“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.” — Jim Rohn

They say that hindsight is 20/20. However, I’d add that it is only 20/20 if you actually take the time to review what happened, why, how you behaved and what you might do differently if given another chance. 

The year end gives us a perfect time to pause for a moment and take stock of our year. Taking this short pause allows us to let go of the past and gives us the space to allow room for our future selves to grow. 

Why is this important? Put simply, stuck energy can be heavy to carry around, and it takes up way too much space in your brain. Doing this retrospective allows you to let go of all of the drama and emotions of the year, release all that stuck energy and feel lighter and refreshed for the holidays and the New Year. It allows you to evaluate yourself objectively – seeing the forest for the trees. You can then decide what you carry forward and what you leave behind.

Creating new year’s resolutions is an annual habit around January 1. However, the sad reality is that most new year resolutions are dead before the end of January.  And most people keep living the same year over and over without much change or growth. They are living a habitual life, an autonomous program where they repeat their days like Groundhog Day, reliving the same day again and again. 

Breaking out of this habitual cycle isn’t impossible, but it does take conscious effort, awareness and intentional building new behaviors and habits.

At this time of year, we can start by taking stock of how our year actually went. If you survived 2021 and are reading this, then congratulations – that’s a great start given the year that it was! I’m not sure if anyone feels unscathed at the end of this year. 

This is the perfect time to pause, reflect and consider how you’d like to feel next year. If you could wish for anything for next year, what would it be?  Who would you like to be in 2022?

Conducting the retrospective

A retrospective doesn’t need to be a time-consuming self-assessment. It’s better that it isn’t. Give yourself 45 minutes or an hour – max.

Grab a pen and paper and some sticky notes. 

Take a deep breath. What do you need to put to the side so you can be fully present here now? Deep breath and release. Be present now.

As you work through the questions below, jot down your answers. Make note of the first thought that comes to mind – don’t overthink it, and don’t try to analyze it. 

Don’t try to separate personal and professional –  you are you, both at work and at home and it’s all intertwined, so just let it all flow.

Start with a pulse check – how are you feeling on a 0 – 10 energy level? Jot that down.

Step 1 – Brainstorming

Grab your notepad and work through the following questions. To get your brain flowing through your pen, start by writing the question and free-flowing whatever comes to mind. Write rather than type as that helps your brain unleash what you really are thinking. Work through it one question at a time. 

  1. What were the major events or memories from this past year? What sticks out?
  2. What went well?
  3. What didn’t go so well?
  4. What energized you?
  5. What drained you?
  6. When were you triggered?
  7. Who triggered you?
  8. What surprised you this year?
  9. What are you most disappointed about?
  10. What are you most proud of?
  11. What is one thing you would change? 
  12. Where or when did you feel discomfort?

Step 2 – What I learned in 2021

Grab your sticky notes. Now that your brain is unleashed, you are going to write down what you learned in 2021 – one item per sticky.

I like to focus on what I’ve learned rather than what I’ve accomplished. Continual learning is key to a growth mindset. We can only grow through discomfort and what we learn about ourselves through failing at something. If life feels continually comfortable, then we aren’t pushing ourselves enough and are basically living the status quo life where nothing much changes day to day, or year to year. 

So think about what came to mind during the brainstorming, and then quickly, without thinking too much about it at all, write down what you learned.

Stick your sticky notes to your wall and leave them there for a few days or longer. Add to the list as new learnings come to mind. 

Step 3 – What were your wins this year?

Take a quick minute to jot down some wins on some sticky notes. 

It might be as simple as making it to the end of the year. It might be a mindset shift. Or averting something that normally triggers you. Maybe the lessons you learned were wins or maybe there are accomplishments that you want to make note of. 

Don’t overthink it. Make it short and snappy!

Step 4 – Who do you want to be in 2022?

In my next article, in early January, I will focus on planning your year of awesomeness for 2022.

For now, we are simply going to create a vision of the person we’d like to be, so that we can hold space for that thought to develop over the weeks through the holidays 

Think about the following – don’t hold back on your vision – and jot into your notebook: 

  • What characteristics defined the “old”  you?
  • How does the “old” you feel?
  • What would the best version of you look or act like?
  • What characteristics do you want to define in the “new” you?
  • How will the “new” you feel?

Fantastic work – you did it!! 

Let’s take another pulse check – how are you feeling from an energy perspective on a scale of 0 – 10? Did your energy dip or increase? Ask yourself why it changed. Be curious and don’t judge yourself harshly – quiet that inner critic and listen to your inner coach only. 

Now step back from your efforts and don’t change anything. Leave your sticky notes on your wall and your vision of the “new you” on your desk so you can see it and reflect on it over the next few weeks.

“Most people wait for something outside of them to change how they feel inside.” — Joe Dispenza.

If you’d like to spend more time, check out the Energy Assessment in this article

“The habits you created to survive will no longer serve you when it’s time to thrive. Get out of survival mode. New habits. New Life.”
― Eboni Davis

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