Looking backward to move forward

If you haven’t had time yet to reflect on the past year or consider any objectives or “New Year Resolutions” for 2022, it’s not too late. The whole of January is a time for reflection, looking forward, and new starts. Indeed, you can do it at any time – January 1st has no particular powers – and you can do it as often as you like!

However, there is something powerful about looking back over a whole year to reflect on what you’ve been through and achieved and how you’re continuing to journey, or transition, as you move forward.

So many people have said all there is to say about New Year resolutions. There is no one way, but I thought I would share what I do and hope these thoughts are helpful.

January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, doorways, passages, and endings. Images of Janus depict him as having two faces, one looking backward, the other looking forward.

Looking back:

Like all good plans, the foundations are based on a thorough audit on what’s happened over the year/time period (good and bad), where you are now, and how you have got here (your journey/transition). It’s important to take time to intentionally think about what has happened and recognise all that you’ve accomplished over the past year. Even in challenging years, it’s likely that there were some moments of joy or success.

Here are some questions I use to jog my memory:

  • What were the significant events of the year?
  • What were my highlights?
  • What did I accomplish this year? (Big and small).
  • What challenges did I face? How did I handle them?
  • What skills did I develop/learn?
  • What am I proud of?

I never remember everything in one sitting, so I find it’s helpful to write these down and come back to them as I recall other memories.


Whilst learning through experience is important, research shows that reflecting on our experience is the most powerful component.

  • Did I meet your objectives/goals last year? If not, why not? Acknowledge what went well.
  • How have I grown this year? What did I learn this year?
  • What am I most disappointed about? Is there anything I wish I had done differently?
  • What three words sum up my past year?
  • What do I want to keep doing?
  • What do I want to do more of?
  • What do I want to stop doing?
  • What do I want to start doing?

Most people don’t meet every goal they set for themselves, so don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t. Celebrate what you have accomplished and identify what you could do differently.

Looking forward – the future

Once you feel you have given sufficient time to the above exercise, you can now move on to consider where you want to be this time next year, taking into consideration everything around you.

  • What will be the significant events of this year?
    • Ensure you give yourself time to plan or prepare for these.
  • What challenges do you face?
    • Acknowledge these and identify how you can overcome or minimise the impact of these. (If you can’t, then your plans need to accommodate them).

And finally, we get to the plan…

Most plans fail because we give ourselves too many objectives or resolutions or are not realistic (e.g. I can’t/shouldn’t lose 20lb in 1 month).  While it’s often useful to make our objectives ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Timebound), sometimes, we just need to identify a direction of travel. This is especially the case when we are not in control of the outcome or timescales.

Most experts suggest that we should stick to a few key goals at any one time. Once we’ve achieved them, or they become a habit in our lives, we can add more. So you might want to prioritise a few objectives initially and certainly no more than 1 or 2 in each of the categories below.

  • Where do I want to be this time next year?
    • Personally & relationships
    • Spiritually
    • Career/work/professionally
    • Health/wellbeing
    • Financially
    • Personal development (What new skills do you want to develop/learn?)
Source: Canva 2022

Many people find Storyboards a powerful way to help them to focus on what’s important. I use mine as my screensaver. Others use a pinboard or print it out. It doesn’t matter how you present it provided it’s easily accessible and you can see it.

Finally, we all know that what gets measured gets done, so put some time in your diary on a weekly or monthly basis to monitor how you’re doing and adapt your plans accordingly.  If something unexpected happens, such as illness or a new opportunity, it’s OK to adjust and reset your plan to take this into consideration.

Give yourself permission to flex. One bad day or week doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It will just take longer to get to your objective.

It’s always going to be a work in progress and that’s absolutely fine.

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