As we are coming up on the end of another unique year in history, you’re probably looking forward to post-pandemic life and wishing to leave the past behind you. I think we are all ready for that. But, putting worldly crises aside, it’s still important to reflect on your experiences so you can analyze what’s working and where you have opportunities to make some adjustments or improvements.
While I’m not a huge fan of waiting until January 1st to make positive changes, the ending of one year and beginning of another offers a natural opportunity to take some time to consider the bigger picture of your life. So in this article, we are going to review 33 questions you can ask yourself to prompt this type of reflection.
It’s easy to feel excited for a fresh start to a new year. A clean slate is upon you and you have the best intentions to work hard toward your goals.
But in the midst of thinking about what the future potentially holds, it’s important to reflect upon both the good and bad experiences that have shaped the person you are today. Taking the time to absorb the opportunities and lessons from the past year can help you learn what to do (or not do) to be successful in the future.
While doing an end-of-year reflection, look for the areas in your life that you’ve been successful and where you have made some missteps. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments and consider the lessons you’ve learned during times of struggle. Critique the choices you made and the subsequent outcomes. Could you have spent your money, energy, and time in a way that was more beneficial for your future? What changes can you make moving forward?
Without considering the happenings of the past year, you’re putting yourself at risk of repeating your mistakes or not recognizing where you could make improvements in your life. You may also lose out on the opportunity to acknowledge the progress you’ve made over the past year in your personal and professional life, and doing so can certainly be motivating to keep up the hard work.
But just thinking about the highlights from the last year without any prompts will probably give you an incomplete picture of your year. So we’ve gathered 33 reflection questions that you can use to prompt your memory and help you really analyze where you were a year ago, where you are today, and where you want to go.
1. If someone else were to write a book about your year, how would it go?
This question forces you to take an outsider’s perspective on your reality. How would your story go–would there be progression to the story or would it stay pretty stagnant? Who would be the main characters aside from yourself? What would the moral of the story be? In addition to encouraging you to think about your year as a whole, thinking about this question will help shed some light on how you played a part in some of the stories of other people’s lives as well.
2. What surprised you about this year?
If you could tell your late-2022 self one thing about this year that you wouldn’t have believed at the time, what would it be? What has surprised you, and why?
3. What worked?
In what ways were you successful this year? What goals did you meet? How did you solve some of the problems you faced?
Think about the positive outcomes you worked for, both in your personal and professional life. When you start to reflect on the things you have done well, you may realize it’s a lot more than you would have originally thought.
4. What didn’t work?
What do you wish you had done differently? Could you have approached something with a better attitude or put more effort into a project? Or maybe you should have listened to the constructive feedback you received that felt like criticism at the time. How can you be sure to not repeat this mistake?
5. How did you engage in self-care?
Throughout the chaos of the year, did you take time for yourself? What did you do to unwind or destress? Are there certain times throughout the year that you found you needed to do some extra self-care? What self-care activities did you find to be especially helpful? Think about what coping skills were effective and how you can incorporate them more into your life moving forward.
6. What do you wish you had done this year?
In an effort to minimize regrets and missed opportunities, think of the things that you maybe wanted to do but didn’t. Why didn’t you follow through? Maybe it was something as simple as being invited out one night but you felt too tired to go, or perhaps it was something bigger like turning down a job offer and later regretting it. What was your thought process that led to your ultimate decision and how can you alter this process in the future to have a better outcome?
7. What bad habit did you drop?
And what impact has it had on your life? Did you stop drinking sodas or limit the number of times you bought your lunch from a restaurant during the week? Did dropping your bad habit have the impact that you had hoped for? What bad habit can you drop next year to make an even bigger impact on your life?
8. What was your greatest accomplishment?
Acknowledging your accomplishments will heighten your sense of worth and feelings of purpose. Considering this question also reinforces your positive behaviors that you need when you face new challenges. On the other hand, if you don’t celebrate your accomplishments, you’re endorsing the idea that what you’re doing isn't meaningful.
So what are you the most proud of and how can you continue on that path during the upcoming year?
9. What disappointed you this year?
Reflecting on what disappointed you this year will help you address your struggles and explore the negative emotions that you experienced. For example, maybe you received unfavorable feedback at work that was difficult to spin into an opportunity for growth–or maybe a relationship that you had high hopes for didn’t work out.
Thinking about this question will help you get in touch with any leftover feelings of anger, hurt, or resentment that may still be affecting you today. This can give you a more balanced perspective of the situation and offer a chance to recognize a missed opportunity, granting greater insight about yourself that can help shape your future goals.
10. What transitions did you make this year?
Did you start a new job? Or go through a breakup? What chapter in your life turned a page this past year and what have you learned during the process?
