No one drives forward looking in a rear-view mirror. But no one can go forward without checking the rear-view mirror.

My job requires me to produce an “annual review.” An annual review is a “take a step back and look at the horizon” type of document. It  provides a review of things done (and undone) and provides future direction through goals I want to meet. (Since I also must submit a monthly report, I had the data.)

The report takes a good month to prepare (the subject of a future blog post). I look at every monthly report, decide what worked, what didn’t, and what was left on the table. At the end of the day, my 365 days were wrapped into an 8-page document.

Some complain about paperwork like annual reviews. They see little value to it. Yet, the years convinced me of how pivotal the process is.

I get to see how much I really do. We seldom drop bread crumbs of accomplishment along life’s path. Life tends to beat us up with “you don’t do enough.” Whether it is enough, a well-explored past shows how much is accomplished.

I get to see what I did not do. Not all “left off” items betray failure.  Many things which are undone should be left undone. They don’t rise to the level of needed importance. At the same time, it exposes areas I tend to push back from. Those areas need to be explored.

I get to look forward based on reality. Goals are touted as a panacea. Yet, effective goals come from an honest evaluation. My goals for the year are things I can affect in some meaningful ways, not just futile fantasies.

Take some time to glance in the rear-view mirror. Some do it the last week of the year. Others mark their birthday as a time for this kind of reflection. Pick up a piece of paper and your calendar and ask three questions.

  • What did I really do?
  • What did I not do and why?
  • What do I need to do next?

The only way to go forward is to look back.

As Socrates observed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I plan to live a worthwhile life.

Do you review your life? If so, how?