My Annual Reflection & Goal-Setting Method
We’re two days from book publication date in the US (26th Dec), and four days from book publication date worldwide (28th Dec). We’re seeing a nice uptick in preorders, so THANK YOU if you’ve preordered the book – it means so much that you’d support my work, and I hope you’ll get value from the book 😊
Also, I know this is a weekly newsletter and I try my best to send it out on Sundays. But given that it’s book launch week this week, I’d like to send you a few more emails than usual throughout the week, sharing some excerpts from the book, and some extra stuff that was cut out of the book but that’s still good advice regardless. If you’d prefer not to get these extra emails, please click here to opt out of those extra emails – you’ll just get the next “normal” issue of Sunday Snippets next weekend.
Anyway, in this week’s email, I wanted to share a method you can use to reflect on 2023, figure out roughly what to do with your life, and set goals for 2024. This is broadly the method we’ll be going through live in my Annual Planning Workshop on Jan 6th 2024 (1400-1700 GMT). But if for some reason you can’t make the workshop, or if you’d like a sneak peak of what we’ll be going through, this email should help. Here’s how the method works.
Step 1 – Reflect on 2023
During the event, we’ll be going through various structured reflection prompts that’ll help you get clarity on how 2023 went for you, and what you can learn from it to help make 2024 the best year of your life. You’re very welcome to work through these prompts solo, but I find it much more inspiring and useful to work through them during a dedicated session with other people also doing the same thing, hence why we’ll be going through some of these during the Annual Planning Workshop.
- 🏆 Major Milestones: What were the 3-5 most significant events or achievements in 2023 for you? How did these impact your life?
- 💪 Challenges Overcome: What were the biggest challenges or obstacles you faced in 2023? How did you overcome them, and what did you learn from these experiences?
- 🌱 Growth and Development: In what ways have you grown or changed as a person over the past year? Consider changes in your beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours.
- ❌ Unfulfilled Aspirations: Were there goals or aspirations you had for 2023 that you did not achieve? Reflect on why they were not met and how you feel about it.
- 🎁 Surprises: What took you by surprise this year, whether positively or negatively? How did you adapt to these unexpected events or revelations?
- 🙏 Gratitude: What are you most grateful for in 2023? Think about people, experiences, or opportunities that enriched your life.
- 💆♀️ Self-Care and Well-being: How did you take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health in 2023? Were there new habits or practices you adopted?
- 👥 Relationships and Connections: Reflect on your relationships in 2023. How have they evolved? Were there new relationships that had a significant impact on you?
- 🎓 Professional or Academic Growth: How did you progress in your career or studies in 2023? What were the key learnings and how have they shaped your future aspirations?
- 🚀 Looking Forward: Based on your experiences in 2023, what would you like to do differently in 2024? Are there new areas you’d like to explore or changes you want to make?
I’d recommend writing down your answers to some or all of these prompts (or you can attend the workshop where we’ll do it together if you’d rather do it with friends). The nice thing about writing these down is that you can then look back on your Annual Planning documents every year – it’s a nice way to actually remember your life a little more, and to have a little more gratitude and appreciation for how far you’ve come 😊
Anyway, once we’ve done some solid reflecting on 2023, it’s time to look forward to 2024 and beyond.
Step 2 – Find your North Star
I like to think of life as a journey. You can choose to go anywhere, but it’s useful to identify where your personal North Star is so that you know roughly what direction you want to travel. Your North Star is entirely personal to you, and so we aim to find it through (surprise!) more structured journaling and reflection prompts. Here’s a flavour of some of my favourite prompts to help figure out roughly where my North Star is.
- 💭 The Talent Service Prompt: If you had all the money and time in the world, how would you use your talents to serve others?
- 🎤 The Future TED Talk Prompt: You’re attending the TED conference, and everyone in the audience (including you) is deeply moved and inspired by what the speaker is talking about. The speaker is you, 20 years in the future. What is “You + 20 Years” talking about, and what’s so inspiring about it?
- 🚀 The Fearless Dream Prompt: What would you like to do, if you knew you couldn’t fail?
- 🤷 The Fail-Proof Dream Prompt: What would you like to do, even if you knew you’d fail at it?
- 🌅 The Ideal Tuesday Prompt: What does your ideal ordinary Tuesday look like? What are you doing? Who are you with? How are you spending your time? What makes this day perfect for you?
- 🌠 The Deferred Dream Prompt: What’s one dream you’ve always had but never pursued? Why is it a dream for you? What’s stopped you from pursuing it?
- 💖 The Role Model Prompt: Who are the people you most admire, and why? What qualities do they possess that you wish to emulate?
- 🌍 The Change Maker Prompt: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why? How could you contribute to this change?
- 🌟 The Future Self Prompt: Imagine you’ve achieved everything you’ve ever wanted. How have you changed as a person? What qualities and achievements define this future version of yourself?
- ✍️ The Obituary Writing Prompt: What do you want your obituary to say? Write it out.
- ⚰️ The Tombstone Message Prompt: What would you like written on your tombstone? It has to be under 280 characters to fit 😛
As you read these, you might be thinking: “Gosh that’s some heavy stuff + I couldn’t even begin to answer some of these + this sounds like a lot of effort + who’s got time for that?!”
