When a new year starts, we’re excited to start fresh. We make plans and say “This is the year I’ll [insert resolution here]!” with conviction.
But as the year progresses, things change. Something urgent comes up. We get busy. Or we change, and the plans we make change with us. We sometimes end up shelving this year’s resolutions and look forward.
“Next year will be so much better,” we think to ourselves.
I’ve experienced this too. For years, I put off making things happen because it never seemed to be the right time for them. Resolutions like simplifying my schedule repeated themselves on each year’s list until I was sick of them. They reminded me that I still hadn’t prioritized my life the way I wanted to.
Then I did something different. I shifted my focus to reviewing the year that was ending before I looked at the year ahead.
Why was this important?
I savored my successes. When December rolled around, what I hadn’t accomplished during the year dominated my thoughts. I forgot the good changes I’d made and felt more negative about myself. Celebrating the year’s wins turned that around.
I made peace with myself. Looking back led to giving myself grace. Yes, I hadn’t been my best self, but I could stop dwelling on it, forgive myself, and move on.
I could change. When I acknowledged my mistakes, I learned not to repeat them. I began the new year with a truly clean slate.
End Your Year Intentionally
You can end your year intentionally like I did. Just block out a half hour or so during the holiday season, pick up something to write with, and ask yourself ten questions:
1. What makes this year unforgettable?
I’ve found there’s always something memorable about each year. Maybe it’s a milestone like a special birthday. Maybe it’s a new person you’ve connected with. What would come to your mind first when you think back on your year in the years to come?
2. What did you enjoy doing this year?
Did you start a new hobby? Make time for laughter in your days? Look back at what activity brought you joy in the last 12 months.
3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?
When I’m busy, I often forget to give thanks for my positive experiences. Every day becomes a hurried pursuit for the next success. When you and I practice gratitude for the good stuff, our lives become simpler and happier.
4. What’s your biggest win this year?
Remember what you’ve achieved that made this year better and give yourself a pat on the back. Even if the year wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t all bad.
5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year? The content we consume inspires us, shapes our thoughts, and helps us reach our full potential. Some podcasts I’ve subscribed to and a documentary I watched have given me a new perspective, for example. For you, it might be a book, a movie, or even a show.
6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?
I always have some worry in the back of my mind at one point or another. I’ve worried about my job, a friend who’s having a tough time, and so on. It feels natural to stress about things I can’t control, but I’ve realized a lot of my worries are unnecessary in the long run.
Looking back on what I worried about and what actually happened reminds me not to dwell on my doubts and fears. I hope it’s a reminder you’ll benefit from too.
7. What was your biggest regret and why?
We’re not perfect and we all make mistakes. It’s an uncomfortable truth we don’t like to think about. But facing our failures helps us in positive ways. When we admit and accept our mistakes, we grow. And best of all, we’re less likely to repeat them.
8. What’s one thing that changed about yourself?
The fact that we can change is wonderful. There’s freedom in knowing we’re not obligated to be who we always were. We can explore our limits and live in new ways when we want to.
For example, I cared differently this year. I cared about my relationships and became more patient with people around me. I cared about the environment and how my choices affected it. I also learned to care less about what people thought of me.
How about you? How did you change?
9. What surprised you the most this year?
Life is surprising, and this question always reminds me that’s not necessarily bad.
A surprise can show us how unpredictable life is, but it can also add fun to our everyday. It can be little and amusing, like how I found I loved a good espresso when I was a dedicated tea drinker pre-2017. It can be big and significant, like how relieved you felt after letting go of what weighed you down unconsciously.
Whatever surprised you this year can be a real delight.
10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?
Is there a lesson you learned that you wish you’d known before the year started? Though we can’t really speak to our past selves, we can internalize these lessons. We’ll need them today and in the year to come.
Going through these questions is one of my favorite rituals at each year’s end.
I still get excited about what the new year brings, but I’ve found ending my year like this helps me make intentional changes. It’s cut through the noise of a busy life, and guided me to match the way I live to my values.
I hope you join me in answering these questions before the year ends, and that it helps you design a simple and meaningful life.