ON THE FIRST of each year, I set aside several hours for reflection before setting my goals for the year. This time of reflection is a grounding ritual I’ve come to love and rely on, as it allows me to perform a “reset.”
By reset, I mean that I evaluate which of my past intentions, goals, and aspirations I have continued to carry with me and which I have let go. I think about what has changed in my life and what is most important to me now. I also consider what behaviors no longer serve me and what new behaviors or habits I would like to develop that are in line with my internal priorities.
For this ritual, I use three general writing activities that I’d like to share with you. Though I like to dedicate a special day for these realignment activities, feel free to do them over several sessions if that works better for you.
Activity #1 — Reflect on Goals and Intentions for the Previous Year
In one paragraph, summarize your goals and intentions for last year. If you wrote those down, and especially if it’s been a while since you looked at them, this is a good time to re-read what you wrote and refresh your memory.
Then, answer the following questions:
- In what ways did my intentions guide me as I made decisions throughout the year? Did my intentions shift or change in any way? If so, what changed?
- Which goals did I achieve, and which did I not achieve? Do I still care about those I didn’t get done?
- What am I most proud of accomplishing? (That could including finishing a specific project or establishing a new habit.)
- Do I have any regrets? If so, use associative writing to explore the source of these regrets. With everything factored in, what could I have done differently? Is anything retrievable?
Activity #2 — Assess Where You are Now
Take a few minutes to calm yourself and focus inward. You can do this by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for a few minutes. It can help to have some gentle music or sounds of nature playing in the background. When you feel calm and centered, open your eyes and write your answers to the following prompts:
- How have I changed since the beginning of last year? Who was I then and who am I now?
- What’s most important to me at this time in my life? What do I value the most? Has this changed or remained the same?
- If I could do or accomplish only one thing this year, what would that be?
- If I could change, expand, restore or begin one relationship in my life, with whom would that be and what would that relationship look like?
- How do I typically spend my days and, more importantly, how am I spending the majority of my free time? Is this how I want to spend my time? If not, what would I change and what would a typical day then look like?
- To focus in more intensely on what’s truly important — if I had only one month to live, how would I want to live during my remaining days?
Activity #3 — Set a Vision for the Future
Review what you’ve written in response to the previous questions. What themes emerge? Do you want to change goals and priorities or do you feel that you’ve been moving in the right direction?
When setting direction for the future, first think about the person you want to be and how you want to be identified. This will guide you as you consider the activities that will take you in your desired direction.
- How do I want to be identified and described and remembered by others?
- Which of these identity characteristics is most important to me right now? Another way to think about it — if at the end of this year only one of those identity characteristics would be applied to me, which one would it be?
- What would I have to do — what activities and habits — would I need to instill (or continue) in my life to move fully into this identify?
- If I were to distill my intentions for this coming year into one word, what would that word be?
Once you have reflected on your previous year (and this last one is sure to be a doozy!), assessed how you have changed, and created a vision for who you want to be in the future, you are ready to set some meaningful and actionable goals.
I hope you find these activities and prompts helpful. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.