about becoming a wiser person and acting smarter.
To really enjoy all the benefits of self-reflection, you have to perform it on a weekly, if not daily basis. My daily reflections don’t take me more than 20 minutes, and sometimes I do longer ones that take up to an hour; especially when I’m stressed out or severe negative feelings concentrate.
These are usually the best spent minutes in a day, because I gain so many insights about myself, life and others.
But at the end of the year comes the time for a special type of reflection – annual reflection. I call it a year in review. The end of the year is always a great opportunity to do extensive analysis of where you are, how satisfied you are with your life, and where to go next.
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Christmas holidays are ideal for a big annual reflection
I’m always surprised how full gyms are in January. I guess entering a new year does motivate us all to go after new goals. And it makes sense.
Life slows down in Christmas time, relationships and celebrations come before hard work, and usually we are all surprised at how quickly another year has passed us by and start wondering what we’ve really achieved in the past 12 months.
Well, if Christmas holidays are ideal for a bigger self-reflection and setting new goals, it makes sense to do it in a very structured and systematic way.
That’s why I prepared a framework with a bunch of questions that will help you perform the year-in-review in a very professional way. You know, according to the mantra that whatever you do, give it 110 %.
Before we go to specific questions and exercises, the goals you want to achieve by performing the annual reflection or the year in review are:
- Assess where you have been in the beginning of the year and where you are now
- Update your life vision and set new priorities
- Make sure you are going in the right direction (following your True North)
- Carefully plan the next year together with specific goals (prepare new Goal Journey Maps)
- Think of all the ways you can adjust to achieve your goals faster or with fewer resources
- Analyze all the changes in your environment to make sure you properly adjust
- Brainstorm new ideas you have about your life and what you would like to experience
- Update your life strategy if necessary
- Systematically go through all the new things that you learned
- Reestablish the connection with yourself
As I mentioned, the best way to perform annual self-reflection is by doing a set of analytical exercises and answering several questions about your past, present and future. I have prepared the framework and questions for you. You can either download the free PDF below or read the rest of the blog post.
- A Year in Review – Annual reflection – PDF Template (with input fields)
Life satisfaction chart and one priority area for the next year
The best way to start the year in review is with a life satisfaction chart. The life satisfaction chart shows how satisfied you are with different core life areas. If you are doing such self-assessment for the first time, you need to make two charts:
- Life satisfaction in the beginning of the year
- Life satisfaction at the end of the year
Building a life satisfaction chart is really easy. You draw a scale from 1 to 10 horizontally and list all ten areas of life vertically:
You assess every area of life from 1 to 10. In the second step, you take another look at all the areas you assessed with 4, 5, 6 or 7. These are the areas where you’re averagely satisfied.
It’s much easier to reflect and draw conclusions if you have a more shaped and clearer view of whether you’re satisfied with a specific area of life or not. So, assess life areas again, but now by using only the numbers 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10. Highlight every 1, 2 and 3 with red, and every 8, 9 and 10 with green.
An example of the life satisfaction (assessment) chart
After completing the assessment for both points in time (beginning and end of the year), you should make several conclusions:
- In which life areas have you progressed or declined the most? Why?
- Which life areas are currently in the red and which ones in the green? Why?
- What is the one life area you want to improve the most in the next year?
The core bottom-line of this exercise is to get a general overview of what happened with your life in the past year and even more, to select one life area on which you will primarily focus all of your improvement efforts in the upcoming year.
A Year in Review: Analysis of the past year with proper closure
Once you have a general overview, it’s time to dive deep into the past year. You want to gain as many insights as possible from the past 12 months. These insights must then be an important input when planning the next year. Here are the questions to answer:
Learning from success
- What were your 3 – 5 biggest accomplishments in the past year?
- What contributed the most to these accomplishments (new knowledge, a coach, focused effort etc.)?
- Which other goals have you achieved in the past year and which new things are you proud of?
- Which healthy habits have you followed the past year?
- What were the smartest decisions you took?
- Which new competences (knowledge, skills) and strengths have you developed?
- What were 2 – 3 greatest lessons that you learned?
- Which risks did you take and how did they pay off?
Learning from failure
- What were your biggest failures in the past year?
- How did you grow as a person and what have you really learned from failure?
- What contributed the most to the desired results not happening?
- What other goals did you not meet in the past 12 months?
- Which unhealthy habits did you follow in the past year?
- What were your worst decisions of the year? Why did you make them?
- What is the biggest “unfinished business” of the year and what can you do about that?
- What do you wish you had done differently in the past year? How could you have done things better?
- What risks did you take that didn’t pay off? What were your wrong assumptions?
- Did you make any new relationships that enriched your life? Who and why?
- Which relationships improved the most in your life and why?
- Which relationships took a downturn and why?
- Who had the biggest impact on your life in the past year? Positive or negative?
- Select 3 – 5 keywords for the past year (use free associations)
- Which new things did you discover about yourself?
- What were the biggest resource wasters (time, money, energy) in the past year?
- What were the best resource investments (time, money, energy) in the past year?
Answer all of the questions and then carefully review them. Try to gain as many insights and draw as many bottom-lines from the previous year as possible.
Firm decisions for the upcoming year
At this point, you should have a good picture of where you currently are in life and about the core events that had an influence on your life in the past year.
The next step is about making firm decisions on how you will improve yourself in the future and what goals you will follow. Here are the questions to answer:
- What are 3 – 4 things that you will stop doing in the next 12 months?
- What are 3 – 4 things that you will start doing in the next 12 months?
- What are 3 – 4 things that you will continue doing in the next 12 months?
- What other new healthy habits will you start following and which bad habits will you ditch? How?
- Name one personality trait you want to get rid of to become a better person next year
Personal growth and competences
- Which new competences do you plan to develop in the next year?
- What is the one skill you already possess and haven’t been using that you will put to hard work?
- What is the biggest step out of your comfort zone that you will take or which fears will you face?
- Which completely new things will you try in the coming year?
- How do you intend to be different at the end of next year?
- Which existing relationship in your life deserves more attention?
- Which new relationships do you plan to forge in the upcoming year?
- What kind of help will you seek from current and new people in your life?
- Who will you help to progress in life in the next year? Who will you mentor?
Environment and trends
- What are currently the greatest opportunities in your environment?
- Which environmental trends and forces are supporting your goals and which ones are blocking you?
- Which people are supporting your efforts and which people are playing against you?
- What obstacles are you facing and how will you overcome them to accomplish your goals?
- How can you improve your environment so that it’s more encouraging and motivating?
- On which life area will you focus your efforts the most (from the life assessment table)?
- What are 3 – 5 things you must accomplish in the next year, no matter what? Why?
- List all the goals from your life vision you want to achieve for different life areas (approximately 10 goals).
- What is the next planning step? For which goals will you build Goal Journey Maps?
I hope you answered all the questions. It's not that hard, right? The main point of such an introspection is to change your behavior and your actions. You have to do things differently.
You have to improve and grow. You have to start doing certain things and stop doing others. You have to start making wiser decisions. If you don’t, the introspection was useless. Changes and adjustments are the whole point of it.
Reflection also doesn’t equal goal setting. It just gives you a general overview of your past journey, where you currently are, and where you want to go. It’s only the first step in goal setting. It’s about understanding how you can do things better, setting priorities, and defining the next execution steps.
The wisest next step is making Goal Journey Maps or any other kind of a detailed flexible plan for the area you want to improve the most and for a few goals that are your priorities.
Just writing down your goals is never enough. You have to live your goals every single day with proper execution. I hope you had a great year and that the next one is even more successful. Happy New Year!