Annual Review: Reflection and Setting Intentions for the New Year

reflectionEach year I like to take time to reflect on the year about to past. This year is the first time I have formalized the process.

I was inspired by my friends Jared Kessler and Chris Guillbeau to bring some more structure to this exercise. In previous years I’ve gone about this in a kind of messy way. I’ll review and take time to think about it whenever the thought occurs to me.

This year, I decided to do things differently. I came up with a set of questions that I believed would be good for me to answer in retrospect to 2009. Asking yourself powerful questions, I believe, is one of the most underrated exercises you can do.

If you’d like to download the questions I used: click here.

After I finished the review process, I created a new spreadsheet and created a category for what I believe are the most important areas of my life: Career, Financial, Fitness, Health, Personal, Relationships, and Spiritual.

If you know me, you probably know that I’m not crazy about goal setting. I’ve actually recommended several times that it may be a good idea to kill your goals. I still stand by that sentiment for the most part. I don’t generally do well with goals, especially ones that are quota or numbers based (exactly the type of measurable goals most people recommend setting).

I do think, however, that setting intentions for the most important areas of your life is a very powerful process. I have a list of intentions that I regularly update on a cork board above my desk, and I often spend time meditating each day on my intentions.

Recently, I’ve become more relaxed when it comes to setting goals. Sometimes, they can be useful. But it’s important not to get too caught up in meeting quotas and checking things off a list. When your goals start owning you, you have a problem.

But if you remain flexible to your intentions, it can be useful to use goals as a way to measure your commitment and progress. For example, there’s no way I could perform a one-arm pull-up without first fulfilling a goal of doing assisted one-arm pull-ups for several months. I would need to keep to a consistent schedule to accomplish this. That’s perfectly fine. It’s when I get too attached to my goals, get stressed out, and forget why I set them in the first place (to reach my potential and to be happy), that I lose sight of things.

Some of the intentions in each area of my life contain measurable goals. Fitness is an area where this tends to come up a lot. But there area other areas, like relationships, where setting goals becomes close to meaningless. So, I use them only where they are appropriate and make sense.

If you’re curious, here are some of the intentions or goals that I have created for 2010:

Career:

  • Launch a fitness-based product that ties into the physical expression of self-development.
  • Write one article or guest post per week.
  • Move into an apartment with an office (I currently work mostly out of the living-room couch or desk in the bedroom).
  • Create repeatable systems in my business (free myself up to work on creating content).

Financial:

  • Increase income to $70,000 (currently at about $45,000).
  • Save at least $10,000 toward down payment on a home.

Fitness:

  • Successfully complete a one-arm pull-up with each arm.
  • Hold free-standing handstand for 60 seconds. (Personal record is about 8 seconds right now.)
  • Trail run for at least 3 miles barefoot.
  • Complete full side split.

Health:

  • Eat 100% raw until dinner every day (I do this about 5 times a week right now).
  • Completely switch from coffee to drinking tea.

Relationships:

  • Become a better listener.
  • Take at least three romantic getaways.

Spiritual:

  • Increase meditation to 30 minutes per day (currently at about 15 min).
  • Become more mindful.
  • React less, be more grounded.

These are just a few of the intentions/goals that I’ve created. Interestingly, most of the goals I have this year are in fitness. I’m really interested in pushing the envelope here. Since I’ve become more engrossed with gymnastics/bodyweight type exercise, and ditched weightlifting, I’ve become much more motivated in this area. The awesome thing about gymnastics and bodyweight excercise is that as you progress you move on to more and more difficult progressions. You gain different skills, build coordination, balance, and functional strength. With weight-lifting, you’re simply lifting more and more weight. That gets boring after a while.

Staying flexible.

All of these intentions and aspirations may change over time. I may realize that something isn’t working, and I need to change things up. I may need to modify or drop something. I may be highly unbalanced and focus on one area each quarter or season of the year.

What’s most important to me is to remember that I create these intentions to be happy. That is the ultimate end. If I cling too much, something needs to change.

Creating a theme.

A practice that I’ve been doing for some time is creating a theme for each month. In 2009 I created a theme for the year as well. 2009 was the year of Liberation; the year that I quit my job and started working for myself. I’m not sure what 2010 will be yet… I have an idea of what it’s starting to look like, but I won’t say yet.

Creating a theme for each month or year is a highly valuable practice. It allows you to see what direction you want the year to head. It gives you a compass to guide each week and month.

It will be easier for you to see what you might have to give up, in order to make what you want to achieve a reality. I had to give up a lot and say no to a lot of things this year in order for me to remain focused on building my business to the point where I could quit my job. It wasn’t easy sometimes, but my theme helped me remain focused. It anchored me when the winds of indecision and uncertainty blew in.

I highly recommend that you try this exercise this year. Even if you don’t end up using your plan, or following it to the letter, it will still give you a clearer picture on what’s most important to you, and the direction you want to take your life.

photo courtesy of djwhelan

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