- Leaving a Legacy
- Reflecting on 2023 and Planning for 2024
Reflecting on 2023 and Planning for 2024
A Routine for an Intentional Year
If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up somewhere else.
Reflecting on 2023 & Planning for 2024
As we approach the end of another year, I want to share with you a personal journey that I'm undertaking for the first time: a comprehensive routine for developing a clear plan for the coming year.
I have always understood the importance of planning; however, until now, I had not applied a rigorous process to develop a clear understanding of what I personally want to achieve in the coming year. I had never written a personal annual plan and I gave up on New Year’s resolutions more than a decade ago.
Yet, I firmly believe that in our fast-paced, constantly evolving world, taking a moment to pause, reflect, and plan is not just beneficial; it's essential for personal growth and fulfillment.
Thus, here we are at the cusp of a new year, and I have concluded that I need a new routine to maximize the output of 2024.
My intentional and purposeful focus on planning for next year likely stems from the fact that — as a 42 year old — unless I outlive the average, I have less than 50% of my lifespan remaining. Sobering thought for sure — and motivating.
I'm eager to share the routine I developed and am implementing to transform the way I approach the new year. This process is a blend of reflection and forward-thinking, and I'm excited to guide you through it.
The routine starts with two sets of journaling prompts designed to facilitate deep reflection on the past year and insightful planning for the next. These prompts aim to be more than mere questions; they’re intended to facilitate true introspection, helping to uncover our priorities and goals.
The two phases are distinct and of equal importance.
Reflecting on the past year helps us to acknowledge our achievements, understand our shortcomings, and appreciate the journey we've undergone. It's a powerful tool for self-awareness, allowing us to see the patterns in our lives, the decisions that shaped our year, and the lessons we've learned. This understanding is crucial as it lays the foundation for our future plans.
Planning for the upcoming year, on the other hand, is about setting intentions. It's a proactive approach to living, where we decide what we want our lives to look like, what goals we aspire to achieve, and what kind of person we want to become. This planning isn't just about ambition; it's about aligning our daily actions with our deepest values and aspirations.
After reflecting and journaling, the routine moves into a series of concrete planning exercises. These exercises translate the journaling output into a set of new inputs for the written plan.
Wheel of Life: The first exercise is called the “Wheel of Life”, which is a visual, holistic tool designed to help us systematically evaluate different aspects of our lives. By quantifying the areas where we feel most and least fulfilled, we uncover where we need to focus our efforts to maximize the probability of enjoying a well-rounded and satisfying year ahead.
Goal Setting: The second exercise is more akin to what one typically thinks of when creating an annual plan. But, since we’ve already laid the foundation and created a framework for our goal setting, we’ll focus on the areas of our life that need the most attention.
Wishlist: The third exercise, which I anticipate being the most fun, involves simply creating a list of wishes. This could include taking a particular trip or going to a particular concert. Think of it as your 2024 Bucket List.
Mantra: This final exercise, which I have done the last two years, may feel a bit hokey at first. Yet, I have found great psychological benefit from having a phrase to anchor myself to when feeling adrift or frustrated, which inevitably will happen over the course of the year. Some people recommend choosing a word of the year; however, I felt a single word too limiting.
Finally, you’ll need to document the work you’ve done. Whether you prefer a traditional journal, a digital tool like Notion, or a simple notepad, the medium is less important than the commitment to the process. Nonetheless, it is important to document and preserve the work product. This enables you to come back to this later and assess your progress. I’m planning to journal and write my plan in a notebook, then move it into Notion.
Journaling: Reflection and Intention
This exercise is divided into two parts: reflecting on the past year and intentional planning for the next. Reflection is critical; it helps us understand where we've been and informs our future path. Planning, on the other hand, gives us a roadmap to navigate the year ahead.
To aid in this process, I've compiled a list of journaling prompts. These prompts are designed to trigger deep introspection and strategic thinking:
Gratitude Reflection: What are the three things from the past year you are most grateful for, and why?
Challenges Overcome: What were the biggest challenges you faced last year? How did you overcome them, and what did you learn from those experiences?
Personal Growth: In what ways did you grow personally over the last year (skills, knowledge, self-awareness, etc.)?
Missed Opportunities: Reflect on any missed opportunities. Why do you think they were missed, and how can you prepare to seize similar opportunities in the future?
Joyful Moments: Recall the moments of joy and happiness. What made them special, and how can you create more such moments?
Relationships: How have your relationships evolved? What relationships were most meaningful, and how do you plan to nurture them going forward?
Health and Wellbeing: How did you take care of your physical and mental health? What practices would you like to continue or start next year?