11. When did you learn from a failure?
It takes courage to acknowledge your failures without letting them define you, but doing so helps with self-acceptance and it will encourage you to get used to finding the lessons in your mistakes.
There are many well-known people who found success through failure. One thing you can always learn from your mistakes is that they’re not the end of the road. To overcome your failure, you need to evaluate and alter your approach. In doing so, your failure will teach you that you have to embrace change to be successful. What changes do you need to embrace in the coming year?
12. Did you do your best?
Surely you will be able to think of some times when you did your best and other times when you didn’t. Think about the circumstances that were preventing you from not giving your all to a task and what the consequences were. What did you do in situations where you did your best and failed? Asking yourself if you did your best will help you compassionately accept your failures.
13. Name a time when you had to be brave and step outside of your comfort zone.
Stepping out of your self-imposed boundaries probably isn’t something that you generally look forward to doing, but doing so can come with great rewards. Think about the times that you were able to survive outside of your comfort zone in the last year and how you grew from those experiences. Think about what coping skills helped get you through it and set some goals for the future that include using these skills to support you in the process of self-growth. Think about the times that you were able to survive outside of your comfort zone in the last year.
14. What did you spend too much time or energy on?
Some things seem like a big deal at the moment and we get caught up in handling what seems to be a critical issue; but upon reflection, you can recognize the outcome didn’t have a significant impact on your life. What can you put into perspective now that you couldn’t seem to at the time? How can you remember to stop and put things into perspective in the future before wasting your time or energy?
15. What did you avoid?
Maybe another year has gone by and you’ve managed to avoid having a difficult (but necessary) conversation, or you’ve continued to avoid the late payment reminders on some old debt. If there is something that you’re keeping on the backburner, make it a goal to knock it out in the upcoming year.
16. Who were your major supporters this year?
Who did you count on to always be there for you this year? If you started a new job, maybe there is one particular co-worker who has been especially helpful or maybe you’ve made a new professional contact who has helped you advance your career. Make sure that the people who have helped you throughout the year know that you’re appreciative.
17. What new habit or routine did you create this year to improve your efficiency (either at home or at work)?
Being efficient is a key part of working smarter. I “trialed and errored” this year until I found an organizing routine at work that keeps me on top of things and prevents me from letting any little task slip through the cracks. It took a lot of tries before I got this just right–but once I did, it increased my confidence in my work and now I don’t have to go back and double check myself constantly throughout the day.
18. What did you handle well?
It’s easy to walk away from a situation wishing you had handled it differently, but what are some things that you handled well this year? What was your decision-making process at the time? How can you apply a similar process in future endeavors?
19. What sticks out as being a meaningful moment?
Thinking about the moments that left a lasting impression will help you determine what you want to spend more time doing in the upcoming year. Maybe it was a rare moment with a friend or a volunteer activity you did–examining what mattered the most to you this year will help you determine where you want to spend more time moving forward.
20. What was the most significant thing you read this year?
What sticks out in your mind as having the biggest impact on your life–whether it was a motivational self-help book, an inspiring biography, or a single blog post that prompted you to make a big change? Think of everything that you’ve learned through reading over the past year and reflect on the things that really impacted you in some way.
21. What are you grateful for?
When you think about what you’re grateful for, you will gain a deeper understanding of the things that matter to you so you can establish goals that are aligned with your values and priorities for the upcoming year. Start by creating a gratitude list or use these gratitude prompts for inspiration.
22. What did you change your mind about?
This doesn’t have to be major (like changing your career path), but it could be. This could also be a belief or opinion that you no longer hold or plans for the future that you once had but have now changed. Thinking about the things that you’ve changed your mind about will help remind you of life’s fluidity. Thinking about the things that you’ve changed your mind about will help remind you of life’s fluidity and how you’re constantly evolving. Very few things in life are set in stone, so you don’t always need to be rigid or hard on yourself.
23. What’s a cognitive bias you caught yourself thinking this year?
What mental shortcuts have you taken and what snap judgements did they lead to? Did you catch yourself thinking in terms of a cognitive bias in the moment or is it only upon reflection that you’re recognizing your mistake?
Staying aware of cognitive biases will help reduce the amount of flawed reasoning you use and help you make better decisions. Being able to spot these biases (both when you fall for them and in conversation with others) will give you an open mind and ultimately lead to better choices.
24. If you could rewind one year, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
It’s interesting to see how much knowledge and wisdom you've gained through this past somewhat challenging year. Take the advice that you would give to your past self and apply it now to help improve this next year.
25. What is a new skill that you learned this year?
Maybe you had to switch over to an updated computer system at work or you took up a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to learn about. Think of at least one skill in which you’ve progressed through the stages of learning and competence this year.
What skills do you want to learn in 2023?
