I am excited to share this transformational tool with you, inspired by personal development coach Kevin Eikenberry. These 26 powerful questions (see below) can propel you towards your greatest dreams, but only if you pay attention to them—and think about them.
Actually, you must do more than that. You will also write down what you think. So, be sure to have pen and paper handy.
Find a quiet place where you can be fully present to yourself. If you like, create a mood with peaceful and inspiring music and perhaps light some candles and burn incense. Soothe your senses. Settle in, sit peacefully for ten to fifteen minutes doing nothing but simply relaxing and being present.
Then ask yourself these questions one by one, reflecting on your answers for as long as you want. For maximum impact, “think on paper.”
By doing so, you are allowing yourself to use your powerful and natural learning capacities, sourced in your subconscious mind, to help you achieve more, in any area of your life you choose to focus on, in the coming months.
I encourage you to print out the questions, and write down your responses. Carry this with you, and review it often. When you do this, it will help you unleash your potential in new, exciting, and perhaps even miraculous ways as the year, and your life, unfolds.
Happy New Year . . . to you!
- 1. What did I learn this past year?
- 2. What did I accomplish last year?
- 3. Which accomplishments am I proudest of?
- 4. Knowing what I know now, what would I have done differently?
- 5. What will be my greatest lasting memories of last year?
- 6. In what ways did I contribute?
- 7. What were my biggest challenges or obstacles?
- 8. What obstacles did I overcome?
- 9. Who are the most interesting people I met?
- 10. How have they changed my life?
- 11. How am I different now than I was at the start of the year?
- 12. What am I most grateful for?
- 13. What else do I want to reflect on?
1. What did I learn last year?
Hopefully your first answer is . . . a lot!
As you think about this question, jot down the specific skills you learned, life lessons you absorbed and the knowledge you gained.
This (hopefully) will be a long list. After some initial brainstorming, take time to narrow your list with a highlighter or using some other notation (don’t cross items off!) to the 5 most valuable, important or beneficial things. You might consider adding a note or two about why those five things lead your list.
2. What did I accomplish last year?
To properly answer this question will take some time. Allow your mind to continue to work on this and you will find yourself adding to the list over the coming days.
Make a list of the things you accomplished. Maybe you accomplished big things . . . got promoted, won an award, gave a speech or conquered a fear. Write them all down.
But beyond these big things you also accomplished hundreds of little things . . . became more patient with a customer, finally finished War and Peace or wrote your own book (okay, maybe that would be a big one), changed a personal habit . . . you get the idea. Write all these down too.
By reflecting on your accomplishments you are reinforcing past success, building your confidence, and telling your subconscious that you can accomplish even more. Building this list will be fun and affirming. Once you’ve written the list, keep it. It will become a great attitude lifter to read anytime you are feeling discouraged or down at all.
3. Which accomplishments am I proudest of?
Take a look at your list from Question #2 and identify the 3-4 things that make you most proud. If you haven’t yet finished your list, take a minute to think about the moments, experiences, and accomplishments of the past year that made you the most proud. Write them down. Don’t worry that you may come up with 8 or 10. Once you have thought of your list, circle or highlight the top few.
Either way you get here, this is an important list! Not as a reason to brag or boast, in fact, you don’t need to share this list with anyone.
Now take the time to read the items again. Allow yourself to feel proud— you deserve it! Finish this exercise by thinking about and making notes on why you are proud of these things.
4. Knowing what I know now, what would I have done differently last year?
This is a very powerful question to help you learn. (And, of course, you can ask it any time.) Please don’t allow yourself to feel bad, guilty, or to get upset with yourself about what did happen.
The key is in the first half of the question: “knowing what you know now.” You are a different person now that you’ve had the experience. The goal here is to view things through the lens of your experience (which is why people nod in agreement with the old cliché “hindsight is 20/20”). Regardless of what did happen, this question will help us learn from the situation.
You also can use your successes (see questions 2 and 3) as great fodder for this question. After all, even though you accomplished something you are proud of, there may still be things you would have done differently.
5. What will be my greatest lasting memories of last year?
You’ve made some memories in the past year. You may have some photos of the event, you may have a program or a letter or a ticket or some other token to commemorate or help you remember the event. Or you may not.
Consider this question as a way to make entries in your memory scrapbook. Mentally go through the year and think of those moments you want to capture forever. Put them on a list. Make your list as long as you’d like, but definitely get at least three memories written down.
If you have time to reflect on the lessons and meanings of these memories, that is great, but the question today doesn’t ask you to do that; it simply encourages you to capture the memories on paper and in your mind.