Career and Professional Development: Reflect on your career or professional path. What were your significant achievements, and what are your goals for the coming year?
Creativity and Hobbies: How did you express your creativity or engage in hobbies? Do you plan to explore new activities or deepen existing interests?
Life Balance: How balanced was your life between work, personal time, family, and other commitments? What changes do you want to make for better balance?
Lessons Learned: What are the most important lessons you learned last year, and how will they influence your decisions going forward?
Mindset Shifts: Were there any changes in your mindset or perspective? How have these shifts impacted your life?
Giving Back: In what ways did you contribute to your community or causes you care about? How do you plan to give back in the coming year?
Future Planning Prompts
Future Self Visualization: Imagine yourself a year from now. What aspects of your life and self do you hope to see evolved or transformed?
Emotional Aspirations: Envision the emotions you wish to experience more frequently in the coming year. What activities, habits, or changes might lead to these feelings?
Nurturing Relationships: Think about the kind of relationships you want to cultivate. What qualities do you wish to develop or demonstrate in these relationships?
Financial Vision: Rather than specific financial goals, ponder what financial well-being means to you. What steps can you take to align your financial habits with this vision?
Sources of Joy: Imagine scenarios where you feel incredibly joyful and fulfilled. What are you doing in these scenarios, and how can you make them a more frequent part of your life?
Personal Contribution: Reflect on how you want to impact your community or the world. What kind of legacy or influence do you want to cultivate?
Learning Journey: Consider the areas of knowledge or skills you're curious about. How can exploring these enhance your life and self-understanding?
Adventurous Spirit: Think about the types of adventures or new experiences you want to seek. What do these adventures teach you about yourself and your desires?
Overcoming Future Challenges: Contemplate the kinds of challenges you might face. How can you prepare mentally and emotionally to meet them?
Building Support Networks: Envision your ideal support system. What kinds of relationships and networks do you want to build or strengthen?
Balancing Life: Reflect on what a balanced life looks like for you in the future. What adjustments or changes might be necessary to achieve this balance?
Progress Indicators: Consider how you will recognize personal growth. What signs will indicate that you are moving in your desired direction?
Living According to Values: Think about your core values. How can you ensure that your actions and decisions in the coming year align with these values?
The Wheel of Life Exercise
Now that we’ve spent time pondering the past and upcoming year, we'll use the Wheel of Life exercise. It's a simple yet powerful tool to assess various life aspects – from career and health to relationships and personal growth.
Essentially, you’re building a radar chart of your current satisfaction level versus your desired satisfaction level across a series of life dimensions.
Here is a template Wheel of Life. However, I believe it is necessary to refine this tool. For instance, instead of lumping 'family and friends' into one category, I recommend breaking it down. From a family perspective, you could rate your level of satisfaction as a spouse, parent, sibling, and child. This granularity will help you create more specific, actionable goals.
Here's how we'll approach it:
Rate your current satisfaction level in each life area.
Mark where you aspire to be in these areas by the end of 2024.
Identify the areas with the most significant gaps – these are your focus areas for 2024.
Setting 2024 Goals
Based on the Wheel of Life exercise:
Review Your Wheel of Life Assessment: Start by looking at your completed Wheel of Life, where you've rated different areas of your life. Identify the areas with the lowest scores—these typically indicate aspects of your life that need more attention or improvement. Then, select the 3-5 focus areas with the most significant gaps between your current level of satisfaction and your aspirational level of satisfaction.
Reflect on Your Dissatisfactions: For each focus area, spend some time thinking about why you're dissatisfied. Is it due to lack of attention, external circumstances, or perhaps a misalignment with your values?
Define What Success Looks Like: For each focus area, consider what a higher level of satisfaction would look like. What specific changes or achievements would make you feel more fulfilled in these areas? This helps in setting clear and tangible goals.
Brainstorm Possible Goals: Think of potential goals for each focus area. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals). For example, if 'Physical Health' is a focus area, a goal might be to “Reduce Body Fat to [X%] in 6 months.”
Set Actionable Steps: Break down each goal into smaller, actionable steps. This makes your goals less daunting and provides a clear roadmap to follow. For instance, for our hypothetical Physical Health goal, an actionable step could be “hire a personal trainer” or “weight train 3x per week.”
Check for Balance: Ensure that your goals across different areas are balanced and manageable. Overloading yourself in one area can lead to neglect in others. The aim is to improve your overall life satisfaction, not to perfect one single aspect of your life. This is also why we’re only focusing on 3-5 areas.
Consider Interconnections: Recognize how improving one area might influence another. For example, improving 'Physical Health' might also enhance your 'Mental Well-being'.
