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new year, fresh start

Do This Year End Review Before Making Your 2021 Resolutions

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. A fact that I’m sure most people will be looking forward to more than usual this year.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone has had more than their fair share of struggles in 2020. 

Precisely because it was a rough year, I think it’s even more important to look back and reflect on the year past before planning for the coming new year.

“Struggles not only make us into stronger, better, and wiser people, they also let us learn more about ourselves and our purpose in life.”

– Auliq Ice

So before you set your New Year’s Resolutions this year, try this year end review to see what lessons you can learn from 2020, so that you can make 2021 a better year.

In this post I will share with you the year end review that I have decided to make my annual tradition. I will give you directions for how to do your own year end review, and then I will share my answers to the self-reflection questions as an example.

Do this year end review before making your 2021 resolutions.
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Annual Year End Review

The annual year end review that I have designed has 5 questions designed to look at the year that has passed, and 2 questions to look forward to the coming year.

It is important that when you do this review, you give yourself enough time to reflect. When I do these sort of self-discovery activities, I sometimes work on them over a period of days or even a week to really give myself time to let the questions sink in.

It is also really important to be as honest with yourself as possible so that you get the most out of completing the year end review. It can sometimes be tempting to answer the questions thinking of how you would like things to be rather than how they actually are right now.

Looking Back At 2020

The first part of the year end review includes 5 questions that will help you reflect on experiences that you had in 2020. Try to come up with a list of examples for each question if you can.

WHAT WERE YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESSES?

When answering this question, think about all different parts of your life. What successes did you have in your career, health and fitness, relationships, personal growth etc.? What did you do this year that you are really proud of?

For example, my biggest successes this year were:

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WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE, AND WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM?

When considering the lessons that you learned this year, ask yourself if there were any ways that your mindset, or the way you thought about things changed in response to the challenge you faced. 

Did you learn something about yourself, what matters to you, or your priorities? Did you learn something about other people?

For example, my biggest challenges this year were:

  • My ongoing shoulder and wrist injuries from a work accident that occured on January 2nd, 2020.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Being out of work nearly the whole year due to both the injuries & Covid-19.

From these big challenges I have learned that:

  • Being constantly “busy” all the time is not necessarily a good thing.
  • Slowing down gives you time to think about what really matters. 
  • Health and family should never be taken for granted and need to be given priority even in our busy lives.
  • We do not get to choose what happens to us in life, but we do choose how we will react to it. It is our reaction that makes all the difference.
  • Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.
  • Worrying about what you can’t control is a waste of valuable energy.
  • It is important to have multiple income streams and an emergency fund.

[Related: 35 Tough Life Lessons That Ultimately Increased My Happiness]

IN WHAT WAYS DID YOU GROW OR STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE?

What did you do this year that scared you? How did you grow? Did you learn a new skill or start a new venture? Did you work on a meaningful goal or project?

For example, I grew and stepped out of my comfort zone by:

  • Making a more concerted effort to express my needs, and ask my partner for help.
  • Starting to let people see me by writing about my own personal self-discovery journey in my Happy.Healthy.Whole Project.
  • Trying to put aside my perfectionism and fear of failure and releasing my ebook even though it was scary.
  • I decided to pursue an entirely new career path.
  • I have dedicated much of my free time this year to learning new skills including: blogging, SEO, Social media and email marketing, how to develop digital products, affiliate marketing, and studying for a health coaching exam.

If you find that you had trouble stepping out of your comfort zone this past year, maybe that would be a good resolution in itself! If that’s the case, check out the following post: How To Make A Habit Of Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone.

WHAT WERE YOU MOST GRATEFUL FOR?

When answering this question, again, think of all parts of your life. What were you grateful for when it comes to: relationships, career, health, etc.

For example, the things I was most grateful this year are:

  • That my family and I have managed to stay healthy during a global pandemic.
  • For my partner that has taken care of me after my surgery, reassured me through a year’s worth of unemployment, and always been supportive of my blog and new career path.
  • For the gift of time that the pandemic has brought, which allowed me to dedicate time to things I am passionate about and to do some serious self-discovery.
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WHAT THINGS DIDN’T SERVE YOU WELL THAT YOU’D LIKE TO LEAVE BEHIND?

When answering this question, try to think about what things you tried this year that maybe didn’t work out for you. Or people or things that took up too much of your time, energy, or money. Or even ways of thinking that no longer serve you.

For example, the things that didn’t serve me that I’d like to leave behind:

  • Worrying about things that I cannot control.
  • My perfectionism.
  • My previous job where I had two accidents/injuries in 2 years time.

BONUS: The Integrity Report

If you haven’t had enough self-reflection yet, you can also do your own Integrity report. I first came across this idea on the blog of James Clear. The integrity report is an annual self-reflection activity that he does to determine:

  • What his core values are and
  • Whether or not he has lived up to those core values in the previous year.

