With the end of the decade and the start of the new year, we tend to look back and assess the progress we’ve made towards our goals and set new ones. While this year-end review process has the potential to be positive and inspiring, it can also be negative and self-defeating. As a result of negative biases in our thinking we are all more likely to focus on what we haven’t done rather than what we have, or on how we’ve stagnated rather than grown. This can lead us down a path of self-criticism and negativity that can undercut our motivation to move forwards. SO, in the spirit of the new decade, instead of focusing on shortcomings and unattained goals, let’s shift the focus. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
What were the major accomplishments of 2019?
As you reflect on your accomplishments, think about what was needed to make them happen. In addition to all the small action steps, they also may have required getting out of your comfort zone, taking social risks, believing in yourself and perseverance.
What were the best 3 decisions of 2019? Of the decade?
Focus on the decisions that had the most positive impact on your life and/or were catalysts for other positive changes. Maybe it was relocating to a new city, starting a new job, or taking up an new hobby. How did these decisions reflect your values and advance your long-term interests as part of creating the life you want?
What were the lessons of 2019?
What new insights did you gain about yourself personally and professionally? What beliefs and assumptions were challenged or changed?
What were the trends to continue?
Even if you didn’t achieve certain goals, it’s important to acknowledge the incremental progress you’ve made towards your goals and reframe them as trends to continue. If you’re single, maybe you didn’t find the love of your life last year, but there was an improvement in the quality of your dating relationships, e g. finding people more closely aligned with your values. Maybe you didn’t run a marathon or lose all the weight you wanted, but you exercised more days per week last year and started some healthy eating habits. Maybe you practiced asserting yourself more. What were the activities that increased positive emotions and your sense of well being? These are trends to continue.
What were the trends to discontinue?
Look for repeated patterns in thinking, behavior or emotional responding that were associated with negative outcomes. Maybe you said yes to things you really didn’t want to do, or repeatedly made the same assumption that was proven wrong every time. Maybe you procrastinated too much or spent excessive time binge watching Netflix. These are trends to discontinue.
Answering these questions provides a constructive framework for your year-end review and setting goals for continuing to create the life you want.
Dr. Lisa Napolitano is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based treatments. A licensed psychologist in New York and Florida, she is the Founder and Director of CBT/DBT Associates, a boutique psychology practice group. Dr. Napolitano is an expert in the treatment of stress, anxiety, worry, and emotion regulation problems. She has specifically designed her treatment approach for executives, attorneys, and other high-functioning individuals whom she believes shouldn’t have to sacrifice their careers to manage their stress and work on developing their potential.