The 2024 Wishlist
This list is about dreams and bucket lists, not tracked goals. Have fun and think of experiences or milestones you'd love to achieve – like attending a specific concert or taking a dream vacation. These are your heart's desires for the year.
Two items on my 2024 Wish List are to take my sons to concerts of their choosing. My eldest son wants to see Kane Brown. We’re targeting March 28 in Charlottesville, VA. My youngest son wants to see Dua Lipa. Unfortunately, she hasn’t realized her 2024 US Tour schedule.
The Mantra of the Year
Creating a yearly mantra has been a game changer for me. In 2022, 'C3E' (consistent effort, energy, and empathy) guided my actions. In 2023, 'PwPP' (Patience while pursuing progress) was my compass. These mantras were reminders of my core focus, helping me stay aligned with my values and goals.
For 2024, think of what encapsulates your vision and approach for the year. This mantra will be your anchor, your constant reminder amidst the chaos of daily life.
Here’s a routine for creating your own mantra for 2024:
Reflect on Past Lessons and Future Goals: Start by reflecting on the most significant lessons from the past year and your goals for the upcoming one. What themes or learnings stand out? Your mantra should resonate with these insights and aspirations.
Identify Core Values and Desires: Think about your core values and what you deeply desire for the year ahead. Is it growth, balance, courage, or perhaps joy? Your mantra should reflect these fundamental principles and desires.
Consider Challenges and Aspirations: Acknowledge the challenges you might face and the aspirations you hold. A useful mantra can be a source of motivation and encouragement when confronted with obstacles.
Keep it Simple and Powerful: A mantra is most effective when it's concise yet powerful. Aim for a short phrase or even just a few words that are easy to remember and repeat.
Use Action Words: Incorporate verbs or action words that evoke a sense of movement or change, such as ‘grow’, ‘thrive’, ‘create’, or ‘overcome’.
Make it Positive and Affirming: Ensure your mantra is framed positively. It should uplift, inspire, and affirm your capabilities and intentions.
Personalize It: Your mantra should be deeply personal and meaningful to you. It might not make sense to anyone else, and that's okay. It's your guiding star, not anyone else's.
Test and Tweak: Once you have a draft, say it out loud. How does it feel? Does it resonate? Don't hesitate to tweak it until it feels just right.
Visualize and Embody: When you've settled on your mantra, close your eyes and visualize it in action. How does it manifest in your daily life, decisions, and interactions?
Incorporate It into Your Daily Routine: Write your mantra in your journal, set it as a reminder on your phone, or place it somewhere you'll see it every day. The more you see and repeat your mantra, the more ingrained it will become in your daily life. I write mine on the white board in my gym.
Remember, your mantra is a personal emblem for the year. It should inspire and guide you, serving as a reminder of what you wish to focus on, achieve, or embody throughout the year.
You’ve already written everything down. It may be in a journal or a digital document. As I mentioned earlier, the medium is not important; it is the commitment to the process. If you decide to transfer your goals to a tool like Notion for tracking purposes, let me know what works best for you. I’m curious to learn new approaches.
This routine and series of exercises isn't just about setting goals; it's about understanding ourselves better, realigning with our core values, and setting a purposeful direction for our lives.
Let me know how this goes for you. We’re embarking on this journey together, embracing the lessons of the past and the possibilities of the future, as we step into 2024 with clarity, purpose, and enthusiasm.
Here's to a thoughtful, intentional, and transformative 2024!
I enjoy curious people and encourage my boys to remain curious about the world around them. Maintaining a high level of curiosity is an essential component of being a life long learner. After all, curiosity is the root of innovation and creativity.
During interviews I always try to assess a candidate’s curiosity because I believe curious colleagues produce better business outcomes (and make work more enjoyable). If you agree, you may want to test for curiosity during your interviews. I adapted my curiosity interview question — “tell me about the most recent, non-work related topic that you were so curious about you had to geek out on” — from question 29 of this incredible list of 40 interview questions. I’ve found this line of questioning incredibly insightful. It has helped me avoid hiring people who lack a high level of curiosity and, since I always ask for a non-work related answer, get to know my future colleagues on a personal level.
This week, when out to dinner with my boys, we had an interesting discussion about pearls. They realized they did not know how an oyster creates a pearl and, even though I knew the general process for naturally occurring pearls, I realized I had no idea how pearls are cultivated.
We collectively went down this rabbit hole and learned quite a bit: pearls are only organic gemstones produced by a living creature; Kokichi Mikimoto, a Japanese scientist, developed and patented the technique for culturing pearls in the late 1800’s; and, in 1BC, Julius Caesar created a law prohibiting anyone below the ruling class from wearing pearls.