How to Conduct an Annual Life Review
Happy New Year
By Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good, Crosswalk.com
As I was recently reflecting on 2021, I realized it had been a year of exponential growth for me in many extraordinary ways. I've stepped boldly into new areas and long-anticipated dreams, while simultaneously experiencing bittersweet endings and personal challenges. Overall, 2021 gave me the opportunity to sever the old and fully trust and rest in new, God-given opportunities.
I have learned to give myself grace, distance, and time to heal instead of pushing, or covering and entertaining doubt.
Now, I'm taking the time to reflect back on the previous year to allow those experiences and lessons to be anchors for planning for the future. I call this my Annual Life Review, and wanted to share what I believe are the 4 key steps in this process so you can join me in this powerful exercise. I trust it will help you to move forward, embrace your God-given abilities and learn and grow from the past.
Start by simply going through your photos, journal entries, emails, and calendar to remind yourself of everything that you've done and experienced in the last year. You can even look at text messages or emails with people who are close to you or were impactful in your life in some way. You might want to set a timer for an hour or so to do this.
Once you feel immersed in what happened in the last year, set a timer for a few minutes at a time and jot down as many events or points as you can for each question below. Allow yourself enough time to truly pause and reflect.
What were the highlights of the year? What made you feel proud, joyful, and loved?
What were the low parts of the year? What was hard? What made you feel hurt, angry, or sad?
What did you learn from the year? What do you now know about yourself, other people, and the world at large?
Did anything surprise you?
What stood out to you?
How have these events changed you?
What will you remember most about this past year five years from now?
Once you have all of your thoughts recorded, think of a phrase to describe your year, and then give it a name, such as "The Year of Adventure." This will help you sum up your biggest takeaways from the past year.
The second step of the audit is the reflecting and planning process. The goal of a life audit is to take a broad look at the different parts of your life to see what’s going well and what might need some attention.
To do a life audit, rate each of the following areas from 1 to 5 in terms of how fulfilled you feel in each (1 = totally unfulfilled and 5 = completely fulfilled)
Health & Fitness
Friends & Community
Love & Relationships
Creativity & Adventure
Money & Finances
Once you’ve rated each area, spend some time reflecting on why you gave it the answer you did. For example, if you rated Health & Fitness a 2, what is preventing success in that area? What might you want to do to address it (if anything)? If another area receives a 4 or 5, what’s going right with it? How can you keep it going at a high level?
In the third step, the goal is to start thinking ahead to the next year. What are the bigger aspirations you have, and what steps do you need to take to realize them? You want to dream big, but also develop a plan to get there.
Set a timer for about three minutes per question and write down your answers to the following:
- The Big List. What are all the things you want to accomplish, contribute, and become in the next year? Go nuts and write down everything! You can trim it down later.
- The Short List. Look through that long list of aspirations/goals. What are 3 – 5 things that, if you achieved them, would make next year a huge win? What really matters? Try not to overthink this; focus on the “must-haves,” not the “nice to haves.”
Once you’ve completed that series of exercises, take a look at your shortlist of aspirations or goals. Then, you can ask a friend or loved one to join you in reviewing the following discussion questions to refine these goals.
- Can you define what success would look like for each specific goal? Remember, the problem with most resolutions is they are vague and nonspecific. Are your goals clear enough that you could say at the end of the year “Yes – I did this!” or “No – I did not do this?” If not, consider adding a concrete element – a deadline, number, or definitive action.
- Do you have clear motivation for what you hope to accomplish? For each goal on your shortlist, can you name the one or two underlying needs or desires that drive that goal for you? For instance, if your goal is to start a business next year, the need or desire might be for a sense of adventure, which is different from an additional stream of income, or even to prove something to yourself or others. Recognizing your ‘why’ can help keep you on track, and may help you realize when a goal needs to be redefined.
- Finally, are your goals ambitious enough? Imagine it’s the end of the year and you were able to accomplish 60 - 80% of your target for these goals. How satisfied would you be? If you’d be a little disappointed, you may want to up your ambition level on these goals. If you’d be over the moon, maybe you need to lower your sights a little.
Use these questions to help adjust your shortlist of goals. Once you’re happy with them, they may inspire you to give 2022 a name and list your goals in a permanent spot.
Chart the Path
Now that you’ve defined your bold, audacious dreams, the final step is to undergird them in strategy. This will ensure you have a realistic path to achieving those awesome goals you’ve defined.
Start that 3-minute timer one more time to address each of the following questions:
- Milestones: For each goal, what would be a good 3-month milestone to let you know you’re on track?
- New Practices: In order to reach those goals, what are the habits, behaviors, and attitudes you’ll need to adopt in the next year?
- Connections: In order to reach those goals, who do you need to build or deepen a relationship with? Who can inspire, teach and support you in this journey?
- Necessary Endings: In order to reach those goals, what are the habits, behaviors, and attitudes, or even relationships you’ll need to drop in the New Year?
Each of these questions is designed to get you thinking about not just the goal you want to achieve, but the work you’ll need to do to get there. Again, if you’re doing this with someone else, this could be a good time to discuss these questions and learn from each other.
Take a moment and document two to three key insights from each question in a journal or on your digital device. Then, set a calendar reminder for yourself to check back in three, six, and nine months so you are able to revisit and set new milestones as the year goes on. This will ensure this work continues to give you value throughout the year.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Ralf Geithe
Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good is the founder and CEO of The Foundation United, a catalytic platform to end sexual exploitation and trafficking through systemic change. Fisher Good is a passionate pioneer and inspirational thought leader with a desire to expose the root issue behind sex trafficking -- childhood sexual abuse. Her book “Groomed” (HarperCollins, 2020) recounts her own story of loss, abuse, and triumph. Statistics and resources quoted above can be accessed at https://www.thefoundationunited.com/statsandresources.