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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 25 questions you can ask yourself to prompt this type of reflection.
But first, let’s talk about why doing an end-of-year reflection is a critical exercise for your ongoing self-improvement efforts.
What You Will Learn
- What Is an End-of-Year Reflection and Why Is it Important?
- 25 End of Year Reflection Questions to Review Your 2021 Year
- 1. If someone else were to write a book about your year, how would it go?
- 2. What surprised you about this year?
- 3. What worked?
- 4. What didn’t work?
- 5. How did you engage in self-care?
- 6. What do you wish you had done this year?
- 7. What bad habit did you drop?
- 8. What was your greatest accomplishment?
- 9. What disappointed you this year?
- 10. What transitions did you make this year?
- 11. When did you learn from a failure?
- 12. Did you do your best?
- 13. Name a time when you had to be brave and step outside of your comfort zone.
- 14. What did you spend too much time or energy on?
- 15. What did you avoid?
- 16. Who were your major supporters this year?
- 17. What new habit or routine did you create this year to improve your efficiency (either at home or at work)?
- 18. What did you handle well?
- 19. What sticks out as being a meaningful moment?
- 20. What was the most significant thing you read this year?
- 21. What are you grateful for?
- 22. What did you change your mind about?
- 23. What’s a cognitive bias you caught yourself thinking this year?
- 24. If you could rewind one year, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
- 25. What is a new skill that you learned this year?
- Final Thoughts on End of Year Reflection Questions
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 25 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.
Let’s get started.
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.
If you could tell your late-2020 self one thing about this year that you wouldn’t have believed at the time, what would it be? For me, it would be that I haven’t moved on from my full-time job. It’s been a long road and I never thought I would make it a year. But it has shown me that I’m persistent and I’m stronger than I thought I was. What has surprised you, and why?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 2022?
So there you have it: 25 questions to think about when reflecting on this past 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 2022.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.