26. How did your relationship with yourself change this year?
As we learn and grow mentally and spiritually, we learn a little more about ourselves. As you reflect on the past year, ask yourself if you have become your own best friend, disappointed yourself, or in some other way discovered a trait that changed how you view yourself. Hopefully, you have discovered some wonderful things about yourself and your strengths throughout the year.
27. What was the most fun you had this year?
When asking this question, consider the company you were with, the activity, and what mindset you were in when this fun occurred. Maybe you had a dream come true or maybe it was just a realization you came to about being happy while participating in a routine activity.
Were you surprised at the thought that you were having fun? Make sure you include elements of this event in your future plans!
28. What three words sum up the theme of this year?
Condensing the year into a mere three words won't be easy. It requires that you look at the year as a whole, as well as individual highlights. You may be surprised at how many good things happened that allowed your focus to stray away from the lesser moments.
Yet, you may have had one major event that took all your strength and courage to get through. Look over the year's events with a non-judgmental view and ask yourself what three words appear most often.
29. Did I improve anyone's life this year?
A successful life is more than just how much you improve, it is also about what kind of impact you leave behind. Sometimes we don't even realize how much we have done to make someone's life better. A smile or compliment given at the right moment can literally save a life. Maybe you didn't go out and create some major act of heroism, but think back over the year.
A successful life is more than just how much you improve, it is also about what kind of impact you leave behind.
Did you teach someone something they were struggling with? Did you listen to someone who was feeling alone and unheard? Maybe you delivered a hot meal to a neighbor who was ill or spent time volunteering at an animal shelter. You did make a difference, even if you may not realize it.
30. What character trait did I find most useful this year?
We often find ourselves relying on the same few character traits. Sometimes, it appears we need to rely on resourcefulness to get through several things in a row. Other times, it is our ability to be a great listener or courage. Think back over the past year.
Was there a particular character trait you found helped you the most throughout the year? Do you think it was a good thing or a negative thing that this was the most prevalent trait necessary? Did you find out you had a positive trait, such as calmness or strength, that you didn't realize you had?
31. How are you different than when you started the year?
Unless you spend your life sitting at the kitchen table all day, every day, going nowhere and doing nothing but watching videos or scrolling through Facebook, there is going to be some change in you. Living itself is conducive to change, be it positive or negative. Change means you are different.
Look back to this time last year and see how you are different today than you were last year. Maybe the difference is a small one. Maybe it is huge. Think about how you are different and decide whether you want to continue going in that direction.
32. How has the way you view yourself changed over the past year?
We tend to view ourselves in a completely different way than others view us. Every so often, however, we get through a situation, have success, or do something else that changes the person we see in the mirror. Often, we think we are less capable, less lovable, or less deserving than we are.
Were you able to put aside any such images of yourself this year and start to see the incredible person you truly are? What caused you to come to that realization? Make sure you carry that new positive image into the new year. If, however, your image of yourself has changed for the worse, take a deep look and find out why, then look for ways to see the best in yourself.
33. What can you do to improve next year?
Any review of the current year needs to include an idea of what you want to change or keep in the coming year. Regardless of how well your year went, do you have goals for how you want to grow in the coming year? Everyone has an idea of where they want to be. Can you think about what steps you need to take to move forward? Life is about growth. You've got this!
Final Thoughts on End of Year Reflection Questions
To recap, here are 33 questions to think about when reflecting on this past year.
If someone else were to write a book about your year, how would it go?
What surprised you about this year?
What didn’t work?
How did you engage in self-care?
What do you wish you had done this year?
What bad habit did you drop?
What was your greatest accomplishment?
What disappointed you this year?
What transitions did you make this year?
When did you learn from a failure?
Did you do your best?
Name a time when you had to be brave and step outside of your comfort zone.
What did you spend too much time or energy on?
What did you avoid?
Who were your major supporters this year?
What new habit or routine did you create this year to improve your efficiency (either at home or at work)?
What did you handle well?
What sticks out as being a meaningful moment?
What was the most significant thing you read this year?
What are you grateful for?
What did you change your mind about?
What’s a cognitive bias you caught yourself thinking this year?
If you could rewind one year, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
What is a new skill that you learned this year?
How did your relationship with yourself change this year?
What was the most fun you had this year?
What three words sum up the theme of this year?
Did I improve anyone's life this year?
What character trait did I find most useful this year?
How are you different than when you started the year?
How has the way you view yourself changed over the past year?
What can you do to improve next year?
Hopefully you’ve been able to think about some achievements or successes that you had previously overlooked.
When answering these questions, make sure to consider all of the ideas that you can think about related to the prompt so you can recognize how much you’ve evolved as a person. In doing so, you will set yourself up for a progressive and successful 2023.
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