Taking a good, hard look at our lives can be challenging, but it's also incredibly powerful. It allows us to see where we've been and where we want to go. It gives us perspective on our choices and helps us learn from our mistakes. And perhaps most importantly, it allows us to set realistic goals for the year ahead.
I. How to Do a Life Review
A life review is simply a process of reflection. You can do it by yourself or with a friend or therapist. There are no right or wrong answers, and there is no specific format you need to follow. The only goal is to take an honest look at your life and see where you've been and where you want to go.
There are many benefits to doing a life review. First, it can help you identify your values and priorities. What's important to you? What do you want more of in your life? Doing a life review can also help you gain perspective on your choices. Are you happy with the way things have turned out? What would you change if you could do it all over again?
Life Review questions to consider:
- What went well last year?
- What do you want to achieve this year?
- What do you want to improve on this year?
- What are your top three priorities for the year?
A life review can help you set realistic goals. All too often, we set grandiose resolutions that are impossible to achieve. By taking a step back and looking at our lives as a whole, we can identify small changes that will make a significant impact toward your big goal. These mini-habits are much more likely to stick than major overhauls, leading to lasting change over time.
II. Tips for setting effective goals:
When setting goals, it's important to be realistic and specific. Vague resolutions such as "lose weight" or "get in shape" are more likely to fail because they're not measurable. Instead of setting goals that are impossible to track, choose specific and achievable goals. For instance, you could resolve to walk for 30 minutes every day or eat a piece of fruit with breakfast every morning.
Once you've settled on one or two desired goals, it's time to create a plan for how you will achieve them. This step is critical; without a concrete plan, it will be easy to fall back into your old habits come mid year. When making your plan, set small, achievable goals that you can complete regularly. For example, if you resolve to walk for 30 minutes every day, back that up into a smaller bite by committing to walking for 10 minutes every day for the first week. Then, increase the amount of time you walk by 5 minutes each week until you reach your goal of 30 minutes.
If that doesn't sound motivating, back it up to an even smaller bite. To get into the mindset, put on your walking clothes and then take them off. Putting out the effort many times is the biggest hurdle. Once you made the effort, the rest is easy to do. It stimulates the nervous system.
III. Create Positive Patterns
Once you have establish your goals and broke them down into doable sizes, we want to create a productive pattern.
Questions to consider when creating a pattern that aligns with your goals:
- What mindset, motivation or patterns helped you achieve your previous accomplishments?
- What patterns or triggers did not help you get where you wanted to go?
Many times we know what we need to do in order to accomplish our goal. For instance we know eating healthy, exercising, and getting a good night sleep will make us more productive than staying up all night and eating junk food. However, if we have a pattern of sitting on technology until we hours of the night, we know it doesn't create restful sleep and that won't be in alignment with where we want to go. Think about your daily routine. Try writing down patterns you notice, such as your routine when you get up in the morning, when you go to work, when you get home, and your evening routine. If you have a stressful day at work, do you come home and have a glass of wine? This pattern would be out of alignment with your goal of getting fit for the summer.
Try these steps to break it down:
- Notice the triggers or patterns you tend to follow
- Journal the pattern and where it leads, so you can make future enlightened choices
- Establish a "go to" that quickly realigns your actions to your goals, for when you go off track.
For example, say you had a hard day at work. A friend calls you up to have a drink. You are happy to go out because you had a stressful day at work. You stay out late and drink too much. You wake up the next morning feeling worn down and tired. Notice your patterns and triggers. What could you do in a similar situation in the future that would not cause you to sacrifice life's pleasures but still keep you more in alignment with your goals? Could you make a few swaps that would keep you more on track than other choices? If you eat poorly what healthy "go to" food could you eat the next day to set you on track again?
If you're feeling stuck or unfulfilled, doing a life review can be beneficial. It's a chance to reflect on your accomplishments, learn from your mistakes, set realistic goals, and create productive patterns for the year ahead. You might be surprised at what you discover about yourself, what patterns... good or bad you have —and what's possible for your future.