I did my own integrity report not too long ago and found it massively informative. If you’d like to give your own integrity report a try, see the instructions, and my example here.

Looking Forward To 2021

The second part of the year end review includes 2 questions to help you look forward to 2021.

Now that you’ve had a chance to reflect on the things that you learned and mattered most to you in 2020, consider how you could use this insight to make 2021 an even better year than 2020.

What IS YOUR VISION FOR YOURSELF IN THE NEXT YEAR?

When answering this question, imagine the ideal situation that you would like to be in during the next year. Where do you see yourself? Again, consider all parts of your life.

For example my vision for myself in 2021 includes:

  • Working remotely as a health coach.
  • Making an income from my blog from selling my own digital products and affiliate marketing.
  • Fully recovering from my injuries/surgeries so that I can return to my active hobbies such as backpacking and paddling.
  • My partner and I will be able to travel home and visit family.

WHAT ARE YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS?

Okay, now it’s time to make your own New Year’s Resolutions!

Here are some resources that you might find useful for making, planning, and sticking to your 2021 Resolutions:

That should be just about everything you need to set some amazing New Year’s Resolutions for 2021!

Conclusion

Doing a year end review is a great way to bid goodbye (or in the case of 2020 – good riddance!) to the previous year while getting ready to welcome in the new year.

The 7 self-reflection questions here, will help you form thoughtful New Year’s Resolutions that you’re more likely to stick to long-term!

So let’s hear them! What New Year’s Resolutions will you be working on in 2021? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!

~Clarissa

Do this year end review before you make your 2021 New Year's resolutions!
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Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

78 Replies to “Do This Year End Review Before Making Your 2021 Resolutions

  1. I love this! I’ve never done a year end review like this but I think it will be so helpful! I also love your goals, I’m newer to the blogging game than you and started out for a creative outlet but I love it and am trying to figure out how I can make an income as well by creating my own products. Thanks for the tips!

    1. You are very welcome Kathleen! I’m glad I could introduce you to this method, it’s something that I found really helpful at the end of each year. Especially a year like this.

      Welcome to the blogging world! He gets addicting fast doesn’t it? Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post. And best of luck with your goals and blog in 2021!

  2. This is amazing! Amazing, I tell you!!!!!! I literally just wrote all of these questions down including the Integrity report. I everyone should pause for a moment and just reflect on our lives this past year (as if we havent had enough time to do this already). I cant wait to set time aside to do this and to also share with my friends and family this wonderful idea. This is truly awesome, Clarissa. Thanks for sharing. So creative and much needed for self love, self care, and self reflection for a better self in the future.

    1. Awwww thank you Mz. Tee! I am so glad that you found this year in review so helpful. I hope that your family and friends will enjoy it as well. I absolutely love sitting down and reviewing the year that’s passed to see what lessons I can learn from it and take with me into the next year. Best of luck with your year-end review and goals in 2021, and thanks so much for stopping by to give this a read!

    1. Awwww you are so welcome Lisa I am glad that I was able to. Tumultuous is such a perfect word for what this year was. I hope that this year end review will give you some perspective that will be helpful for the year to come. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and showing your support!

    1. Thank you Jodie! The way I see it the year end review makes it more likely that we only have to learn the tough lessons once as opposed to repeating them again in the new year. It’s amazing what a little reflection can do. Thanks so much for reading and best of luck in 2021!

    1. Thank you for reading Cristina! I hope this year end review will help you to do a little self-discovery and maybe find out what it is that you really want to accomplish in the new year so that you aren’t unsatisfied in the year to come. I also really think that this year end activity helps us to celebrate our successes of the year past which is important as well.

  3. What a great idea! Reflecting on the previous year is a great way to ensure succes in the coming year. I’ve definitely had struggles but also a lot of positives this year. I feel I’ve changed the most this year than any others recently, mostly for the better! Onwards and upwards for 2021!

    1. Yes, that’s awesome Ellie! I also feel that despite the tough year that I’ve grown and for the better. I guess it’s true what they say about learning more lessons from struggles than successes. Onward and upward!

  4. It is so important to look at our successes as well as the places we want to grow and move forward in! I love looking back at the year and being amazed and grateful at how much I have learned. Setting just one good goal to work at for the next year means a lot to me.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are so welcome Jaya! I’m glad you found this helpful. I definitely agree that it’s important to slow down and take time to celebrate our successes and how far we’ve come. Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your goal in 2021!

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful Lucy! I’m sorry to hear you had such a tough year. It really has been a year unlike any other hasn’t it? I have a feeling that a lot of people are going to be changing directions a bit in 2021, so I think the reflection is really helpful for that. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I hope that your 2021 is much happier!

