Most people start the New Year by making a list of New Year’s resolutions. I stopped making them years ago. I was removing the previous year’s resolutions that were hanging above my desk and I realized that instead of replacing them with the new set, all I had to do was to change the year. The goals were so big and vague that I failed to even start on most of them. After this reality check, I stopped making the resolutions and after some research, I started the “Past Year Review” ritual instead.
In my experience, a past year review is more informed, valuable, and actionable than just wishful thinking for the next year.
As a coach, I know that it’s important to focus on the future and to envision a better version of ourselves and /or the world. The galvanizing energy and hope of the New Year provide a very good platform to make plans for a better future. At the same time, bringing attention to the year that’s passed provides focus and intention, and it allows for reflection, celebration, and closure. When you look back at the year as a whole, you will see themes and patterns which might be ripe for disruption, or which you didn’t even realize were there. This helps you know yourself. Without this powerful awareness, you risk making goals that will stand on shaky foundations and which will be most probably sabotaged by your typical tendencies and ingrained habits.
There are many ways to do the “Past Year Review”. One of them is the positive/negative method precited by the master of efficiency Tim Ferris. He focuses on identifying the most positive and most negative activities, commitments and people of the past year, and then scheduling more of the positive elements in the new year.
Another way is to take a more structured approach and look back at the year and how it impacted your life by defining categories that you want to reflect upon, and asking relevant questions, like this:
Reflection: What lessons did I learn last year? What were my highs and lows? What were the biggest challenges that I overcame? What were my biggest personal and professional gains? Who was with me in my toughest moments? Is there one word that could describe past year well? Was there one unifying theme? (in 2020 I guess for most people this theme would be “pandemic”).
Gratitude: Is there somebody I should thank personally for supporting me last year? Why was their support so valuable?
Find a way to celebrate all the lessons you’ve learned and how you’ve grown. Appreciate the blessings and the challenges of the last year.
Accomplishment: What did I achieve last year? Where did I make progress? What did I create or bring into the world? Who benefited from my efforts? What am I particularly proud of?
Closure: What relationships, habits, thoughts or possessions no longer serve me? What am I ready to leave behind?
Intention: Set the stage for the energy you want to bring into 2021.
Ask: What’s my intention for this year? What word or phrase can describe it well?
There is a saying: “How you live your days is how you live your life”. This “how” becomes evident only when we reflect on a measurable period of time and when we analyze how we spent that time. A year is a good unit to analyze when we are looking for main values, behavioral patterns and tendencies. Once you identify them, you can create future-focused resolutions that are realistic for your situation and lifestyle.
A great new way to do this is the WOOP method which stands for: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. It is a science-based mental strategy that you can use to identify and fulfill your wishes and change your habits. It was developed by Gabriele Oettingen, a Professor of Psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg after 20 years of research in the field of positive psychology.
You can apply this simple but powerful strategy as follows:
- Wish: What is your wish, one that is challenging, but feasible?
Write your Wish in 3-6 words: e.g. consume less sugar
- Outcome: What would be the best outcome of fulfilling your wish?
Write your outcome in 3-6 words: e.g. healthier, leaner body
- Obstacle: What is your main inner obstacle that holds you back from fulfilling your wish?
Write your Obstacle in 3-6 words: e.g. cravings, temptations, being lazy
- Plan: What can you do to overcome your obstacle? Fill in the blanks below:
If… (your obstacle) then I will… _____________ (your action or thought to overcome obstacle).
For example: If I am tempted to eat snacks like candy or chocolate, I will have healthy alternatives, such as raisins or roasted nuts ready to eat instead.
Professor Oettingen wanted to develop a strategy which can be easily applied by every one of us, every day, that’s why she put simple, practical tools on her website https://woopmylife.org/en/science and she even created a free app for iOS and Android currently available in Chinese, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, IsiXhosa, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, and Spanish.
I hope this post will inspire you to look back at 2020 with honesty and gratitude and help you find a relevant closure to this complicated year. I also hope that once you’ve distilled the important wisdom from the past year review, you will be able to set a clear vision and SMART, actionable goals for this year.
Over to you: What is your tested and trusted method to close one year and set the vision and goals for another? Share your tips in the comments section; thank you!
Want to achieve your goals this year? I’d love to support you! You can schedule your coaching session here