Have you ever stopped and taken the time to look back on the last year of your life? Chances are it was full of highs and lows, wins, lessons, challenges and setbacks. I know mine was. But it's only through the benefit of hindsight that you can start to see what you were blind to while you were in it. The true value of your collective efforts over the last 365 days and the keys to help you unlock the next stage in your growth and future success. That's what we're all working towards, right? To learn from the mistakes of the past and move forward to create a better version of ourselves and a better day today.

Personally, I consider myself to be pretty self aware and have been blown away at the glaringly obvious patterns I discovered during my year end review that wasted so much time, energy and potential for me to progress further.

I became clear on:

  • all the ways I distract myself on a day-to-day basis
  • the larger impact that the distraction has on my life
  • areas in my life where I wasn't taking full responsibility
  • where I was wasting the most time and energy (with no benefit)
  • how much I talk about what I'm doing/going to do/or have done
  • how talking so much takes away a ton of time and energy from actually doing
  • the importance of rebuilding my relationship to my word (to myself and others)
  • how I use achievements and "highs" to trick myself into thinking I'm on track
  • how hard it is for me to say no and the ways that negatively impacts my life
  • and so much more...

Turns out I'm also really good at fooling myself! On some level, I think we all are and that's why this exercise is so important. It was a tough pill to swallow... but I refrained from any blame or negative self talk, celebrated my wins, and showed myself gratitude for doing this work. I knew this exercise alone was about to change a lot of what I'd been doing that wasn't serving me. I now have the awareness and ability to catch myself and choose differently. After all, would you rather catch yourself now to be able to course-correct and start making changes for the better? Or avoid the possible shock and difficulty of a few hours only to have it grow and become worse until you decide to take a look or get a massive wake-up call?

For me, it was one of the biggest downloads of self awareness, understanding and powerful personal insights in a very long time. Here's how you can do that for yourself in only a few hours!

How To Do A Personal Year In Review

First of all, you want to make sure you set aside at least 2-3 hours to complete the exercise. It's important you do it in one sitting to build momentum, get in flow and have the time to discover patterns and insights. Second, set up the right space for yourself to be free from distractions and able to focus your full attention on the exercise from start to finish.

That could mean:

  • schedule it on a weekend or when you have free time (you don't want to rush it)
  • turn off your cellphone (or put it on airplane mode)
  • close the door where you are
  • put in headphones or play music to help you focus (instrumental music)
  • asking roommates, partners or family to not disturb you during this time
  • close out of all other applications, internet tabs and windows on your computer
  • turn off the wifi on your computer

Give yourself the gift of a few hours of focused work and it will pay off tremendously! Once you're in the right headspace, you'll want to grab:

  • a notebook and pen
  • your main calendar (computer or daily planner)
  • any journals or diaries from last year

The process is very simple... You will want to look over your calendar or daily planner for the last year (starting from today's date) and answer the following questions in order:

1) What are the highs and lows that you experienced over the last year?

2) Are there patterns or themes that stand out for you?

3) What are the insights that you gained that year (or now when reflecting)?

I encourage you to make quick bullet point answers for each question as you work through them. After you gone through the year for #1, look over your answers and utilize that along with your calendar to find patterns and themes. Once you've discovered patterns for your last year, you can utilize all of your answers so far to come up with insights about yourself and how you lived your life last year. Things will likely start off very broad and generic and as you work through each of the questions, slowly getting more specific and powerful as you go. That's why it's important that you do this all in one go: no breaks, no distractions. If you want to dive deeper or you don't have a calendar or daily planner to work off of, you can skim through your journal or diary entries to help you reflect back.

If You're Feeling Strong Emotions From The Exercise, Do This

It's common for you to have strong emotions come up during or after the exercise, especially if you're uncovering patterns that are deeply ingrained or have been completely outside your awareness in the past. Don't allow yourself to be swept up and taken over by the emotion, it's important to express and release it fully, so you can end the exercise from a neutral space to start taking action on what you've learned.

Here are a few ways to release strong emotions that come up:

  • free writing in your journal about how you feel or what's causing it
  • screaming into a pillow (turn some music on if you'd like)
  • allow or stimulate yourself to cry

If You Still Can't Remember What Happened Last Year

As a last resort or final review to catch anything outside your calendars, you can look over your photos and posts on social media to fill in the blanks. To ensure you don't get distracted early on, I highly recommend you leave this for the end (after you've already answered all the questions once) or as a last resort if you're struggling to remember what happened for you in the last year.

When (And How Often) Should You Do A Personal Review?

This kind of self reflection is common during the end of a year as we set resolutions, celebrate and look forward to the new year, but it can and should be done at any time. It's important to also do slight variations of this on a daily and weekly basis, but there are certain trends that you can only catch at the macro scale — which is why doing a personal year in review can be so powerful. If it's been a while (6 months or more) since you really took a look at how you've been showing up in your life, good and bad, and the patterns that are playing out for you, then I suggest you schedule it in your calendar right away. You don't have to wait for another December or specific day. To wait is to delay yourself in receiving more self awareness, a better understanding of where you're at and exactly how you can course-correct to start seeing huge positive shifts in yourself and your life.

Here to help you grow,