The calendar throws up several opportunities that are worth grabbing. Mondays are usually good days to start things. Sundays often feel like the best time to rest. The new year, and birthdays, are often times for starting new goals or projects… and as we approach year-end it may be an excellent opportunity for reflection and learning. It may be a good time to consider the year now passing: what has gone well and what has not, what was achieved and which goals were missed, what have we learned that we can take into next year. Here we outline a simple approach that you may find helpful here.


So here are perhaps a few questions you might use to shape your reflection on the last 12 months…..

  • What was the high point of the year?
  • What was the low point?
  • What was your biggest achievement?
  • What was your biggest failure or missed opportunity?
  • What made you happy this last year?
  • What made you unhappy this last year?
  • How would you score (on a 1 to 10 scale, say) the key life areas we mostly focus on:
    • Work and career
    • Learning and skills development
    • Money
    • Family
    • Partner or spouse relationship
    • Social life
    • Health
    • Mental health (arguably part of “health” but it is such a big issue that we feel it deserves separate mention)
    • Sense of purpose and or spiritual state

We suggest you write all of this down. On a spreadsheet, a slip of paper, a notice board, whatever works for you. We do suggest keeping it somewhat private so you can be brutally honest in all areas – absolute honesty is the make-or-break of a process like this. If you fudge the truth, or sugar coat things, well you’re just lying to yourself and we know how that ends don’t we? Give it a few days to “vest”, for your conscious and sub-conscious mind to take it in and digest the thoughts. Then…


Having contemplated and considered the last year, now is the time to refine your goals and plans for the future. Specifically for the next 12 months. There are many ways to approach this but you might try something simple like:

  • List no more than 5 key learnings from last year.
  • Set out your goals for the next year. In doing this you might once-again focus on the key life areas listed above or use some other structure that makes sense for you. Again, we would suggest limiting goals to five (too many goals dilutes the importance of each) but it is up to you really.
  • Think about obstacles and impediments. What has got in the way before? What is likely to be challenging in the future? Any sound plan must include a healthy dose of realism and this means considering the difficulties we have faced and may yet face.


The thinking described above, or similar approaches, can be very enlightening. As simple as it sounds, the act of pausing and considering life is hugely valuable for all of us. When we add a slightly structured approach (e.g. key life areas) and when we simply write stuff down,  the value increases. When we are fully honest with ourselves we start to really learn about ourselves and our lives. But all of this is of limited value if we do nothing with it. So now we need to commit. To the learnings and to the goals we have set ourselves. To what we are going to actually do. To action. To change. When? How? With who? How will we overcome some of the obstacles that are bound to be in the way? How do we make sure that our goals are not mere dreams (goals without detailed action plans are just dreams really)?

Our own lives offer us perhaps the most powerful “classroom” ever. If we can pause, reflect, be honest, and truly learn from our own lives, we can shape our futures more positively. Year-end is a marvellous time for this sort of thing so you might want to try this review, refine, recommit approach.

Author: Dr Colin Burns, retired medical practitioner and wellness coach