To that, I’d say: yes, it seems like a lot of effort right now. But you already know the answers to all these questions, somewhere inside of you. If you think too hard about them, you’ll work yourself into knots. But if you don’t think too hard about them, and go with your “gut” or your “body” or your “soul” or whatever non-mind entity you’d like, you’ll find the answers will come to you a lot more readily.
And the important thing about taking a step back to reflect about this stuff and identifying your North Star is that it gives you a direction to aim towards. You don’t want to be overly attached to any of your answers, or cling too strongly to this version of your future. But by thinking about where your North Star is, you’ll be able to look at your life right now and ask: “To what extent is what I’m currently doing aligned with this future that I think I want?” And depending on your answer to that question, you can choose to make changes if you want.
Again, this stuff can be heavy, which is why doing stuff like this in a group setting, with the right background music, and the right framing beforehand, is super helpful. One of my favourite things to do is to get a group of friends together (for a dinner, or a weekend trip) and lead a group journaling session where we tackle some of these questions (with this yoga + meditation Spotify playlist in the background). I like to do it every time we have a team retreat, and also did it a few months ago when I hosted a creators retreat for ~15 people in the UK. Everyone, even the 2-3 people who were skeptical at first, got enormous value from the exercises, and left with specific action points for the changes they were going to make in their lives as a result.
So next time you’re hosting friends and want to be a little weird, feel free to use any of these prompts to spark conversation 🤣
Step 3 – Decide on your 2024 Goals
The method here involves (1) divergent thinking to list out a bunch of different dreams that you want, or might want, to pursue. And then once you’ve done that, (2) convergent thinking to narrow them down to specific goals you’d like to focus on in 2024. I’ll leave it at that for now – we’ve already had prompt overload in this email, and I want to save this section as a surprise for the wonderful people attending my Annual Planning Live Workshop on 6th January.
Hopefully this email has given you a set of prompts that you can think about and journal about during the holiday period (or at any other time tbh). If you’re doing the prompts on your own, I’d love to see some of your responses – if you’d care to share, please reply to this email with your answers to them + I’d love to know which of these prompts in particular resonated for you, and what actions you’re going to take as a result of thinking about this stuff.
Have a great week!
PS: I’m still getting a tonne of emails from people sending me their receipts for preorders directly – clearly I’ve done a poor job in communicating the process, which is a lesson for the next book launch 😅 So if you’ve preordered the book (thank you!) please could you submit your receipt / order confirmation HERE. I’ll send links, details etc for the 6th Jan event to everyone on 1st Jan so please keep an eye on your emails for those.
PPS: The live workshop will be recorded and sent out afterwards to everyone who preordered the book, so if you can’t make it live, you can watch it after the fact. We’ll also send all the materials, worksheets, templates etc by email afterwards 🚀
PPPS: You can preorder the book in any format and it’ll count towards the live event tickets – Kindle is fine, Audible is cool, hardback is great, anything goes really 🙂 Just send us some sort of receipt that we can verify and it’s all good.
PPPPS: If you’re based in the US, and you’re keen on getting the book, but agnostic about hardback vs Kindle vs audible, might I suggest going for the hardback option please – helps us out when it comes to the New York Times bestseller list which cares about hardback sales. But obv, no pressure, means a lot that you’d get the book in any format ❤️
❤️ My Favourite Things this Week
- Podcast – I loved listening to this conversation between David Perell and Sahil Bloom. David’s How I Write podcast is fast becoming one of my favourite interview-type podcasts – even if you’re not a writer, or interested in doing any writing at all in your life, there are some great life lessons in these conversations.
- YouTube Video – I absolutely loved this video from Philosophy Tube titled: A Man Plagiarised my Work – Women, Money and The Nation. This was my first Philosophy Tube video, and I couldn’t believe the ridiculous amount of research, writing, personality, wit and sheer effort that went into it. I then went on a binge of lots more of her content – I particularly liked this one about Stoicism, and this one (Identity: A Trans Coming Out Story). Planning to continue my binge of this incredible channel, (a) to learn more about philosophy, (b) to be entertained while doing so, and (c) to get tonnes of inspo about how I can level-up my own videos.
- Book – I’m continuing to re-read and enjoy Waking Up: Spirituality Wthout Religion by Sam Harris. I first read it during medical school, and didn’t really “get it”, but now that I’ve been dabbling with “spirituality stuff” for a few years, everything Sam’s talking about suddenly makes a lot more sense. And in my new identity as a writer, I also find myself saying “whoahhhh this is really well-written” every few pages. If you’ve been looking for an introduction to spirituality to get a sense of “what’s all the fuss about”, this is a great read.
🎬 My New Videos
In this video I just wanted to share 10 tips that help me read lots of books, so that you can hopefully hit your reading goals in the new year! Enjoy x
I know it can seem like a lot of books change my life, BUT if you change your behaviour based on an idea you find in a book, that behaviour could literally change your life!
✍️ Quote of the Week
“Carving out a space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time.”
From Show Your Work! : 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered – Austin Kleon. Resurfaced using Readwise.