New Year’s Resolutions, Part 1: The Annual Review

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Ryan Day Coaching

What comes to your mind when you read “New Year’s Resolution”?

Seriously, think about it for a second.

Now think some more.

OK, stop thinking. Did you get excited at the thought of setting a new goal? Did you scoff at the concept alone? Did you think about all your past resolutions? How many of those have you achieved, and how many flopped by February?

Whatever it was that crossed your mind – Everybody’s had New Year’s Resolutions, and everybody’s had some of those fail. It’s part of the human experience.

Personally, I love the idea of harnessing the motivation that accompanies a clean slate to kickstart a new habit or ditch an old one. There’s something exciting about that, and I think that’s also why I love Sundays so much.

Sunday is the perfect day to reflect on the past week and plan out the week ahead.

Similarly, New Year’s Resolutions can provide a chance to stop and think about where you are in your life and where you want to go.  What’s going well? What could change? What do I need to change if I want to get where I want to go? There are a million questions you could ask.

There are also a million ways to come up with resolutions, but today I’m going to walk you through part of the process I’ve developed for setting my own resolutions each year.

I started this process four years ago, and I’ve adapted it slightly each year as I figure out what works and what doesn’t work.  It’s the product of listening to a lot of people smarter and wiser than I am and reading a lot of books on behavior change.

It combines a review of the last 12 months and some informed goal-setting (i.e. resolution setting) for the year ahead. I refer to these as The Annual Review (lookback) and The Annual Preview (lookahead).

I also want to be very clear – this process works great for me. You might only pick up one or two things you like about it, you might love all of it, or you might think the whole thing is garbage. You decide what works for you. Now – buckle up.

The Annual Review & The Annual Preview

Over the next two weeks, we’re going to discuss how to develop meaningful New Year’s Resolutions, and maybe more importantly, strategies to achieve them. Here’s how it works.

The Annual Review includes 10 thought-provoking questions that require your undivided attention. It usually takes me about 2 hours to complete these.

After finishing with the Annual Review prompts, you’ll use your answers to develop your goals and resolutions for next year. This is what I call The Annual Preview – because the resolutions and goals you set for the new year are quite literally a preview of what your next year will look like. This part also takes me about 2 hours.

These questions are deep, so take some real time to consider and write down your answers to these before completing The Annual Preview.

The Annual Review

It’s hard to get where you want to go if you don’t look at where you’ve been. Because of that, you owe it to yourself to do some real thinking and reflection on the last 12 months before setting any goals for the new year.  

So without further ado, here are the 10 prompts that I use to broadly assess where I stand at the end of each year.

1. Describe at least five highlights from the previous year.

Write exactly what happened. Who was involved? How did you get there? How did you feel during and after? This could be anything from getting a promotion to getting married to finally committing to a healthy lifestyle.

2. Describe the three biggest challenges from the previous year.

What was the challenge? Did you overcome the challenge? If so, how did you overcome it? If not, what could you do differently? Who helped you? Who supported you, and who made it more difficult?

3. What did you set out to do this year but failed to accomplish?

Why didn’t you reach your goal(s)? Is it still worth pursuing?

4. What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of the year?

How have you changed since the beginning of the year? Are you happy with those changes? Is there a piece of advice that would’ve helped you out the last 12 months?

5. List the people most important to you. List the people who are less important to you now than they were at the beginning of the year.

Explain why each relationship is important or less important than it once was. Do you wish your relationships were stronger with any of these people? Do you need to let go of some people who no longer fit into your life or desired life?

6. What or who are you especially grateful for this year?

Why are you grateful for this person or thing? Did a person do something special for you that stands out? Did a random opportunity change your life? Think about where you currently are, how you got there, and the people or things that allowed you to get here.

7. Does what you spend your time doing actually matter?

How many hours do you spend on social media? How many hours do you spend with other people? How often do you talk to your friends and family on the phone? How often was it really necessary to work late? How much time did you spend progressing rather than regressing in important areas of your life?

8. Are you treating yourself like somebody you’re responsible for helping?

Your body is a house you have to live in your entire life. How are you treating it? Are you taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally? If you were taking care of somebody else, would you treat them the same way you’ve been treating yourself?

9. What would you like to be better at or learn more about?

Why? Does improving in these areas help you get where you want to be in life, or does society tell you to be good at these things? How can you get better or learn more about these things?

10.  What are the most important things in your life?

Think long and hard about what you claim are the most important things and if your actions align with that claim. Do you say family is the most important thing but never call your mom? Do you say health is the most important thing but eat fast food five times a week? Do you say faith is the most important thing but only make it to church on Christmas and Easter? Did you prioritize the things that you say are most important to you, and if not, why not?

Phew…

These are deep, and even as I’m writing them out, tons of thoughts and emotions come up.

If I’m being honest, I rolled my eyes at some of them. But you know what that tells me? I probably need to spend the most time on those prompts.

It’s just like the gym – the workouts you hate the most present the most opportunity for progress and growth. With this, the prompts you’re afraid of the most probably present something you’re scared to address.

So what’s next?

Take some time to think about these questions. If you have a significant other, grab them and try it together. Talk about vulnerability… 😬

Once you’re finished, head over to the second half of this series to dig into The Annual Preview stuff, and you’ll have the full toolkit for developing meaningful resolutions as well as a process for achieving them.