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I’m a bit of a New Year fanatic—it’s full of possibility, planning and great expectations. It’s honestly one of my favorite times of year. I love making resolutions, turning a fresh page and getting off to a new start.
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You know what else I love about the New Year? The New Year gives us an opportunity for reflection.
One of our greatest opportunities for growth and change is in reflecting on the lessons of our past. The ability to reflect and learn is a key factor in building grit and finding success. People who use experiences as learning opportunities build a growth mindset. They’re forward thinkers.
A few days before the New Year begins, I take out my planner and leaf back through the events of the year. I jot down notes about highlights. I look for lessons and learning opportunities. I think about what worked for my life and what I’d like to do better with in the future.
One of the aspects I really love about the Living Well Planner® is the space to add reflections, goals and practice gratitude. It was something I specifically wanted to include because I felt it was such an important tool for growth.
Reflecting and reviewing our year is a great way to close out and move forward. It’s a wonderful time to close a chapter in our lives or simply start a new page.
So block out some time in the next few weeks to pose important questions to yourself as you close out the year. Here are twelve reflection questions to help you get started.
1. What Goals Did You Achieve?
Start by reflecting on the big accomplishments of the year. What goals did you crush this year? As you examine the goals you successfully tackled, look for unexpected lessons. Often certain goals turn out to be surprisingly easy, while others might become an unanticipated struggle.
Check out your goal setting technique too. Do you use SMART goals? As you reflect on your goals, you might notice how specific and measurable goals are achieved much more easily than goals that are vague or too lofty.
For example, “lose weight” may be your goal—but without a set amount, time frame and path, you may wonder if you can count it among your successes. Instead, a goal like, “Lose one pound per week for the first 10 weeks of the year by lowering my calorie intake daily by 500 calories and exercising for 30 minutes four times per week. Maintain goal weight through the end of the year by doing the same.” Yes, it’s long, but it’s concrete. It’s much easier to know if you achieved a SMART goal.
2. What Goals Are You Still Working On?
Not every goal gets achieved in twelve months. Priorities change over time, life shifts, goals get accomplished and new goals crop up. Guess what? You won’t be able to cross every single to-do off your list and that’s great!
It means you have goals to keep working on! It means you’re reaching for BIG, HUGE, AWESOME goals and stretching yourself further and further. If you felt like, “Well, that’s it. I’ve accomplished everything.” How boring would that be?!
Look at the goals you’re working toward. How’s your progress going? Can you push yourself further? Imagine the unimaginable. Allow yourself to dream and reach further than you think is “safe” or “attainable.” We accomplish the most when we aim BIG!
3. Who Was Most Important in Your Life this Year?
Reflect on the connections you made over the course of the year. How have your friendships changed? Have you become closer with certain people? Are there friendships you want to cultivate and grow in the upcoming year?
Take time to write a quick note to the people who were instrumental in your happiness and success over the last twelve months. Let them know how much you appreciate their friendship and what it means to you.
This can also be a good time to reflect on the connections that may have changed or diminished over the past year. Are there issues you need to address or resolve? Has the distance been intentional or incidental? It’s a great time to strengthen key relationships as you go into a new year.
4. How Did Your Priorities Change?
When we have kids, move, buy a house or change jobs, we often experience seismic shifts in our priorities. Think of your priorities when you were single or in college—chances are they looked very different from their appearance today.
Over the last year, have you seen a shift in your priorities? Is there something that seemed so important last year but doesn’t really matter as much now? Were there upsets or stressors that have changed and lessened with a little perspective?
When we reflect on our priorities, we can see how our hopes and even fears adjust over the course of year. We may worry and stress about events that never come to fruition. We may think something is very important, only to find it didn’t matter as much as we thought it did. How has time changed your priorities?
5. What Positive Experiences Did You Love Last Year?
What were the biggest and best events of the last year? Did you go on any trips? Did you create great family memories?
As you reflect on the highlights of the year, it’s a great time to get your photos and mementos in order. Many photo printing services offer great deals at the end of the year. Snapfish, Shutterfly and photo printing services like Walgreens are great options for printing and archiving photos in books.
Take time to organize your photos and files from your year so you can stay on top of preserving your memories. After a few years have passed, it’s much tougher to remember the details of events and even the order. The end of the year is a great time to preserve those great highlights.
