The last two years have been like no other. Many people lost their jobs or have started working from home; children also lost the physical presence of their schoolmates and started to receive classes at home electronically; some people and businesses changed their focus to survive and come out ahead of the Covid crisis; and in general, we all had to face personal and professional challenges.
Although most human beings are naturally resistant to change, the past two years made us even change our priorities; we turned inward and were forced to reevaluate our lives. And with the end of 2022 approaching, we have the opportunity to make sense of the last 12 months and evaluate our lives and behaviors to prepare for the future.
We are in the last month of the year with the hope, if you put your mind to it, to reflect on what you have learned, what you have accomplished, and how you can use the lessons you have learned from your challenges to better yourself in 2023. Did you do something you are proud of? Did you learn any valuable lessons that you would like to carry into the new year? Did you embody the personal values you hope to live by? Did you support or mentor others in difficulty? Were you a good parent, sibling, child, friend, or colleague? Can you be better? If so, how?
The problem with traditional reviews of personal annual goals is that they are largely based on demonstrated or proven accomplishments. While all of the above questions are valid and worthy of consideration, if the answer doesn't hit the nail on the head, then you need to look at yourself through a negative lens, be harder on yourself, or ignore small accomplishments that don't seem to merit those high expectations.
It is time to reflect on the personal strengths and resilience that carried you safely through this difficult period. You have made it this far, and you should be grateful to yourself for demonstrating courage and character, for persevering during difficulties and delays, for helping others when they needed it, for putting aside fears, worries, and problems, and getting on with your daily tasks for the benefit of those who depend on you.
Have you asked yourself what you've done this year professionally, for your finances, for your relationships, in terms of health and fitness, for your fun and leisure, and in terms of personal goals?
It's time to dig deeper into what you want, aware that we are always acting under the forces of conflicting priorities and desires in life. There is no manual for life. We are all playing "by ear," and there are no certainties in life. This may sound depressing, but if you think about it, it is liberating. No one knows how to live their life, and the person you are today may be an entirely different version of the person you were ten years ago or ten months ago, and that's perfectly fine.
How to do it?
There are many ways to make a personal year-end balance. As the word suggests, being personal is exclusively individual, singular, individual, and subjective, as there are people in the world. We all have different priorities, and we all interpret the events that happen to us in our way of perceiving reality.
What there is agreement among those who know about the subject is that the best way to make a personal balance at the end of the year is to do it in a moment of peace and tranquility, when we are serene enough to dedicate a precious and exclusive time. In general terms, it is suggested to analyze separately the personal -apart from family friendships- from the professional, as well as separating money from health and love.
However, some proven methods of reflection are the following:
Think back over the last 12 months - from December to January - and record in a notebook the most relevant things you remember, personally and professionally. You may have a memory of something important to you, such as an unexpected sale, a tax refund, a dialogue with a client or supplier, a course you attended and what it left you with at the time, or even ideas of things that haven't happened, but that you would like to focus on in the future, and so on.
You will probably remember situations that, at the time, did not seem relevant to you but that influenced personal decisions somehow. That is the advantage of making the brain work in reverse chronological order.
Victories and Losses
Divide a sheet of paper vertically in two; on the left, head, "accomplishments," and on the right, head, "challenges."
Then spend some time brainstorming your big and small accomplishments and, simultaneously, write down anything you had difficulty with or didn't go as expected. This exercise is especially useful for people who find it difficult to review their year chronologically but who categorize their experiences well.
Once you have identified the achievements and challenges, reflect and write down everything you identify as factors that have led you to both victories and defeats, and ask yourself what you learned from the achievements that you can repeat - or even improve upon - in the following year, and what lessons you take away from the difficult moments of 2022 and what you think you should do to avoid them or at least reduce their negative impacts in 2023.
Diary of Memories
Similar to the retrospective, think back and ask yourself a series of questions such as: What worked for me in 2022? What lessons have I learned from the year? What things did I leave pending, Why did I fulfill my resolutions, etc., And use each question as a stimulus to generate new ideas for the following year, which you write down in a personal diary.