  5. These are great ways to look out for yourself and your goals come 2021. This is an important time of reflection (especially during the current times) and I love your post 🙂 thanks for sharing x

    1. Aww, thank you Eleanor! I definitely agree that the end of the year, and this year in particular, it’s very important to do a little self-reflection to see what direction you want to head in going forwards to 2021. Thank you for reading!

  6. I always like to reflect at the end of the year and see what went well, what I achieved and what I need to work on or get rid of for the new year. Thank you for sharing your tips!

    1. You’re very welcome Lauren, I’m so glad to hear that you found them helpful! The question I added about things to get rid of in the coming year is a new one for me anyways. I’ve got to say I find that to be a really helpful question in the year end review. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  7. I just started to reflect on my 2020 experiences. I need to properly sit down, reflect, and make new resolutions. One thing I noticed this year is how yearly goals don’t really work for me because I learn new things midway and want to make new goals. So I need to work on setting goals that won’t change.
    Great post!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Sumedha! I definitely think a little self-reflection and discovery can be good for really digging into what it is that you want and what direction you want to take your life in. I did that myself in October and decided on a new direction for my career path. I think that can help in the long run with not switching around your goal so much. But, with that being said I like to give myself the freedom to set my monthly goals one month at a time so that I can progress or adapt or adjust as needed as I go throughout the year. You may find that helpful as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment and best of luck in 2021!

  8. This is such a great idea and you’ve included some great tips and prompts too. I’ve never done an end of year review but I’m definitely going to do one this year.

  9. It is so important to reflect before making new decisions. 2020 was such an interesting year with too many plot twists for my taste. Love that you launched your blog. Congrats on your ebook launch too!! Totally with you about leaving behind worries. If we can’t control things, then… well, just let life take its course. Good luck with your 2021 plans!!

    Nancy ✨ mdrnminimalists.com

    1. Thanks so much Nancy! I absolutely agree that 2020 had way too many plot twists and imagine that many people feel the same way. Amen to leaving worries behind! This is still a work in progress for me but I’ve got to say looking back on this year I’ve made huge progress in that category. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a fantastic 2021!

  10. It has been a rough year, and reflecting is so important, especially when years have been challenging. Being able to pick out what you are proud of and share it can really turn around how you do feel about the year! This is such a nice post.

  11. This is so helpful to me! I’ve never done an end-of-year review. I think, given the current situation and to be better next year, I’m definitely going to do one this year 🙂 Thank you for the great tips x

    1. Aww that’s awesome Merry, I’m glad you like it so much! I usually do a little mini reflection at the end of each month, but I’ve really come to look forward to these annual ones. It’s amazing what can change in a single year!

  12. This is definitely something that I need to sit down and do. I am starting to take my blogging efforts more seriously as a business as opposed to just ‘for fun’, so it’s time to take that step in the right direction. I want to be more intentional with my goal setting as I move forward into the new year 🙂

    1. Awesome Britt! That’s so cool to hear that you’re moving forward in your blogging journey. I love it! I am working on it as well! There is so much I’ve learned since last match and still do much to learn still, I’m really enjoying the journey though!

  13. I am a person who loves to reflect and I absolutely LOVE this post! This will help a lot of people put the year in to prospective! Love it

    1. Awww thanks Lisamarie! I’m a big fan of reflections too. It can be so easy to get busy and let all the successes and lessons pass you by without gaining those valuable perspectives as you said. I think this reflection is the perfect way to slow yourself down and get it in.

    1. You’re welcome Sophie! I do an end of the month review as well, but I have made a year end review a tradition as well. And I’ve got to say, I really look forward to it now. It’s pretty amazing how much we can accomplish and how much can change in a single year!

  14. This is a brilliant way to look back over the year. It would be so easy to completely write 2020 but I think it is really important that we learn from this year and take these lessons forward with us.

    Great post and heres to a great 2021!

    1. Yes Claire! 🙌 I know it’s super tempting to try it to think about 2020 at all. But I really believe that it is our struggles more than our triumphs that teach us the most about the world and ourselves. We might as well reflect on and learn from those lessons since we already had to live through them!

  15. Thank you for this! This is so amazing, I have never thought to do this before. This year has been crazy but there has been good things to come out of it. I am excited to review my year.

  16. Clarissa, you have given some amazing tips and insights to reflect back and also setting goals for the coming year. Your positive attitude is an inspiration itself. I will sit back and relax so that the questions fully sink in. I wish you all the health and luck! Happy holidays,

  17. I think the length, love and enthusiasm from the comments says it all. Bravo for all you have done in 2020. You should be incredibly proud. As most here I will be certainly taking a lot of the things you point out and doing a year end evaluation.

