December’s cold winds signal changes.

For animals, they head to caves to hibernate. Humans light fireplaces and eat comfort foods.

December for me is also a time to review the past year and prepare for the next one. I am a believer in reviews and accountability.

Why Review The Year?

So why, in the hustle and bustle of a rushed December, take the time to look backward. There are good reasons.

Appreciate and remember what has happened.

In recent times, humans drift through time and space responding to the latest and loudest. The immediate becomes history and then buried in today’s troubles.

People need to cement memories. After all, as Kodak in their old ad campaign said, “These are the times of your life.” So much of life flows by that we ignore it.

Yet, it is your life…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Gain Perspective

Is everything blue sky or gray haze in your life? Our perceptions are faulty because we don’t see them all.

Life is blemished by joys and sorrows, peaks and valleys. We need to see what we encountered, what we struggled with, what we overcame.

In the end, life might look a lot brighter.

Gain a Foothold

In one of my weaker moments in life, I took martial arts as an adult. While surrounded by tousled hair elementary kids (who had more balance than I ever had), I learned one lesson. You cannot do anything if you do not have a stable platform.

Before you can do more, you need to stand still. That paradox is never lost on me. Before I can plan or execute, I have to stop and get my mental and spiritual footing.

That means knowing where I stand, not guessing.

The reason for reviews is plain. Never back a car out of a parking place without looking in a rear view mirror. By the same token, never move forward without checking your personal mirrors.

How to Review Your Year

So what does a December review look like? Everyone must decide for themselves what they need to review, but I can share mine.

I scan my journal I kept for the past year. By looking at daily journal entries, I get to see mountaintops and valleys. I discover what bothered and how I have changed. It is the only form of data I have for review.

I review my goals and how they worked out. What did I intend to do? Did results match the intention?

Then, I run through a series of questions:

  • What are my wins?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • How and who did I serve?
  • What is my unfinished business for the year?
  • What was the best thing that happened this year?
  • What did I do that was uncomfortable or scared me?
  • In what areas did I experience growth?
  • What surprised me?
  • What books did I read?
  • What one thing I read or heard made the most difference in my life?
  • What in my life worked? What didn’t?
  • What was my most important discovery?
  • Who helped me the most in the past year and why?
  • Who have I helped in the past year?
  • Did my life make my parents proud (even though both are gone) and elevate God?
  • What word or phrase best sums up my experiences this year?

This is the fuel of the furnace.

So, I am in review mode. Later this month, I will give you the results of my review as well as discuss how to look forward.

After all Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher observed that

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Let me get back to my review.