Write as long as you want until you have nothing more to write down. Then answer the following question: Are you interested in other ideas for keeping a journal for reflection and review? Here are eight to unleash your creativity:
What new relationships have I established this year?
Who has supported me personally and professionally?
At what times did I feel most empowered and put my knowledge to best use?
At what moments did I feel more at ease and eager to do something?
What habits have I created this year, and how did they serve me?
How did I approach my self-care this year? What would I do the same or differently?
Who were the less obvious but very important people in my life?
How did I react to difficult situations or challenging moments?
Time is a precious resource. One-third of your life is spent at work and another third sleeping, so you want to save what's left of your precious moments. Analyze how you spent your time in 2022, and remember to give yourself some grace if the results are not exactly what you expected. To do this, identify the portion of time over which you had control, your optimal times at work and in your personal life, and determine the best time to do more concentrated work. Were you flexible with your time? Did you devote enough time to relevant projects? Did you take care of unexpected situations in sufficient time, and what was the best time to do more concentrated work? This analysis determines the main causes that eventually led you to waste time.
This year has been difficult in many ways, so don't be ashamed to spend more time watching your favorite series or working late into the night to try to catch up. But knowing where your time is going is the first step in deciding how to make adjustments in the future.
Mental and Physical Health
Consider how you have used your mental space over the past 12 months. Your mindset can make or break your goals, challenges, and achievements. Think about whether you reacted assertively or impulsively to different situations this year, and what impact those reactions had on you and others.
Some questions will help: Were you in the best possible shape? How did you feel in 2022 (happy, stressed, anxious, satisfied)? Did you trust your instincts? Did you ignore important "feelings"?Did you eat healthily? Did you exercise? Did you have any pain? Should you consult a medical professional about any of these issues?
Although your personal and professional accomplishments and challenges may be the first thing you think of when you take stock at the end of the year, your time, your mind, and your body are just as important - if not more so - than those other categories.
A Simple Way
The climax rule states that our memory of an experience-even an entire year is largely based on how we feel at its climax and the end. This means that reflecting on your accomplishments and learnings can rewrite your memory of 2022 as a more positive experience.
If you want to make it simpler, there is a proven process for personal review based on three questions:
1. what went well?
2. What could have gone better?
3. What did you learn?
Regarding What went well, it means one of the most important parts of self-improvement: reflecting on your successes increases your self-efficacy, that is, your confidence in your abilities and capacity to face future obstacles and problems. Hence the importance of reviewing all the positives of your year.
Write down five events of the year that you would like to celebrate again regardless of whether they are personal growth issues, professional matters, learning, health, side projects or hobbies, and so on. Try to make their events that, in addition to giving you satisfaction, you can quantify, as this will help you later when setting goals for the coming year.
Then reflect on whether these achievements coincided with how you wanted to spend your time and ask yourself if you were consistent in the use of your productive time and if there were dips or peaks that you can explain. Sometimes, just seeing that you have spent 50 or 100 hours writing/coding/designing is a success in itself.
About the second question, referring to mistakes, failures, or unfulfilled expectations, consider that they are a natural part of personal growth. Don't be so hard and think that the last two years have not been easy for anyone in the world; therefore, don't get depressed and try to find how you have adapted to the circumstances to keep growing.
Either way, think about what didn't go so well and ask yourself what impact it had throughout the year or if it generated side effects, and if it is something you need to fix or if you can leave it as it is for the time being.
Regarding learning, it represents the moment when you put successes and disappointments on the scale and determine the balance and understanding between one and the other. What did you learn in 2022 that you can use to set smarter goals for 2023?
If you take a look at all of the above, you'll probably find some commonalities. Do you feel fulfilled when you reach work milestones but disappointed that they've taken time away from other areas of your life that you value? You may have learned that balance is more important than arbitrary milestones or that you're willing to de-prioritize some aspects of your life while focusing on professional growth.
Try writing down at least five lessons you've learned in the last year, each with a brief description, context, and how you want to apply it on the go and try to look for varied examples in areas such as work, health, friends, family, travel, finances, etc.
