Your Personal Year in Review

looking back by Markus M. (CC BY-NC-ND)

looking back by Markus M. (CC BY-NC-ND)

You can’t really move forward until you look back.
—Cornel West
I have taken a moment here to rest . . . to look back on the distance I have come. —Nelson Mandela
It is necessary now and then [to ask] “Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?”
―Carl Sandburg
What’s past is prologue. ―William Shakespeare


Talk shows, news outlets, and magazines are filled with the top stories of year—new tech, political sideshows, pop culture, and economic trends. But while icons and pundits cover the usual year-end wrap up—collective memory of public events—only you can address your personal year in review. So before you launch into the next, why not take a few moments to reflect on where you’ve been?


Some questions to get you started:

  • What have you accomplished this year?
  • What have you experienced? Felt? Witnessed?
  • Do you wish you’d done anything differently?
  • What’s changed? Who have you met? Who have you lost?
  • What have you learned? How have you grown?
  • How does the last year’s chapter fit into the larger story of your life?


Most of our days are spent fielding urgent, concrete tasks like assignments, appointments, and errands. But their clamor can drown out the quiet but crucial work of absorbing, reflecting, evaluating, and prioritizing. So with the hectic holiday season winding down, now is a great time to contemplate less pressing, more important stuff like relationships, forgotten dreams, and long-term goals.

Try this: turn off your phone, shut the door, take a deep breath, and consider the past year. Process the blur of activity, obligations, distractions, efforts, and good intentions that have filled your days. Give yourself credit for all you’ve accomplished and endured. Don’t forget the milestones. Think about how far you’ve come since you last sat down to think about these things.

Next, contemplate who you are and who you want to be. Remember your desires and review your plans. Look at how you spend your time. Imagine how you could use the next year to fulfill yourself personally, professionally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and creatively. Such insights can help you make more relevant, meaningful, and effective new year’s resolutions.

Before you raise a toast to new year, remember to take some time for yourself to appreciate the year you’re emerging from. Reflection is action and your discoveries will help you make the most of your coming year.


  1. After thoughtful reflection on the questions you posed, Michelle, I realized that my spirit is finally returning through this process of grief, acceptance, and renewal. Thank you for reminding us of what is truly important in life. May your year be full of blessings that nourish you emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

    • My pleasure, Diana. Thank you. I’m so glad you’re beginning to emerge on the other side. I wish you a year of continued healing with laughter, love, and new adventures.

  2. Reflection is such an important part of life’s journey … one not usually employed by our rushed life styles. We may make New Year’s resolutions (which are often discarded within weeks), but often do not look back on what has transpired. Thanks for this vital perspective. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were incorporated into our educational system on a regular basis?

    • My pleasure, mmm! It’s true, we tend to treat history—in and out of school—as a fixed, dusty, irrelevant subject. It would wonderful if we learned to embrace it as a complex, collaborative, living story that always informs our present. Thank you for your thoughts!

  3. What a great perspective. Most of the time the focus has been only looking forward to new resolutions. Really taking time to look back first makes great sense. Thanks! Just in time too…

  4. When i ponder my past year, i am of two minds. What i accomplished in 2015 is nothing like the achievements of years gone by: writing programmes, designing computer networks, putting students through their paces to create their own achievements, or even helping my own child understand her value and potential. Instead my health forced me to view this year through the reports of doctors, results of tests, the kindness of hospital nurses. The first sort, of the past, had me in control of my destiny and others; the second required my reliance on other’s abilities to control mine. However, upon further reflection, It is more likely than not that both sorts of accomplishments have been brought to bear every year. What is different is how what seems to be an arbitrary, random change in my path has changed my focus, and perhaps for the better because the focus is on gratitude.

    • Congratulations on your recent accomplishment, Abi: an admirable and hard-won shift in perspective after a challenging year. Thank you for sharing. Wishing you good health and happiness in 2016!

What do you think?