The following process is a technique that I myself actually use every year in the waning days of December. But before I share it, I want to tell you a very personal story:
The last week of the calendar year has always seemed like a magical time to me. The date I began my journey towards a healthy, fitter lifestyle, was in fact, a December 28. The night before, I was on my knees, in tears, in desperation, pleading for help to change myself. It seemed an impossible task that lay before me and I couldn’t even imagine how to take the first step. By dawn of the next day, I awoke feeling determined. I still didn’t know how to take the first step, but now I could at least see a bit of the path. I gingerly stepped forward. Once, then again, and on, each day for the next two years, I woke up and I chose to take that step.
Often though, the path gave way beneath me and I fell hard and hopelessly. But the next day, I woke up, cleaned the grime of failure from underneath my fingernails, lifted one leg, and took a step.
As I write this post, the date is December 26, 2016, almost 15 years to the day I decided to change my life from helpless victim to determined creator. Tomorrow, the 27th, I have yet another trial by fire. Once again, I am standing before something I want dearly, without the slightest clue how to accomplish it. It seems completely impossible from where I am today. But what I learned on that day 15 years ago, is that you don’t have to know what to do. You just have to step forward… and then keep stepping.
I may fail tomorrow. I may have my hopes ruined and my pride annihilated. But I will still feel victorious for taking that seemingly perilous first step, And if I do fall, I pray that I will pick myself up and step again.
My darlings, do me a favor. Get your 2016 calendar. Get a piece of paper and a pen. Go through the following exercise and join me in creating a year of steps toward your goal.
P.S. I’ll be back later to tell you what happens tomorrow, either way. Tonight I will once again be on my knees. It’s a good place to be.
Creating Your New Year:
A Goal Setting Process Using The Year-End-Review Technique
January 1st, that magical clean slate of a day! Most of us begin a new year full of hope and a sense of renewal. We vow that this year will be different. This will be the year we will lose/gain the weight, start/close the business, get/lose the guy… in general, be different, braver, stronger, smarter, than we were in years past.
But by February’s cold gray light, many sadly realize that changing ourselves or enacting our dreams, wasn’t quite as easy as flipping a calendar page!
In the coaching model, we believe that repeated patterns leave great clues for future growth. If something always happens to you over and over, then there is something there for you to learn before you can move on. We often remind clients that there is no failure, only feedback. Your success is largely based on your ability to interpret the feedback and use it to grow.
To that end, today’s article will walk you through a coaching process called The Year-End-Review. This is a writing project. It will not work if you just sort of think about your answers. You need to go get a pen and paper, and to give time, thought, and voice to the answers within you. Go through this process, get right with what happened in 2016, and you will have truly cleared the deck for some massive personal growth in 2017.
Sometimes people struggle to remember what happened last year. For that I suggest you sit down with your daily calendar and go through page by page. It will jog your memory. Others have had hard things happen that they really do not want to revisit. I know, I’ve been there and it’s hard. But remember that things often repeat until we have learned what we need to learn from them, so dig in now and get through this! If you are afraid, please do this with a trusted friend, coach or therapist to help keep you feeling safe.
Step One: Identify your 3 greatest accomplishments of 2016
Even if 2016 was a total shitstorm of suck, I am certain that if you look hard enough, you will find at least 3 things to be proud of. And in doing so, you will likely transform how you feel about the whole year.
Step Two: Analyze what you learned from each of those accomplishments
Did you realize that you are an excellent organizer? Did you learn that you are a lot stronger than you thought you were? Do you now have proof that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to?
Step Three: Identify your biggest disappointments of 2016
Isn’t it like 100 times easier to think of the disappointments than accomplishments?! These are the yucky memories and regrets you are likely replaying in your mind over and over. Get them out of you on to paper and you can heal them gone. You do NOT want to carry these into 2017!
Step Four: Analyze what you learned from each of those disappointments
No, you cannot just write “I learned that I am a total idiot”. You’ve got to be a little more constructive than that. The trick here is to really unpack these experiences. What preceded them? Was there a flicker of intuitive warning that you pushed away? What could you have done differently? Is this a recurring pattern? Maybe you learned that you should listen more carefully to your intuition? Perhaps you discovered that you need to work a little more on being less reactive to other people’s negativity? Or maybe you will discover that you’ve been acting an awful lot like a victim? Only by identifying these things can you learn and grow.
Step Five: Identify how you limited yourself and how you can stop doing that
Were the certain actions you took or didn’t take that you regretted? In order to make sure you don’t limit yourself again, you need to bring these self-defeating actions to the surface, confront them, and determine what you must do differently. What are you afraid of? What’s the worst that could happen? What would happen to you if the worst did actually happen? Is there a way you can protect yourself while still moving forward? How can you summon the courage to take some leaps?
Step Six: Use all of this information to set big goals for 2017
After reviewing the past year, take some time to digest what you have discovered. Then, using this hindsight, ask yourself some questions about what you would like to create in 2017.
- What do you want to happen in the new year?
- How would you like to be?
- How would you like to feel?
- Is there anything you need more help with or need to learn better?
- Who can help or teach you?
- If you need more support, where can you get it?
- What are the sorts of things you want to be on that accomplishment list for the year-end-review next year?
- What are the steps you need to take to make that happen?
Thomas Edison was once questioned on how it felt to fail in his many attempts to create the electric light bulb. He answered, “I did not fail. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Life will often be hard. We will often feel like we’ve been punted rudely back to square one time and time again. Rather than lying in the dirt of self-pity, we need to get up, look honestly at what is working and what is NOT working, and formulate our next, smarter and wiser attempt.
My 2017 wish for you, dear readers, is the following: patience on your path; an undying fire in your belly; the self-love to trust and honor yourself; and the sense of humor to keep it all in perspective. The happiest and healthiest of new years to you all.
This post originally appeared in Definition Magazine. I re-wrote it for today.