    As you I started a blog and much of the “stepping out of my comfort zone” came from not caring how it was received and just writing what came naturally to me. Also Pinterest. I hate that thing. And have to admit it has completely gone to pot recently and I need to completely revisit it.

    I do have one question on this. I don’t do new years resolutions at the start of January. I was wondering what you thought of using a different time of the year to lay out resolutions, a time with less pressure, and, lets be honest, a time of year without January staring you down?

    1. Awww thank you for the kind words! I am glad to hear you will likely be reflecting as well!

      I am absolutely with you on Pinterest. I never used it before blogging and it still feels so outside of my comfort zone. I definitely need to re-up my efforts on it. And congrats on stepping out of your comfort zone with your writing! I absolutely love your style, it is so different and unique compared to other blogs I’ve seen, especially parenting ones. You really have a gift with story-telling that I admire!

      Great question about New Year’s and resolutions. I’ll be completely honest with you – I really don’t like resolutions. People so rarely keep them! I like the magic of new years, the thought of a clean slate and a fresh start – exactly the things others are enchanted by, but I absolutely agree with what you said about it being high pressure. People try to completely change everything like a flip of the switch when that ball drops at midnight, but it’s a bit of a trap if you ask me.

      With that being said, it is the time of year most people are most receptive to making a change, so we fitness and wellness folks have to market towards that. I just think it’s really important to help clients create realistic expectations.

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment and adding to the convo here! Happy new year! ☺️

    1. Thank you, I am glad you liked the review! I think most people are with you in that they’d like to turn the page on 2020 even though they aren’t quite sure what the next chapter will hold. I wish you plenty of health and happiness in 2021!

  18. I absolutely love how in-depth this is, it’s not only motivating for the last few weeks of the year but also for the New Year! I love your writing style too, so easy to read. I’m totally bookmarking this to come back to, definitely a source of inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  19. Hi Clarissa.

    I think it’s a valuable exercise for everybody to take a moment now and then and to reflect on what has happened over the last year or so – and New Year seems as a good a time as any.

    In particular, especially with the 2020 that we have all been through, I think it is well worth taking some time to think about, and be grateful for, all of the good things that we have. Do you have people that you love and who love you? A pet or pets that you care for and who show you affection? Are you in reasonable health? Do you still have a job? A roof over your head and food to eat? Then be thankful – things could be a lot worse (and have been for many who are less fortunate).

    Resolutions? I made one decades ago that I have stuck to ever since – don’t make New Year’s resolutions! If you want to change something, do it now – don’t wait for New Year 🙂

    1. I absolutely agree that you don’t need to wait for the new year to get started on your goals! The sooner the better if you ask me. No time like the present!

      And yes, 2020 was rough for so many,and we’re not out of the woods yet. But I absolutely agree that gratitude can help is get through it. As they say, things could pretty much always be worse. It makes such a big difference to stop and acknowledge what we do have. Thanks so much for the wonderful comment and for adding to the convo here!

  20. ” We do not get to choose what happens to us in life, but we do choose how we will react to it. It is our reaction that makes all the difference.”

    This is a very inspiring post that is full of life lessons. The 5 questions helped me reflect on my experiences this year. It is indeed a rough year, but it did make me stronger. I learned to slow down, learn new things, and get out of my comfort zone. My resolutions… I guess to continue learning new things, take care of my finances (spend less, save more), stick to a healthier lifestyle (diet, exercise, rest).

    Congrats on all your achievements this year. Happy Holidays!

    1. Happy holidays Fritzie! I am glad that you enjoyed post and found the questions helpful! I think one of the most positive things that came out of this year for many people, is as you said, slowing down. I know that I have been very guilty of not allowing down in the past,but this year forced me to whether I wanted to or not. And some good things came of it! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading, and best of luck on your new year’s resolutions!

    1. Awww well I hope they are good tears! I actually really look forward to doing my year end review and seeing how far I’ve come in a year. Maybe it’ll be a new tradition for you as well.

  21. I love this idea. I have never done much reflecting on a year before but I think with all that went on with 2020 it would be nice to do it this year. I am going to write these questions down and answer them in my journal so that I have a record of it and can look back at it and keep track of what I want to accomplish for the coming year. I don’t make resolutions anymore, but I do make yearly goals when I then break them down into monthly chunks to work toward them.

    1. That sounds like a fantastic idea Sarah I’m glad to hear that you will be answering these questions in your journal. I haven’t always done a year-end review but I started a few years ago and I really love it and find it super useful. I hear you about the New Year’s resolutions – I don’t really set resolutions so much as goals as you said. But everyone is a little different so whatever works is awesome! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts here, and happy New Years!

    1. Yaaaay, that’s awesome Erica! I’m sorry it was such a struggle but I’m glad that you were able to take something useful in the form of a lesson from those struggles. I hope 2021 goes a little easier for you. Happy New Year!

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