Reflecting on 2019 - A personal Annual Review template

Coming to the end of 2019; it’s a time we might reflect on the year past. A retrospective, to identify what matters, and re-focus our attention during the year ahead.

For me, it was a year of varied, new experiences in work and relationships, a year in which some of the hardest circumstances have brought me face to face with myself, to emerge not less afraid, but only with slightly more bravery and trust in myself to engage with the obstacle, an exercise in testing stoic behaviours.

It’s in reflecting on these events that Journaling can be a key part of our self-care. It allows us to discover patterns within ourselves otherwise lost in the fleeting encounters during the day, and to audit our values and reflect on behaviours, hiding nothing from ourselves.

As part of my journaling practice, I decided to do a broader-view Annual Review, inspired by James Clear and his book Atomic Habits.

As with a daily journaling practice, it’s helpful to have a structure to follow to keep reflections focused and useful to allow easy re-reading throughout the year. and what I wish to focus on.

Template for a personal Annual Review

I have shared below my own journal ‘template’ for conducting a personal Annual Review. My hope is that some of these cues provide just the right jumping-off point for your own meaningful ideas to come forth in abundance, (or use it as-is!), to reflect on your year.

Review goals/intentions set for 2019

  • Did I achieve or make progress on them? Are they even still important? If not, don’t get hung up, tweak them, and take my momentum into some new goals.

Recall highs; lows…

  • How did I move through the lows?
  • What behaviours or mindsets preceded these states?
  • What worked or didn’t work? - Could indicate what to do more or less of

Biggest stressors

  • Could recurrence be avoided? What did I learn from them/identify any emotional traps that preceded them?

Behaviours to cultivate

  • What values to bring to interactions, relationships. Use to informing choices of the right focus, media diet
  • Any behaviours toward introducing something new?

Gratitude for…

  • Gratitude may be extracted from even the most trying of things; thinking about what - you’re grateful for helps to keep perspective through turmoil we’ll encounter, and also to truly revel in our more mundane experience.

Positive initiatives and learnings to take into 2020

  • Emotional pitfalls/patterns to observe
  • Refining/levelling-up any new habits
  • Clarity on what matters makes it easier to know what to focus on, and what to decline
  • Improved understanding of myself/what I want to aim at

Challenges as our teacher

It’s by engaging with unexpected challenges, lack of certainty, the complexity of other egos, that we can control their power to influence our emotions; to threaten our most stoic virtues. It’s here though, where we can see in sharp relief, our own ability to adapt, thrive even; for the same challenges that once inspired a sinking dread, might just precipitate the emergence of a better version of ourselves.

Armed with our moral code and stoic virtues, we can dare to ignore the self-talk and beliefs we had about ourselves; confidently engaging with challenges as our teacher - making right actions, yet never straying into delusions of knowing anything much at all.

I’d even suggest there may not even be another way to overcome challenges that find us than; to quote Marcus Aurelius:

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Our learned beliefs can keep us tethered to past versions of ourselves, yet can be overcome if only we allow ourselves to merely be braver distinct from waiting for certainty to make us less anxious.

Just starting…

It can be difficult to start journaling; questions about time of day, frequency, what to even write, can thwart our motivation. But I’d advocate for blind ‘doing’ in this case - just start, and take the lead from what you find valuable and the insight you’ll start to gain about your very nature.

Waste no time arguing what a good man should be. Be one

  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

In doing a personal Annual Review, it can be difficult, even daunting to know what to write about for the whole year! I certainly found this and enjoy reading what others might include; I mean, can we really remember what we got up to at the start of the year, especially if not armed with a years’ reflections to draw upon!

I quickly found, however, that following these cues and some quiet reflection, my memory was jogged, leading me to reflect on the outcomes of those interactions and challenges.

Of the events of the year, ask which were ultimately valuable to your growth, which were not, or caused undue stress or distraction. Then, how you might use this to be become ever-more deliberate in your focus.

Have a Stoic 2020!

Written on December 29, 2019