For I don’t-even-know how many years, I’ve made it a practice in December of each year to review the goals I set the previous year (financial, career, creative, fitness, etc.). I cross them off, or leave them unchecked, then set new ones for the next year. The process is quite mechanistic and binary; a simple yes or no—my whole year distilled into a checklist of accomplishments. While I still write out things I want to accomplish the next year like races I want to run, new creative projects I want to explore—I’ve fine-tuned this practice quite a bit with the aim of providing a more holistic look at my year. Instead of a checklist, I use an experience log.
While it feels good to check things off one by one: Ran this race ✔️, earned this income ✔️, launched this book ✔️, I’ve come to realize that it’s not really all that satisfying. This form of goal setting is a vapid way of reflecting back on my year. An experience log, on the other hand, is a series of self-contrived prompts that spark more introspection and reflection. When looking back at 2022, I ask myself these types of questions: What are some new experiences I had? What’s something new I learned about myself? Did I read anything that was paradigm-shifting? What painful experiences or emotions did I endure? Was I able to transcend the negatives into creative inspiration? Did I use my emotional pain as a form of mental fuel to aid me in physically demanding challenges? What new people entered my life, and which ones were only there for a short time? What purpose did this serve?
While this list of prompts is more customized to myself, taking the time to devise our own questions, and answering thoughtfully, can be a deeply gratifying process—more so than a simple checklist. Distance combined with contemplation can birth new insights. Our years are rich, multi-dimensional experiences; experiences that can act as teachers if we spend adequate time in refection and draw out the nuggets of wisdom. So this year, if you’re someone like me who mechanically reviews a list of goals, I recommend giving the experience log a try 🙂