Whatever form you decide to use to do your year-end stocktaking, everything you have reviewed and written down will be the basis for setting high-level expectations about what you would like to achieve in 2023.
You can break this section down into several levels:
Purpose: Where do you want to focus most of your time and energy this year? Complete the following sentence: This year, I will focus mainly on _____________________.
Results: When you look back to 2023, what are the 2 or 3 big accomplishments you would ideally like to have achieved?
Along with these "big goals", what are the more miniature "must-haves" you would need to feel successful? Answer this question: By the end of 2023, I hope to have conquered the following three achievements...
Try to find a single theme that brings together your dreams and desires that you can use as a lens to choose your priorities in the coming year. Complete this sentence: 2023 is the year of _____________ (Is it the year of connection? Experimentation? Creativity? ....?).
For each result you want to achieve, spend a few minutes deciding which category in your personal life it belongs to, what specifically you want to achieve (try to use the SMART goal system: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results, Time), what actions are needed and when you want to achieve it.
You can also think about taking stock and planning by establishing specific areas of your life that need some attention. If things are going well overall, consider choosing the areas with the most potential or that you would like to focus on, and whatever areas you choose, ask yourself:
Where would I like to be in each of these areas one year from now?
What do I need to do to get there? What tangible steps do I need to take to get there?
How will I know when I have achieved it? How can I measure my progress?
What do I need to learn, and are there any knowledge gaps I need to address to take those steps?
Who could be helpful to me as support/guidance? Who do I know who is already rocking in these areas of life? And how could they support me (friends, teachers, family, book authors, etc.)?
What are my three biggest obstacles in taking these steps?
Who do I need to become to live this vision? What qualities will that version of myself embody?
What can I do to support these steps in other areas of my life?
For example, let's say your goal is to improve your fitness: going to the gym three times a week is one of the tangible steps. A complementary habit might be to go to bed at a certain time so you can get up early and exercise.
What's Most Important
Be sure to make a roadmap: decide now when and how often you will take those tangible steps and schedule them into your calendar. For example, if it's about going to the gym, start with one or two weekly visits and increase the days thereafter. Remember: there's no rush, and going to extremes is often a not-so-subtle form of self-sabotage. Make it as easy as possible.
It's also about giving yourself the best chance of success. Once the first change has become your new "normal," you can move on to something else. Trying to change three areas of your life at once and all at once will overwhelm you and hinder your progress more than it will help.
In addition, your vision is likely to change as you move forward. As important as qualities like consistency and tenacity are, we also need to be able to let go of plans and goals that are no longer relevant. The only thing you need to focus on at any given moment is learning from mistakes, saving the successes, and thus repositioning yourself for the next tangible step.
It is always rewarding and encouraging to achieve what we set out to do. Still, we should all be less self-demanding and understand that life also plays its cards: if a goal is not achieved, how can we be sure that it is due to a lack of ability or dedication? Sometimes we have the wind at our backs, and sometimes we have the wind at our backs. You can't always win.
Let us avoid self-punishment and blame (towards ourselves or third parties). The objective is to take notes and continue, which should serve as notes to improve and learn from what has already been done. Even if it weighs on us, we can never turn back the hands of the clock.
Keep in mind that the only thing you can control is the process and your contribution, not the result. Beyond the results, we must be kind to ourselves because what is done is done, and there is nothing and no one can change it.
Life is a constant, day-to-day experience, and reflecting on it has the exclusive function of being able to project ourselves better in the future so that we do not stumble over the same stone.
For all these reasons, even if our survey results are different from what we expected, let us keep going. Anxiety only makes us start the year with low energy, while the objective of reflection is, on the contrary, to achieve an impulse to restart with everything, trying to make this stage that begins more promising; if we wish and work for it, the achievements will come.
Are you sure you achieved what you set out to do this year?
Have you already taken stock of your year before? Have you improved from the previous one?
Which area of your life would you be most interested in evaluating? Why?
If the balance seems negative, we should emphasize what we can correct and transform it into an impulse to do better this year. Learning from experience is the key, and projecting yourself to improve!
Remember: life is always repaired forwards, not backward.
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