As a coach and editor of Psychologies magazine, every mid-winter I invite my readers and clients to conduct a review of their year. I believe that pressing pause to look back over the last 12 months can be a powerful exercise. Often, we spend our lives running around, reacting to life, most of us too overwhelmed to look properly at what is working and what is not.
One of the reasons why life coaching works is that you get to spend some time working on your life versus in it – and if you can spend a little time reviewing the year versus just the last month, you may get to notice some interesting patterns or gain some deeper insight as you get a broader year-long perspective. Don’t panic if you feel resistant to answering the questions. Often, we can feel frightened about what we might discover. But if you’re spending time running from one weekend to the next vaguely discontent but not quite able to put your finger on exactly why, then try answering the questions in your journal. There is enormous value in stopping – to smell the roses (or depending on your year, digging the manure into the soil in which the roses will bloom next year.)
A year review can be a very gentle non-scary way to examine the past 12 months to see if you can spot any patterns, spot the sources versus the symptom of the problems so that you can make some small changes (or big leaps) in the coming year.
You may fear the voice of your inner critic who wants to berate you for everything you haven’t achieved, but I would encourage you to commune with your ‘inner coach’ instead. Inner coach? Imagine best friend meets wise champion. Read the questions we’ve posed and then answer them as if your inner coach were writing you a letter.
Meet your inner coach
Your inner coach lives in the left prefrontal lobe of your brain and is associated with happiness, creativity and the ability to understand right from wrong, and inner peace. Unfortunately, most of us are tuned into our inner critic, who has a direct line to the reptilian part of our brain, which dominates because, in evolutionary terms, it’s important to be able to react to threats quickly. The structures of the primitive brain that trigger the flight-or-flight response are virtually automatic, while the ability to be kind and compassionate with ourselves and others is a skill we need to practice.
To complete your review, it is more useful to be tuned into your inner coach. How do you do that? Deep, slow breathing, creative visualisation, and thinking loving thoughts all light up your left prefrontal lobe. So close your eyes, take some deep breaths and personify your inner coach as a best friend meets wise woman and visualise what she looks like. Imagine her taking your hand and looking back over the last year to a moment where you have been loved, liked and cared for? How do you know you are definitely in touch with your inner coach versus your inner critic? She is kind, not cruel. She is encouraging, not critical. She has a sense of humour, she is fuelled by inspiration, not motivation. She encourages you to take practical baby steps instead of making stressful all or nothing decisions.
Ok, ready? Grab a cup of tea and spend some time with your inner coach and answer the following questions in your journal.
1. What brought you the greatest joy this year?
Name 3 moments that made you laugh uncontrollably? Name 3 moments that gave you a ‘golden glow’ when you felt happy, at one with life, interested and engaged? What did these moments have in common? Who were you with, what were you doing? Name 3 moments when you felt miserable, trapped and defeated? What do these moments have in common? Who were you with, what were you doing? How can you spend more time doing the things with the people on list 1 and spend less time doing things with the people on list 2?
2. What mantra sustained you this year?
Life can be tough and sometimes there is nothing we can do about what happens to us other than change the way we think or feel about it. When facing a challenge, what is the thinking that spirals you into despair or a sense of hopelessness? When facing a challenge, what is the thinking or thought that helps you stay focused and hopeful? What would change if you created a new positive or sustaining belief system in your life? What would you have to believe differently about yourself or life to create different results in your life? What is one thing you could do different every day to build evidence that your new belief is true?
3. What did you learn to let go of this year?
Letting go is not as easy as it sounds – whether it’s an ex-partner or a belief system that no longer serves you, we can find all sorts of reasons to cling on. What have you let go of in the past and when has it had a great impact in your life? What three things have you let go of in 2018 and how has that improved your life? What three things are you still holding on to and how is that having an impact on your life now? What is the pay-off for holding on to what no longer serves you? E.g. Are you avoiding confrontation? What is the pay off for letting go of what no longer serves you? E.g. Will you have more energy?
4. What did you learn about yourself this year?
Life lessons don’t always come wrapped in pretty packages. Sometimes our most painful experiences teach us the most valuable lessons.
What were the 3 most painful moments this year and what did you learn? What is the moral of your story in 2018? What 3 things worked well and why? How have you sabotaged yourself in 2018 and how can you do things differently in 2019?
5. What are you most proud of achieving this year?
Achievements come in many guises. What are you most proud of achieving in 2018? How do you define achievement? What does ‘success’ look like to you? How do you measure if you’re doing well on a daily basis? How do you measure if you’re doing well on a monthly basis? How do you measure if you’re doing well on a yearly basis? If you were to plan to achieve your goals in 2019, what three specific actions do you need to do differently on a daily basis?
Once you’ve done your end of year review, you can now start to plan ahead for 2019?
· If you weren’t afraid, what would you create in 2019? Write the vision.
· What are three goals, which would support this vision. Break these goals into weekly and daily tasks.
· What healthy habits can you create on a daily basis to set yourself up for success?
· What might get in the way of you reaching your goals and how can you plan to overcome them?
· What is the thinking that will help you feel centred and inspired every day?
Suzy Walker - Editor-in-Chief of Psychologies magazine. To buy the exclusive Psychologies ‘Create The Life You Want’ Journal, click here.