6. In what ways did I contribute?
We all contribute in many ways. If you don’t think you do, remember George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart’s character) in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
Specifically, think about the people you helped and the ways in which you made your workplace, your neighborhood, your community and your world a better place.
Think about and make note of how you have contributed to the lives of those you care about or who you have helped directly or indirectly.
7. What were my biggest challenges or obstacles?
This question takes a little different focus, but it is extremely valuable.
Thinking about your challenges and obstacles is important. It is in your challenges and obstacles, regardless if you were stopped by them or you overcame them, that you have much to learn.
The challenges could have been faced several months ago; they could be ongoing; or perhaps you have just recently encountered them. Identifying them is one step towards overcoming them and certainly will help you learn from them.
Right now, just make a list of your challenges or obstacles, whether big or small. We will work with this list in the next question.
8. What obstacles did I overcome? And, how did I do it?
Overcoming obstacles is certainly something to be proud of so you might already have them on your list of accomplishments (see Question #3). If so, that’s fine, just write them down again.
The follow-up question is what makes this different from accomplishments. It is one thing to overcome an obstacle; it is another (and nearly as important) to reflect back and figure out how you did that so you can learn from it for future obstacle-busting.
The goal here is to learn how to overcome, and even better, perhaps avoid similar obstacles in the future. Plus, it’s a great confidence booster to remember that you can in fact overcome obstacles.
9. Who are the most interesting people I have met?
When you think back on your year, think about the people you have met. Some will stand out as the most interesting.
Make a list of these people; make sure to include them whether they have become a friend or you met them only once.
After you have completed your list, reflect on the circumstances under which you met these people. This may give you a clue about what types of situations you want to consciously create in the future.
10. How have those people changed my life?
Yes, this is a follow-up to Question #9.
It is great to meet interesting people. It’s also great to recognize how those people have impacted you. Think about what you learned from them, how they have helped you, the enjoyment and pleasure you have gained from knowing them.
If you have time after thinking and writing about this, take time to send a note, write an email or give a call to these people and thank them. If you don’t have time now, make it a priority on your to-do list for tomorrow.
11. How am I different now than I was at the start of the year?
This is such a powerful question that I get goose bumps when I read it or think about it.
Take some real time to ponder this one and write your responses down. Like the other questions in this series, you may still be thinking about it several days from now!
Many of the first ten questions are meant to help answer this one in meaningful ways, so if you have been writing your responses to the other ten questions (you have, haven’t you?) then reading back over your thoughts will definitely help you think about this question.
And here’s another (similar) question: Are you happy with the person you have become?
12. What am I most grateful for?
Maybe this has been your best year to date. Maybe it’s been an unusually tough year for you personally or professionally (or both). Either way, we all have much to be grateful for and pondering (and writing) about this question can help you finish your year with a spirit of gratefulness.
Your thoughts here may be a recap of some of your other answers to the previous 11 questions, and, if so, that is definitely okay. It also might help you highlight something you haven’t thought about yet. Gratitude is a powerful attitude—one that can open you up for many future blessings and events.
Make the time to ask this question and be grateful.
13. What else do I want to reflect on?
This last question is yours.
Quiet your mind.
Listen to your intuition.
Listen to the question, and answer it.
- 1. What excites me about the New Year?
- 2. What are my 5 most important goals for this year?
- 3. How will I best use my skills?
- 4. How will I strengthen my strengths?
- 5. How will I apply last year’s most valuable lessons this year?
- 6. What will I learn?
- 7. Who do I want to meet?
- 8. What relationship do I most want to develop?
- 9. What new habit will I create?
- 10. What habit will I alter or eliminate?
- 11. How will I become healthier this year?
- 12. What lasting memories will I create?
- 13. Who will I serve more effectively and/or completely?
1. What excites me about the New Year?
This is a great place to start in looking forward into a New Year.
After answering 13 reflective questions, this question shifts your gaze forward. A big part of your success in the New Year – or at any future time – is your excitement and enthusiasm for what lies ahead. Spend some time considering this question and let your pen go!
Write down whatever excites you whether it relates to your personal or professional life, your community, your favorite artist’s new music, something on the world stage.
Get excited and write it down!
2. What are my 5 most important goals for this year?
You knew this question would be here, didn’t you? This is an important question. One to embrace and not be scared of (if, for example you aren’t normally a goal setter). If you haven’t thought about this yet, you may need more space than you see below.
You might want to start by brainstorming potential goals, and then prioritizing the top five to place here. Having trouble getting started? Think about what you would like to achieve in the following areas: You will answer more questions about some of these areas, but for now, brainstorm and prioritize!
