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    As we wrap up 2023, it’s natural to reflect on the past year’s experiences, challenges, and growth. It’s been a time of considerable change and adaptation for many. Perhaps you’ve navigated shifts in your career, home environment, or personal health, facing hurdles and discoveries along the way.

    But diving into this reflection process can lead to a whirlwind of questions and emotions.

    Did you achieve what you set out to? What were the standout moments? Did you embody your values? How did you support others?

    And amidst all these inquiries, the feeling of being overwhelmed can creep in.

    The trouble with traditional year-end reviews is their heavy reliance on quantifiable achievements. They sometimes overlook the smaller victories or personal growth that may not fit into traditional success metrics.

    Let’s explore how to review the year while acknowledging the uncertainty and challenges that might have influenced your journey.

    Your Year-End Goal Review

    There are various ways to review the past year. Here are some approaches, each offering a unique perspective:

    1. Go month by month

    Visualize the months of the year and jot down highlights or significant events for each. Working backward often triggers more memories, personal or professional. Maybe you had unexpected wins, financial milestones, attended valuable trainings, or had aspirations that didn’t materialize but remain important for the future.

    Going through each month can unearth hidden gems you might have overlooked.

    2. List out your wins and losses

    Create two columns: “Accomplishments” and “Challenges.” List your achievements, big or small, alongside the difficulties you encountered. Reflect on the factors contributing to both. What led to your successes? What lessons did you learn from the setbacks? How can these insights shape your path in the coming year?

    This method helps categorize experiences and extract lessons from both victories and “not quite yet”.

    3. Journaling deep dive

    Using reflective prompts can guide your journaling process. Explore questions about relationships formed, support received, moments of expertise, ease, habits formed, self-care approaches, and reactions to adversity. Let your thoughts flow freely without self-editing. Such prompts can unearth deeper reflections beyond the surface achievements.

    Here are eight examples to get those creative juices flowing:

    • What new relationships did I form this year?
    • Who supported me both personally and professionally?
    • When did I feel skilled and use my expertise best?
    • At what moments did I feel most at ease and excited to be doing something?
    • What habits did I create this year? How did they serve me?
    • What was my approach to self-care like this year? What would I do the same or differently?
    • Who were the least-obvious, but very important people in my life?
    • How did I react to difficult situations or challenging moments?

    4. Time audit

    Assess how you spent your time in 2023. Recognize time as a valuable resource. Understanding where your time goes, especially during challenging times, is key to making informed adjustments for the future.

    Acknowledging how time was utilized helps in prioritizing and planning ahead.

    5. What’s on your mind? How do you feel?

    Consider your mental space throughout the year. How did you feel emotionally? Were you content, stressed, or anxious? Understanding your mental and emotional state is crucial. It impacts your motivation, beliefs, and actions. Recognizing your mental state allows you to address areas that need attention for a balanced life.

    Bottomline: while your personal and professional accomplishments and challenges may be the first things you think of when doing an end-of-the-year review, your time, mind, and body are just as important — if not more so — than these other categories. 

    Goal Setting for 2024

    Having reviewed the past, it’s time to look forward. Setting goals can be approached in various ways, depending on what resonates with you.

    It’s important to test them out. Approach these tips in a way that works best for you.

    1. Categorize first, then set goals

    One of the easiest ways to determine what it is you’d like to have, achieve, be, or do in the year ahead is to create a shortlist of the categories in your life, and then brainstorm goals that fall under each category.

    For many people, categories may include their

    • Career
    • Finances
    • Relationships
    • Health
    • Personal Interests

    However, other people might choose to niche down or take a different approach. Their lists might look something like:

    • Education
    • Creativity
    • Spirituality
    • Rest
    • Activity

    The categories you choose are personal to you, and there is no wrong way to approach this goal-setting exercise. 

    Once you’ve determined your categories, then, sit down with your list and jot down some goals that would fit in each category. You might choose to list out multiple things you’d like to see come to fruition, or you may decide to have just one item to focus on in each category.

    2. Time-based goal setting

    Do you have a five-year plan?

    This was once a very popular question — and for good reason. Having a trajectory helps people set clear and measurable goals. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? The next five? The decade ahead?

    If you’re wondering why I’m suggesting you look so far into the future, it’s because some goals take time to achieve, and you must start working on them now to be able to achieve them in five or ten years.

    Take college for example. If you always wanted to finish your degree, you might need to begin this year to finish in the next five. Maybe your goal is to work your way up to an executive position, and you’ll need to work through a few levels of promotions to get there. Or, maybe you simply want to pay off that last tiny bit left on your car loan by the end of the year. The common thread with all these goals is that they’re created with time constraints in mind.

    If you want to try this method, create three rows on a piece of paper — one for a one-year goal, one for five-year goals, and the last for ten-year goals. Then, brainstorm what you’d love to see happen before you reach the end of that time period.

    3. Choosing a word for the new year ahead

    There’s been much talk in the past decade about choosing a word of the year. The word may act as an intention, a beginning place for investigation, an inspiration, or anything you want! 

    Instead of picking achievement-based goals, some people might like to focus their energy completely on a word that can take them through the entire year. They let the “goals” happen naturally as they would anyway, and doing this frees them from an end-of-the-year dissatisfaction or let down if they don’t check off all the to-dos on their wish list.

    I first read of this practice from designer and author, Ali Edwards who so aptly states, “A single word can be a powerful thing,” in her One Little Word project. If you’re looking for a list of words to spark your creativity, here’s one from her blog.

    Implementing Your Plan Moving Forward

    Reflecting and setting goals are valuable, but action is where the real change happens. Translate your reflections and goals into actionable plans. Strategize how to implement these aspirations in your daily life.

    May your reflections bring clarity and may your aspirations for the coming year guide you toward growth and fulfillment.

    Wishing you the best as you reflect on this year and health and happiness in your year ahead.

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