Do an Impactful Year-End Reflection with the Power of Story

Photo by  Nong Vang  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

The thought of evaluating yourself at the end of the year likely brings up memories of school and stomach-dropping moments of seeing those little letters that sum up your worth and value as a human being.

And because of negativity bias, most of us remember only the bad stuff about our year. If you set resolutions last year, chances are your actual behavior failed to meet the expectations of your ambitions, leaving you feeling disappointed and ashamed.

But I promise you: Your year was much richer and more meaningful than you think. And you’re going to discover how with the power of story.

At this moment, you’re carrying around a story of your past year. Maybe it sounds like, “I didn’t do much.” “It was fine.” “There were ups and downs.” Vague impressions of the average experience you think you had over the past 350ish days.

This does not do your year justice. This does not do your life justice. Because you worked damn hard at existing, and that deserves to be acknowledged.

Our life is a series of memories, and our memories are a series of stories. We are our story, and we become the story we tell ourselves. The story we tell ourselves of this past year shapes who we will become next year.

So grab a journal or some paper, open up your calendar, and settle in for at least 30 minutes, an hour is even better.

And get ready to craft your life story for this past year.

Step 1 - Jog Your Memory

Look through last year’s calendar. For each month, jot down major events, milestones, memories, etc. to create a rough timeline of your year.

Step 2 - Identify Themes

Look across one quarter (3 months) at a time. Identify Challenges, Accomplishments, Relationships, and Growth by asking yourself these questions for each quarter:

  1. What was I feeling challenged by? What was I struggling with?

  2. What did I accomplish? What results did I get?

  3. What people or groups came in or out of my life? What does that say about me?

  4. What new insights, learnings, growth did I experience? How was I shaped?

Step 3 - Write the Body of the Story

Look across each category (i.e. Challenges) for the entire year and summarize it into a short paragraph. It helps to talk through it with a friend then capture what you said.

By the end, you should have 4 sentences or short paragraphs that describe your Challenges, Accomplishments, Relationships, and Growth for the entire year. This is the body of your story.

Step 4 - Write the Introduction Sentence

Create an introduction sentence that summarizes everything. What was my year about?

Step 5 - Stop, Start, Change

Based on your story, what stands out as things you need to Stop doing, Start doing, or Change about what you’re doing? Next year, I want to continue / stop / change…

Step 6 - Write the Conclusion

Based on Step 5, what’s the “moral of the story”? The wisdom, advice, mantra you want to take with you into the next year? As I go into next year, my personal mantra will be…

Put your mantra somewhere you can see everyday!

Step 7 - Take it All in

Read your story in its entirety (Intro, Body, Conclusion) either silently to yourself or aloud to a partner or friend.

Congratulations, you just intentionally created and shaped your life story.

Grab all the steps for this activity in this public GDoc file. Feel free to share it with friends or even have your own year-end storytelling party this year!

We did this activity at a Meetup I hosted last night. Folks were surprised at how much they had done, grown, experienced, and I was blown away by their stories. Their personal mantras were especially powerful and empowering.

Now the next time someone asks you “How was your year?” or “What are your new year’s resolutions?” You’ll know exactly how to answer it. The more you tell this story to your friends and family, the more it will shape your life.

Eddie Shieh, PCC, MFA