We talk a lot about balance, beauty, and balls around here. But if you want to see an actual change in your life it’s not enough to simply want it really bad, or to read my blog twice a week, or to publicly declare it as your New Year’s resolution. (We all know that those promises don’t make it past mid-January anyway.)
You have to plan for change. You have to plan for self improvement. And this involves a great deal of strategy, which is why — in the footsteps of one of my blog heroes Chris Guillebeau — I’m conducting my own annual review. In Chris’ words, the purpose of an annual review is to reflect on the past year and “create a road map for the year ahead – not a rigid daily schedule, but an overall outline of what matters to me and what I hope to achieve in the next year.”
I’ve already completed a modified version of Chris’ annual review for my own personal records, but I’d like to share excerpts of it here on ABL to model the exercise in case you’d like to try it for yourself:
Part 1: General Reflection
What Went Well In 2011
In the annual review stored in my personal records, I have 8 items listed under this category. Here are 3 of them:
- My husband and I paid off $28,000 in credit card debt that we accrued throughout our 20′s. (It. Feels. Awesome.)
- I found closure and forgiveness regarding a major trauma that happened in 2005.
- I finally launched ABraveLife.com and a private counseling practice after about 10 months of conceptualizing, branding, writing, and planning. (Shout out to my hubby for building this website to my insane specifications. I owe you a big wet kiss. Maybe more. Ooh-la-la.)
What Didn’t Go Well In 2011
Again, there are 8 items on my list. Here are 3 of them:
- I didn’t finish recording my album of original music.
- I wound up on someone’s sh*t list.
- I failed to keep up with my exercise/ running plan.
Part 2: Results From Last Year
I don’t have a completed annual review for last year so there’s nothing to share here. (Booo!) But I expect that for next year’s annual review this section will contain some interesting findings. (Yay!)
Part 3: Planning For Next Year
Like Chris, I’m intentionally trying to accomplish small goals in various areas of my life. Here are some examples:
- have my cholesterol checked (Oh god. This will NOT be good.)
- exercise 3-5x per week
A Brave Life
- continue publishing 2 helpful posts per week
- base all decisions (content, services, comment moderation, etc.) on the interests and needs of ABL readers
- connect with people who blog about similar themes
Private Counseling Practice
I have a list of goals in this category, but I can’t share any of them just yet. You see, Brian and I are bracing ourselves for some major changes in 2012 that will effect our personal lives and our careers, including my private practice. I’m not at liberty to share any information about it. (Are you intrigued yet?)
- start a 6-month emergency savings account
- pay back a friend
Charitable Giving & Volunteer Work
- volunteer at a military vet center and partner with local groups that advocate for military families (There’s actually a crazy back story that goes along with this goal. Stay tuned for it in an upcoming post.)
- donate 100% of my album sales to my charity of choice, Doctors Without Borders
Try Something New/ Crazy/ Unusual
It’s important for me to do adventurous activities that make me want to wet my pants – it’s good practice for when I have to make Big Scary Life Decisions that require me to push through fear. In 2010 I jumped out of a plane during my co-ed skydiving bachelorette party:
In 2011 I participated in Warrior Dash, a 3-mile race that involved jumping over fire, slithering in the mud under barbed wire, climbing over a 20-foot wobbly wall (without the assistance of rope on the way down– eeek!), and other mildly dangerous obstacles:
This year I intend to join the Polar Bear Club for an icy New Year’s Day swim.
I haven’t traveled as much as I’d like to, but I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to vacation in Kenya, Tanzania, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. In the US I’ve visited Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Hollywood, San Fransisco, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Orlando.
My hope is to visit at least one new country or city every year beginning in 2012, and to do it without breaking the bank. In a few months my husband and I will be on a week-long vacation in Aruba (with free lodging and maybe even free airfare – wheee!), so I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start.
- Spend time with friends whom I’ve never hung out with outside of work or grad school
- finish reading a new book every month
- learn to cook at least 5 new vegetarian dishes (with actual vegetables in them, not just carbs and cheese)
- do daily morning meditations or spiritual/ inspirational reading
Again, this list is incomplete but you get the picture. The other half of Part 3: Planning For Next Year involves writing out small actionable steps that will enable you to reach your goals.
Part 4: Theme For The Year
I like Chris’ idea of creating a theme for the next year of your life. He explains that your theme is “the summary of the whole year – what’s it going to look like? Who will I be for the next year?”.
In terms of my personal and professional life 2012 will be: The Year of Planting Seeds.
It’s important to be very clear about your theme. It’ll keep things in perspective. If you forget your theme, you’ll get sidetracked into worrying about all the wrong things.
Take A Brave Life, for example. Even though ABL is only about a month old, my mind keeps racing into the future about what ABL could be one day, and what I’ll have to do on the business end of things in order to get it there. Remember when you were a kid and you used to spin around like a top before falling to the ground in a dizzy spell? When I start thinking about the future of ABL, that’s exactly how I feel – energized, intrigued, and a little nauseous.
But when I focus on the idea of “Planting Seeds” I’m reminded that ABL will still be in its infancy until its first birthday in November of 2012, after which it will transition into a new phase of growth. This means that my only task for the next 12 months is to do an excellent job of making the conditions right for the seeds I plant. It means writing content that aligns with ABL’s message. It means fostering a positive community in the comment section and on our Facebook page. It means meeting other writers with similar goals and intentions. Anything else is a just a distraction.
Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” I think that our greatest regrets and disappointments in life arise from instances when our actions failed to reflect our deepest personal values. And that’s what an annual review is all about — identifying the things in life that are important to us, and creating strategies that enable us to be living reflections of those values.
Is an annual review something that you’d like to try? What are your intentions for 2012?