A little while ago I celebrated my birthday, and it got me thinking.
We’re getting older all the time, but birthdays just make it more official- they help us to keep score of our lives in a sense. I think that birthdays are a perfect time to take stock of one’s life and ruminate on the year gone by and ponder the year to come. To me, this exercise helps me to refocus, repurpose, and redefine who I’d like to be at this new milestone. After all, life is a process of continual evolution, isn’t it?
Here is an outline the exercise that I planned and went through this weekend.
Section 1: Key Area Checks
Begin by asking: “On a scale of 1 to 3, how did I do in each of these areas over the last year?”
1.1. Mental stimulation and general mindset?
1.2. Health and body?
1.3. Career progress?
1.4. Social (relationships, friends, family)?
1.5. Personal finances?
(I use a short scale of 1 to 3 meaning poor/decent/great as it’s a lot simpler to get an accurate estimate of how one really feels).
Once each area is rated, go on to review each area and ask:
- Was this an improvement over the previous year?
- What one thing can I do to improve this area moving forward? (Oftentimes, just one thing can make a significant difference).
Next up, it’s time to see where I went wrong.
Section 2: Negative Experiences
Here are the questions I asked:
2.1. What was my biggest mistake this year?
2.2. What was my biggest setback? What caused it?
2.3. What new negative habits did I form, if any?
Once those things are actually identified and written down, it becomes so much easier to learn from mistakes and take steps to avoid (or lower the risk of) those situations in future.
Finally, it’s always best to end things on a positive note.
Section 3: Positive Experiences
And the questions are:
3.1. What achievement made me happiest in the last year?
3.2. What is my fondest memory of the last year?
3.3. What new positive habits did I form?
3.4. What am I most grateful for?
Although very simple, this little exercise provides useful closure on a year past and paves the way for a frank internal conversation on deciding how to spend the next twelve months.
This post was focused on self-reflection, so I will save my thoughts on planning ahead for another day.
If you’re into this sort of thing, I strongly recommend that you check out Michael Hyatt’s fantastic blog post, Seven Questions to Ask About Last Year.