The holidays are over, and the new year is here. For me, it's a time of quiet contemplation. It's a slower time for work, I've finished my family holiday obligations, and there is time to consider the past 12 months. Good things and bad things happened, some my doing and some out of my control. How should you approach the challenge of analyzing the year?
I've had success with this simple 4-step method. In my experience, the results are best when you take notes on your thoughts, and return to them several times to refine your analysis and conclusions. Here's the breakdown:
1. Take Stock
The first step in assessing your year is taking a thorough accounting of what happened. What were the major work and life events from this year? What did you do well, and what didn't work? For either outcome, is there a clear reason for the success or failure? If you noted them, return to the goals you set at this time last year. How'd you do? Did the year turn out similar to how you expected, or was the year one long surprise? As you examine last year's goals and resolutions, identify the categories of the achievements you desired. Were they related mostly to your personal life, your career, your wellbeing, or some other area? Was there some balance, or did you plan to obsess over one area at a heavy cost to another?
2. Grieve, But Don't Stew
For whatever reason, many people don't accomplish all they intended during the calendar year. It can be very disappointing, and can even make you feel like a failure. But guess what? You're still here, still kicking, still ready to tackle another year. Past performance does not have to be an indicator of future disappointment. Learn what you can from your mistakes. And as you need to do with any loss, give yourself a real opportunity to grieve it. If you're ever going to move on, you need to acknowledge and accept it. But once you process, move on! You cannot afford to let anger simmer - it will only get in the way of future success.
3. Prepare for Success
Putting yourself in a position to succeed next year starts now. Earlier, you evaluated your progress towards the goals you set for yourself. What goals will you set for yourself this coming year? Which ones are repeat goals, or extensions of a prior achievement? If there's a goal you failed on last year, what are reasonable steps you can take to get closer to that goal? Make sure they are things you can follow through on - and be honest! If you know there are some goals you'll repeat next year, start them now! It can be difficult to change behavior during the holiday season, but it's not impossible. Even if you don't fully succeed, try to get the hang of the changes you'll implement. There's no time like the present!
This is the last step, and perhaps the most important. You need to celebrate all the things that went well for you this year! Just like with grieving losses, you need to take time to acknowledge and accept the win. Give yourself a pat on the back for setting a goal, making a plan to attack it, and crossing the finish line. It's time to treat yourself. But make sure your celebration doesn't conflict with one of your new goals!