8 questions to help you reflect the past year and plan for the new year



It is that time of the year again. You are starting to wrap up your work, plan your festive season with family and friends, and get ready for the year ahead. Although you’re likely to be busy with gift shopping, family visits or travel, this is also a perfect time for you to reflect on the past year and plan for your new year.

Today I want to share with you with eight questions to help you reflect on your achievements and learning for the last 12 months, and to inspire you to plan ahead for the new year. I’d encourage you to set aside some time for yourself, maybe a quiet early morning, when you can spend some “me time” writing down thoughts and reflections on a piece of paper or in your journal – which you can even treat as a Christmas or New Year present for yourself.

Questions for you to reflect on the past 12 months:

  1. What are your proudest achievements this year? Too often we finish a project or assignment and then move on to the next without celebrating our success. Now is the perfect time of the year for you to reflect on your biggest achievements of the year – what did you do that makes you proud? What’s your biggest success that deserves celebration? Our brain is hardwired to look out for things that we can do better and to focus on “what’s next”, but taking the time to remember and celebrate your achievements can help you understand what motivates you and bring you long-lasting sense of meaning and fulfillment.
  1. What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt this year? It’s inevitable that we make mistakes in life and it can be hard to assess those mistakes objectively at the time. Year end is a good time to put things into perspective and look back on the things you wish you’d done differently and what you’ve learnt as a result. It is also worth thinking about how you can apply your learning to situations in the future.
  1. What stories are you telling yourself that you need to let go of? You might be doing some decluttering around the house to prepare for the new year, and it is also a good time for some mental decluttering. What are the beliefs and stories that you are holding on to but no longer serve you? Can you let these go and free yourself to pursue what you really want? 
  1. Who had the biggest positive impact on you this year? We all have those moments in life when we feel inspired or motivated by someone, whether it’s simply a good book, or something he or she said to you. You might not have had the opportunity to express to this person how much positive impact he or she had on you. So why not write a thank you note or email to let this person know how he or she has changed your life? It will help you cultivate meaningful relationships, and it just might make his or her day!

Questions for you to plan for next year:

  1.  If you could only achieve one big thing next year, what would it be? Imagine your time is a jar and you need to fill it with a combination of rocks, small seashells, and sand. The best way to fill the bottle is to put the rocks in first, then the seashells, and finally the sand. If you fill your day with small stuff first (think about the emails you need to reply, or the phone calls you need to make), you won’t have the space for your bigger project. So make sure you get clear on your “big rock” and set aside time in your calendar each day and week for it,  so that when you look back on your year, you will feel satisfied and proud of your achievement.
  1. What do you want to learn? Often we place a lot of emphasis on so-called “performance goals”, the likes of “I want to achieve xx revenue for my business”, and “I want to get xx new clients”. Studies have shown that while it is helpful to set specific performance goals to keep you stay on track of progress, this emphasis can also cause anxiety and stress especially if the goal is very challenging or if you lack the skills and experience to achieve them. An alternative way to approach it, especially when you are challenging yourself in new areas, is to set “learning goals”. For example, instead of setting yourself a revenue target, you can use a learning goal of “use online marketing tools more effectively”, or swap your goal of “getting xx new clients” with “learning networking and sales skills to connect better with customers”. Setting learning goals also help you develop the “growth mindset” – the belief that you can develop your skills and capability with efforts and practice overtime.
  1. What can you do more that brings you energy and joy? When you exercise your strengths – those underlying qualities that bring out the best in you, you will feel a surge of energy and flow. Similarly, when you do things that align with your nature and personal value, you will feel a deep sense of joy. Write down things that bring you energy and joy, whether work-related or not, and try to do more of those on a daily basis.
  1. What will you stop doing? To make time for your “big rock” and also those things that bring you energy and joy, you also need to take a step back and think about what you will stop doing. I like what Seth Godin wrote in his book “Dip” (an excellent book about the art of quitting): “Quitting is better than coping because quitting frees up the space for you to excel at something else”. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of things that you’ve been doing for a long time, but ask yourself: what does it cost you? For example, if you are someone who always says “yes” to other people’s requests, think about how it costs you in terms of the time you could otherwise have spent on things that bring you energy and joy, and on people who are important to you.

Finally, two bonus questions to make it a bit more fun for you – if you could use a word to sum up your 2016, what would it be? And if you could use one word as a mantra to remind you what is important to you in 2017, what would that be? To give you some inspiration, my one word in 2016 is “gratitude” as I feel so blessed with the support I’ve had (including you, my readers!) as I juggled between my work, study and family life. For 2017, my key mantra will be “growth” – I know it will won’t be an easy ride but I truly believe each new experience and challenge represent an opportunity for us to grow as a person.

I hope these question can help you spend some quality self-reflection time to look back on the past year and plan for your new year. I’d love to hear your thoughts – please do share in the comments section below the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year, one big thing you’d like to focus on next year, and your mantra for the new year. If you like this article, please also share it with your friends so that they can get some fresh inspiration for their year-end review!

Finally, I’d like to thank you for being here, and I wish you a wonderful festive season, & a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year that brings you lots of love, joy and fulfilment.

With love,




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One Response to “8 questions to help you reflect the past year and plan for the new year

  • Josh Ip
    1 year ago

    Thanks Jessie for always reminding us to be positive and improve upon ourselves! Happy new year to you.

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