We’ve all had a rough year.

Humans naturally resist change, but no matter how much we tried to avoid it, this year changed our lives as we knew them. Some of us lost our jobs, others saw relationships end. We had to deal with sickness and loss on a global scale. As a consequence, this year made us shift our priorities. We turned inward, and were forced to re-evaluate our lives.

As 2020 comes to a close, we want to help you make sense of the last 12 months and, in doing so, prepare for the future. Today, we invite you to stop for a moment and stay here with us. For a few minutes, halt the endless scrolling, press pause on the infinite to-do list, and let us guide you through your personal end-of-year review. Let’s work together on our plans for 2021, and push ahead with our agendas in view of our new priorities as we enter what can only be a better, brighter year.

Start With What You Have

Assessing anything always begs the question: What are we measuring it against? In fancy business terms we might look for goals and KPIs, but in this case we recommend you start as any small business would: take inventory. All you need is a pen and paper (or the device of your choice), the checklist below, and a pinch of mindfulness to make sure you don’t trespass into self-judgment territory. (We see you, inner critic.)

What did you do this year…

… Professionally?
… For your finances?
… Relationship-wise? (include friends and family)
… In terms of personal goals?
… In terms of health and fitness?
… For fun and leisure?

Answer the questions by writing down, for each area:

1. Your top three accomplishments – no matter how small.
2. Your top three setbacks – no dwelling, just list them and move on.
3. How you feel about it – no judgment! Just pure, unadulterated feelings.

To reiterate: We’ve all had a rough year. Under personal goal accomplishments, this writer actually listed “bought some new books”. I haven’t read them yet, but that doesn’t matter – it was a small step towards my goal of reading more books. Let’s try looking at the past year with a positive attitude and with gratitude for what went well, no matter how tiny or seemingly inconsequential.

Where Are You Going?

Now that you have a basis to start from, it’s time to go deeper into what you actually want. And yes, we know that’s not an easy question. In life, we’re always acting under the forces of conflicting priorities and desires. Sometimes we don’t even know what these forces are, so there’s no need to be harsh with yourself (but here are some hints if you feel stuck).

Remember: There is no manual for life, we’re all just playing it by ear. Sure, some people act like they’ve got it all figured it out, but other than the fact that our time here is limited, there are no certainties in life. This might sound depressing, but when you think about it, it’s liberating. No one knows how to live their life, and the person you are today might be a completely different version of who you were 10 years ago or 10 months ago – and that’s perfectly fine.

So, let go of any pressure, sit lovingly with yourself, and simply pick a direction that sounds good to you right now. You don’t need to go into detail – any vague direction will do. Going back to your pen and paper (or keyboard), ask yourself:

Where do I want to be in 1 year…    

… Professionally?
… Financially?
… Relationship-wise? (include friends and family)
… In terms of personal goals?
… In terms of health and fitness?
… In terms of fun and leisure?

For each area, write down a generic goal. Here are some examples:

– “Professionally, I would like to switch careers / do more fulfilling work / get a new job.”

– “Relationship-wise, I would like to meet someone / spend more time with my partner / reconnect with my friends.”

– “In terms of personal goals, I would like to learn a new language / read more books / work on my hobby project.”

And so on. But beware: We’re all eager to get to the top, whatever that might mean for you, but the smaller your goals, the better the chances that you will accomplish them. So start small. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your inner critic can scream all they want – criticising is easy, it’s building that’s hard.

Make A Plan

You’re doing great, and we’re almost done – so it’s time to muster all your drive and get to the practical side of things. Under each goal, write down one or two subgoals, breaking down the main goal into small, actionable bits. Example:

My goal for next year is:  Switching careers

So I need to:        

1. Retrain and gain new skills
2. Find a mentor
3. Find a company that’s a good fit – or become self-employed

Alternatively, maybe you’d like to reconnect with your friends; your subgoal might be to set time aside for a series of weekly calls with them (and stick to it). For maximum effectiveness, why not block time into your calendar and set up alerts for those appointments?

As opposed to your overarching goals, though, subgoals need to be concrete, even if they’re just tiny steps in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, it’s not until you take one small step that you realise what you need to do next. So have faith in yourself, and write down what you can – you’ll figure out the rest as you go.

Thank Yourself

For most, 2020 was a uniquely challenging year, so take time to reflect on the personal strengths and resilience that carried you safely through this difficult period.

You have made it this far, and you should be grateful to yourself for showing courage and character, for persevering amidst difficulties and delays, for helping others when they needed it, for putting any fears, worries and troubles on the back-burner and powering through your daily tasks for the benefit of those who depend on you. And most of all, for making the necessary sacrifices during the pandemic to ensure the safety and health of vulnerable people in your community.

Maybe this exercise will help you recognise your strengths and weaknesses, the true extent of your work/life balance, or that you need to rely more on your support network. But above all, we hope that it will be an opportunity for you to celebrate your accomplishments, to take a deep breath, and to step into the year to come with a positive attitude. Here’s to the future.

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