6. What Would You Change About the Past Year?
Reflecting on what changes you would have made in the past year isn’t meant to be regretful. Of course, we all wish we could turn back time to fix a cringe-worthy moment. Sometimes we might make mistakes and missteps that fill us with sadness and remorse.
If there’s something you wish you could change or you wish you would’ve handled differently, it’s time to do what you can to mitigate the damage. Reflect on ways you can forgive, apologize, make amends or even express your frustration with situations so you don’t carry them forward into the New Year.
This reflection is a tough one, because we must take personal responsibility for our part in any interactions that didn’t go well. We should remember communication is a two-way street and if there was a misunderstanding, we need to woman-up to our part. Don’t hang on to regrets—get them out and move forward anew!
7. What Were Your Biggest Challenges?
Did you experience struggles and challenges this year? I’ll bet we ALL have at least a few to add to our lists.
When you view your challenges, don’t allow yourself to be the victim of circumstance. We all face struggles—but when we view the world as unfair toward us or out of our control, we become disempowered. Instead, view your challenges as opportunities to show your strength and moxie.
When you faced challenges, how did you handle them? What did it teach you about yourself? If you experience similar challenges in the future, how are you more equipped to handle them now?
8. What Was the Biggest Fear You Faced?
Did you do it scared this year? Was there an opportunity you took, a challenge you overcame or a fear you tackled?
First of all, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back. What did you learn about yourself from facing your fear? Better yet, what did you learn about your fears?
Sometimes we worry and fear scenarios we build up in our head and play out a thousand times, only to find they weren’t nearly as painful or frightening as we anticipated. When we face our fears we become stronger, tougher, more resilient and confident. What confidence-building opportunities to you discover this past year?
9. Is There Anything You Should Leave Behind?
The New Year offers a great time for us to let go of what’s no longer serving us. This might mean decluttering our homes, organizing and cleaning out the “stuff” we don’t need but keep holding on to.
This also might mean we need emotional decluttering as well. Are there bad habits you’re ready to let go of? Do you struggle with imposter syndrome? FOMO? Do you operate with a scarcity mentality? Do you say you’re sorry (even when you aren’t)? Do you bring the drama?
If there are negative thoughts, ideas or mentalities bringing you down, leave them in the past! Say goodbye as you move into the New Year. Of course, change takes time (especially breaking personality habits) but there’s no better time to start!
10. What Were Your Biggest Surprises This Year?
As you reflect on the past year, what surprises you? This could refer to ACTUAL surprises and experiences or simply connections you’re seeing you didn’t realize before.
None of us has a crystal ball. We can’t say what the future holds and of course, every year brings unexpected surprises good and sometimes challenging. Look at how prepared you are for the unexpected. Are you ready for emergencies that may arise in the future? Do you have an emergency fund saved for unexpected financial concerns?
Surprises (even positive ones) can derail our routine and throw us off track. The best we can do is prepare and prevent whenever possible. Schedule your annual doctor appointments, keep up on preventative home and car maintenance, and tuck away savings for a rainy day.
11. What Areas Did You Focus on Most? Will You Change Your Focus in the New Year?
I find my focus shifts over time. A lot of the time, being a mom is my number one focus. During other periods, I’m intently focused on running my business. (Usually both.) Sometimes I need to focus more on my extended family or my marriage, and other times I need to make my health my number one priority.
What were your biggest areas of focus in the last year? What do you see as being your biggest areas this year?
In your Living Well Planner®, I’ve created a space for you to break down your monthly goals in each area of your life. You may focus more heavily on your fitness goals one month and shift to a big personal growth goal the next.
12. What Did You Learn This Year?
So, the final, biggest question to reflect on: what did you learn this year?
Each year, each day, every experience we go through teaches us a lesson. It’s important we draw the lesson from each day. Everything happens for a reason—usually to teach us something important. We might learn more about ourselves, about our family, about our bodies, minds, finances and more.
So, what has this year taught you? Once you identify these lessons, as yourself what next!? What are you going to do to make next year even better? What are you going to do to earn even more, experience more, achieve more and make this the greatest year ever?!
The New Year is full of potential. Let your reflections be your guide as you maximize your experiences going into this wonderful new beginning! Happy New Year, friends!