Words of Wisdom 016: On doing an annual review

It is always good to reflect on your life and consider your goals. As the earth finalizes another trip around the sun, it's a perfect time to do an intentional review of your life.

Goals are best set in context. Doing an annual review is a valuable way of deepening your perspective, growing your gratitude, and strengthening your meaning in your life.

It's one thing to know about annual reflections and goals, but will you actually do it this year? I want to invite you to go through this practice of a yearly reflection, and I'll set out a simple process of how you can do it.

Life passes quickly. Don't let this year go without dreaming big and pushing hard after the most significant purpose you dare imagine.


You will never reach vague goals. The more general it is, the less power it has. But the more specific it is, the more power it has in your life.

Rick Warren

"Dreaming big requires developing a new way of thinking. To do this you're going to need to carve a new groove in your brain so you can get after your ambitions rather than just push them around on the plate like a bunch of peas. Carving a new groove in your brain is like blowing up a balloon. A big balloon. Sometimes your head starts spinning after a while when you think about your ambitions. Take some breaks. Rest is holy. Get as much as you need, but know when it's time to be fully awake and get back to work. If we're going to get after some of your unexecuted ambitions, we need to take that new groove you're carving and go Grand Canyon on it. Doing this is going to take some effort, but hey, do it anyway."

Bob Goff, Dream Big



STEP 1: Find a quiet place you can unplug and relax for at least an hour. Turn off your notifications on your phone, set it to do not disturb.

STEP 2: Begin by getting centered. I recommend the Pause App to guide you through a brief prayer or Calm.com for a meditation. But don't let technology distract you from slowing down and becoming more present. Simply taking ten deep breaths might be enough.

STEP 3: Skim the reflection questions (listed below).

STEP 4: Go through your photos. When I start to take stock of the year, I find it helpful to look at photos & videos of the year on my phone. Having skimmed the questions, start looking for the answers in your recorded moments. The images will jog your memory for the different themes and parts of the year.

STEP 4: Start answering the review questions.

STEP 5: Skim personal journals, your calendar, workbooks, and blogs.

After my initial review, I take it to the next level and skim my journal and blog, wherever I've written down thoughtful work. It's interesting to see how your perception of the year may change as you review your year in different ways.

STEP 6: Reflect. Sit with and reflect on your answers. Think about the difficulties and darkness and the beautiful memories, victories, and sweet moments from your year.

STEP 7: Express gratitude to God (if you are a spiritual person)

Often, I become more clearly aware of how God is living and active in my life when I slow down to reflect on the year. I see ways my needs have been provided for, remember how my worst fears didn't materialize and see the personal growth that perhaps I had forgotten. Pause here and have a moment of conscious contact with God, deepening your presence.

STEP 8: Look forward

Review the Looking Forward questions at the bottom of the Annual Reflection Questions. Knowing where you've been and what you've done is your foundation for setting next year's goals. Identify the things you genuinely want to (and can) change, then create a plan for how you're going to go about changing (identify and include any resources you may need). Having a plan will increase your likelihood of success, so you don't move forward aimlessly.

Annual Reflection Questions

What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

What were your best/worst decisions of the year?

What was an unexpected joy this past year?

What was an unexpected obstacle?

Pick three to five words to describe the year.

Pick three to five words your family and friends would use to describe your year. Don't ask them; guess and ask them afterward if appropriate.

What book impacted you the most? How?

What person impacted you the most? How? Share with them and thank them if it is appropriate to do so.

How connected or disconnected did you feel with the most important people in your life? Who did you grow closer to? Who did you grow farther apart from?

In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

What did you learn? In what way(s) did you grow mentally?

In what way(s) did you grow physically?

What was the most enjoyable part of your work experience?

What was the most challenging part of your work experience?

What was your single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?

What was the best way you used your time this past year?

What were some of the important things you learned this past year?

What meditations, concepts, or scriptures shaped your year?

After all this reflection, what most stands out? What do you have clarity on now that you didn't before? How does will this change what you do next year?

Looking forward:

What phrase or statement most vigorously describes your hope and desire for the year ahead?

What meditations, concepts, or scriptures do you want to shape the year ahead?

What are your value goals for the next year? Value goals are high-level values of who you want to become or the direction you want life to go. Values goals are not measurable, or something you can complete, and they represent unchanging values you have, a general desire for your life.

What are your outcome goals for the next year? Outcome goals are specific ways to accomplish your value goals. Make them specific, clear, and achievable by a certain date.


Your life will grow to the degree that you dare to hope and dream and take action. Take time to reflect on 2021 and dig into what action you can take for 2022. I would love to hear any gratitudes from the year, and your dreams and goals for 2022!

Live wisely,


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