In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts on self reflection, give you some insight into how I do my annual review (and what an annual review is), and give you a preview of some exciting things that are coming for this blog (psst…this blog is going to get way better in the coming year).
Self Reflection And Annual Reviews
I’m a huge believer in self reflection which, to me, is the practice of introspectively evaluating your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to better understand who you are and what you’re doing in this crazy universe. The practice of reflecting allows me to step outside myself, and for a small time, become an objective observer of my life situation. I do it often because it’s the only way I can remove the emotional charge of being human and create clarity from the turmoil and distraction that make up everyday life.
As a part of regular self reflection, I like to take some time at the end of each year to evaluate how things went and to gather my intentions for the coming year. There’s something about the holidays and the new year the brings closure and hope for new beginnings, even though it’s all pretty arbitrary.
About 3 years ago, I began adding some formality to my yearly review and put a name to it after being introduced to the annual review that Chris Guillebeau does each year on his blog. This is the first year I’ll be writing about it publicly, on my blog.
My Annual Review Process
Annual reviews are very personal and I’m not going to tell you that I’ve figured out the best or right way to do it. The most important traits of an annual review are: 1) taking the enough time to reflect on your year and 2) being honest with yourself about how it went. As long as you take the process seriously, put in the time, and face your failures and successes with honesty, you will learn a lot.
That being said, the process I use is pretty simple.
- First thing I do is look back at the previous year and try to come up with a list of best moments, highlights, and accomplishments. I write them all down and then do the same with disappointments and failures.
- Next, I look back on the prior year’s annual review. I also look at the most recent list of goals I’ve set for myself. Being able to look back at your own intentions is invaluable because you can clearly see how you wanted your year to go.
- I then compare how my year went (step 1) with the expectations I set for myself (step 2). There is where honesty really comes in. Ask yourself tough questions and be brutally honest. Your goal should be to understand what worked and why, what didn’t work and why, what you learned throughout the year, and how you can do better in the year to come.
- Finally, I use all of this fantastic insight to plan for the future using the method I outline in my eBook. The annual review process provides great context for going through the eBook because you are already in touch with yourself on a deep level. This makes it easier to figure out your values and goals, and craft a new direction for the coming year.
My Reflections So Far
I’ve spent a significant amount of time over the last several weeks reflecting on the year that’s coming to an end. It’s been necessary for me as my life has been full of difficult, paradigm-shifting challenges like planning an indefinite backpacking trip, selling off my possessions, starting to learn a second language, and moving back home. None of which have been easy.
I don’t want to get into too many details just yet, but this year’s review has been the most difficult, most visceral period of self reflection I can remember. The year has been filled with some really high ‘Highs’ and some similarly extreme lows. Those lows have been harder to face than in years past because this year, it was all on me. Unlike previous years where I could get away with blaming my shortcomings on factors out of my control, like my job or Naval contract, this year I had to be so honest that it hurt. This year, I had no-one to blame but myself, and accordingly, I was forced to look even deeper to understand why things happened the way they did.
While the process has been tough, it’s also been rewarding. I’m already extremely excited about what I’ve learned and what it means for the future. I’ve come to some big realizations about my life and those realizations are inspiring big plans for both my life and this blog in 2014.
What’s Coming Soon
- The results of my annual review, including my best moments, my biggest disappoints, the most important realizations I’ve had, and the direction it’s all going to take in 2014 (both my life and the blog).
- I haven’t been 100% committed to this blog, but that’s about to change. I’ll be announcing a theme for the blog 2014, including some very drastic, personal challenges for myself. I can’t wait to share it all with you, and I hope it will inspire you to challenge yourself to do something great in 2014.
- My gear list for the backpacking trip: After hours of research, some actual experimentation with various products, and some tough compromises….I’ve got my gear and I’m ready for my trip.
- More on learning Spanish, including my List of Spanish Learning Resources and Step-by-Step what I would do if I were starting to learn spanish today.
- The Start of our Epic Backpacking Trip on January 10th!!!!
This blog has been, and remains, an experiment. A living, public experiment for anyone to watch. I hope that you’ll stayed tuned in as I ramp things up for the big adventure that is 2014.