3. How will I best use my skills?
In the reflective questions you have had a chance to think about your skills, especially any new skills you have learned over the past year.
Now the question is: How will you apply them towards your goals and the things that excite you about the coming year?
Taking the time now to think of how to apply your skills will help you reach your goals! (Do you need any better reason to consider this question?)
4. How will I strengthen my strengths?
One of the most valuable things you can do is spend time working on things you are already good at. Not only will this strategy improve your performance, but it almost always leads to greater enjoyment and satisfaction.
This question requires that you first recognize your strengths. If you haven’t done this sort of thinking, invest the time to do it! Once you have a list of 1-4 things that you are really good at and enjoy, answer this question.
5. How will I apply last year’s most valuable lessons this year?
The first question on the reflection list was, “What did I learn?”
That should give you fodder to help answer this question. Look at those lessons, and now translate them into action as you look forward. After all, it is the action that will make those lessons truly useful to you.
6. What will I learn?
Have you noticed how this question (and the other projection questions) are written as if they have already occurred? This question is “what will I learn?” not “what do I want to learn?” or “what do I hope to learn?” That is intentional. My goal is to help you be intentional! So, what will you learn?
As the New Year unfolds, day by day, experiences will offer tremendous learning opportunities.
Some of these lessons will be serendipitous. That isn’t what this question is about. It is about the things that you are choosing to learn now – the things you intentionally want/need to learn.
Refer to your goals for the year and your strengths — both of these are places to help you identify specific learning opportunities. This is your chance to be intentional about what you learn in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Once you set this intention you will be amazed at how many seemingly serendipitous events provide you the lessons and opportunities you need.
7. Who do I want to meet?
Maybe your goals hint at who you might like to (or need to) meet. Maybe there are just some interesting people who would like to meet — for no special reason, just because.
Maybe it is an author, a speaker, or an entertainer. Maybe it is your new neighbor.
Whoever it is, write them down! Who we become in the future depends in no small measure on the people we meet and hang out with. Answering this question gets you headed in the right direction.
8. What relationship(s) do I most want to develop?
Your answer to this question might be one of the people closest to you, or it might be one of the people you want to meet but haven’t yet met (see Projection Question #7).
The only right answer to this question (like all the others in this document) is the answer you give.
Consider a relationship that if it were further developed could provide you with greater joy, harmony, success, or whatever else you treasure at this time.
9. What new habit will I create?
I’ll bet you already have an answer to this one — it is the underlying question of many New Year’s resolutions.
Consider, though, how much more valuable and clear this answer will be for you now, considering all the other questions you have answered!
Take a minute to review your answers to the previous questions before starting to settle in on your “final answer.”
10. What habit will I alter or eliminate?
This question is related to the last one, and your answer may be related as well!
Look at the habits that might be stumbling blocks to reaching your goals for the year. Consider which single habit will make the biggest difference if you can alter or eliminate it.
11. How will I become healthier this year?
One of your goals may relate to health, and if so you may already have your answer to this question. Or perhaps you have covered this with your answers to the habit questions (Projection Questions 9 & 10).
However, if none of these address this area, now is your chance. Regardless of who we are there are things that we could do to be healthier; to have more energy; and/or to feel less stress.
As you can see, I am considering this question quite broadly, and I encourage you to do the same if necessary. Remember, none of the rest of this work and goals will matter if you are not healthy enough to enjoy the experiences and achievements that are surely coming your way!
12. What lasting memories will I create?
You likely can’t pre-ordain all of the lasting experiences you will create this year, but you can be intentional about some things you want to happen.
Perhaps you want to attend a certain concert or sporting event, or maybe you are looking forward to a family reunion.
Whatever lasting memories you want to create should make this list!
13. Who will I serve more effectively and/or completely?
This is a powerful question, and while it is the last in this list it could have just as easily been the first.
Rather than give you suggestions or ideas here, just consider this: Think about serving with a pure intention and from a givers perspective rather than as an “approach” to reach your goals.
Perhaps these two corollary questions will be helpful too:
Who needs my service?
Who can I truly serve more effectively?
Postscript . . .
I suggest that you use these questions — not just read them and think about them. I strongly encourage you to review your answers (especially to your projection questions) regularly — say, once a week.
Then, when you get to the end of the year, and when you begin to do this process again, review these answers as a part of next year’s process.
Here’s to a great 2010!
Three Bonus Tips
(from Marci Shimoff, author of Happy for No Reason)
- Identify a theme for 2010.
- Create a vision board (business and personal) related to your theme.
- Look for ways your theme shows up in your life (daily/weekly).
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