It never fails. As the new year looms, my social media newsfeeds fill up with people professing their resolutions. And year after year, I always hear the same goals: I want to lose weight, I want to make more money, I want to find love, I want a better job.
Of course, it’s certainly natural to want more for yourself. And a new calendar year seems like an ideal moment to begin working on these life changes. But while many use this time of year to look ahead, outlining their future goals, how many of us actually reflect on our past year? Do we continuously get so wrapped up in our never-ending list of wants and needs that we neglect to appreciate our current and past accomplishments?
Find the rewards of the recent past
I admit there are benefits to goal setting, but working toward an appreciation for where we currently stand can also be rewarding and even clarifying.
So this year, before you start work on your vision board and New Year’s toast, take a moment to recognize your feats from the past year. Similar to an annual job performance evaluation, try completing your very own personal year-end self-review. And if you’re not sure how, here are three questions to consider.
1. What were your major achievements?
Would you want your employer to scrutinize your shortcomings without ever acknowledging your worth and accomplishments? Sounds a bit unfair, right? Yet, that’s the very same lens that we tend to view ourselves through when we make New Year’s resolutions. It’s all about what didn’t go right in the previous year — goals unfulfilled and desires unmet.
Instead, comb through the past year and recognize all of your shining moments. Was there an obstacle or setback that you bounced back from? Did you achieve any professional gains or expand your network? Did you make new friends? Did you pick up a new hobby or try something for the first time?
Feel free to ask friends and peers what they think your proudest achievements should be. Sometimes, an outside perspective can illuminate things you never even considered. (And, of course, offer to do the same for them.)
Highlighting your achievements will put your year in perspective. Not only are you wrapping yourself in praise, you’re reminding yourself of your potential to accomplish great things. So, now when you set new goals, you’re in a better mindset to achieve them. Research even shows that people who express gratitude for their successes are more likely to experience positive outcomes with their goals.
2. In what ways did you grow?
Life is full of lessons. Sometimes, they’re tough lessons that challenge who we are. Sometimes, they are sudden epiphanies. More than often than not, our lessons come through trial and error until we eventually get it right.
So ask yourself what have your experiences have taught you this year. Consider the lessons you’ve learned in all aspects of your life — as a parent, spouse, colleague, friend, or just an observer of life. And with those lessons realized, how have you grown? Are you able to see your conflicts through a new point of view or have you added new problem-solving skills to your repertoire?
Based on your answers, create a new mantra that you can take with you into next year. And if you still need help with that, here are six helpful Unstuck-approved mantras to get you going.
3. What were the things you enjoyed most?
Lastly, look back over the year and ask yourself what you enjoyed most. What things made you happy? What are some new great memories you will now share with your family and friends from this year? From major events and vacations to simple stress-relievers like a weekday movie night, count them all.
This is important because as you plan your next year’s goals, your happiness should remain a priority. Sure, you should still pursue new ambitions, but make you they don’t come at the expense of what keeps you balanced. After all, happiness is often the catalyst that improves your chances of success, whether it has to do with your health, relationships, career, and more.
Once you’re done with your self-review, frame your New Year’s resolutions just as you would after a professional self-review. Your goal should now be to build upon your successes and place less emphasis on your failures. You might find your resolutions become even sharper and more specific than previous years. And with that, you’re already on your way to making progress.
Nina Reeder is a journalist and media manager, who has contributed to outlets such as Ebony, AOL.com, Marriott Hotels, and more. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie, but also has passions for health/wellness (which doesn’t always work out well). You can follow her on Instagram here.