As a woman in corporate America and a graduate student who is juggling career and school, my to-do list most days is endless. But even on the weeks where I’m not sure if the to-do list will ever end, I schedule time to reflect and reassess all of the craziness going on in my life. There is power in reflection, and we don’t do it enough.
With a culture hyper focused on productivity and achievement, there is little time for ourselves. Well, I say no more! Take time to reflect this season on the past year before the next year or period begins. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve compiled some thoughtful end of year questions to ask yourself as you reflect and set your new year intentions.
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Questions to Reflect on the Past Year and Set New Year Intentions
Before we get started with the end of year reflection questions to ask yourself, I have a question that is more important than the 35 questions and topics I’ll cover in this post.
How does God fit into your reflection time?
Instead of rushing ahead at full speed (like I tend to do), I have to remind myself to do three things before reflecting and setting my new year intentions. Personally, God fits into my end of year reflect like this:
- First, I reflect on a year by thanking God for where I am now.
- Second, I look back on the journey in wonderment, remembering what God has done in my life.
- Third, I look to the future with a list of goals and new years intentions, but surrender my heart to the ways of the Lord. God’s will is sovereign and because of His great love for us, we can be assured that his will is the best for us.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
So now that we have our hearts pointed toward God and the most important question out of the way, I want to talk about why we’re doing a year end review and reflection anyway.
Why are year end reviews important?
Year end reviews are important because they highlight the areas of our lives where we’ve found success and the areas where we may need to improve. It forces us to take a critical eye to our choices and ponder how we could make better ones going forward. Additionally, it allows us to see how we spent our time, energy, and money the last 365 days and consider how to invest those things in the 365 days to come.
Without a year end review, we are prone to repeat mistakes and stay stagnant because we can’t process the events of the year and the emotions that went along with it.
Additionally, reflection activities help us form a new vision for where we want to go next. That’s why you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been!
How do you do a personal end year review?
There are many ways to do a personal end year review. Whenever and wherever you do it, make sure it’s in an environment where you can be honest and vulnerable. Perhaps it’s an activity you start with a friend then finish on your own. Or you could do a end year review by yourself and decide what you want to share with others.
There is no sharing of your personal end year review required. However, sometimes sharing our thoughts can help us process them, and having a trusted friend to encourage you and bounce ideas off of may also be helpful.
Once you decide who, where, and when, start with the reflection and journal prompts to get your mind warmed up. The key is to brainstorm any and all ideas that you have related to the prompt.
Next, use the reflection questions below to think more deeply about certain topics. When doing your personal year end review, don’t feel like you can only write. One of my friends who is a professional dancer will dance her prayers. You better believe that she can dance her reflections, too.
Later in this post, I’ll give you some more ideas and resources for self reflection activities, journal prompts, an end of year reflection worksheet, and end of year activities to help you turn the page. These are activities you can do with friends, with family, or during your me time.
Before Beginning the End of Year Reflection Questions
Remember to stay encouraged as you do your personal reflection. No one is perfect and God does not expect perfection from us. He just wants us to seek Him and look to Him for guidance and wisdom.
We learn and we grow as we navigate the adulting struggle. Now let’s begin! Bring on the reflection questions — now updated for the end of 2021, start of 2022!
End of Year Questions to Ask Yourself during your Reflection
Though these are end of year reflection questions to ask yourself, keep in mind that you don’t have to save them for December 31st. Neither are they only reserved for one use every 365 day period.
If this post had fine print, it would say “Use as needed.”
One of the most powerful times of reflection I did was not at the end of the year. It was the middle of June in the sunny co-principality of Andorra. I was days from finishing my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, and a couple of weeks from starting my job in corporate America.
It was a time of transition, leaving one way of life behind for another, and so I took the time to ask myself some end of year reflection questions like the ones I’ll share with you now.
“Year in Review” Questions to Summarize Your Past Year
First up, here are some question that will help you do a “year in review” and summarize the past year:
- What sentence or phrase sums up your year?
- What one word would you use to describe your year?
- What sticks out to you most about the past year? (An event, a memory, a change, etc.)
- How did the year surprise you? What went as expected?
- What are the biggest events that happened to you this year?
- What significant life events or transitions did you go through this year?
- If this year were a milestone on a project plan, what would the milestone be?
Self Reflection Questions to Ask Yourself Honestly
Remember that honesty and vulnerability that I talked about earlier? Here are some more self reflection questions that are more personal, but necessary to ask yourself during an end of year reflection. If you’re honest here, these answers will guide you in setting new year intentions.
- What accomplishments are you proud of this year?
- Which of those is your proudest accomplishment and why?
- What mistakes are you still holding onto from the past year?
- Are there consequences you are still facing?
- How did you take care of yourself this year?
- Emotionally, mentally, physically?
- What character trait did you develop most over the past year?
- What character trait did you rely on or practice the most this year?
- What excited you this past year?
- What disappointed you this past year?
- What is the first word or thought that comes to mind when you think of the past year?
Other Must Have Yearly Reflection Questions
This next group of questions are a “must have” when it comes to yearly reflection questions. While this set of thoughtful self reflection questions might leave you scratching your head a little bit, don’t abandon them. They are meant to prompt you in leaving the past in the past and moving forward:
- What have you not done this year that you wish you had?
- What did you learn this year about the world?
- About yourself?
- What do you wish you had known at the start of the year?
- Why? What would you have done differently if you have known that?
- How have you changed over the year?
- What have you overcome this year?
- What challenges do you still need to conquer?
- How did where you start this year compare to now?
- How will you protect the memories that you’ve created this year?
The first few ones in this group of end of year reflection questions can be hard to answer. If you do find an answer, you have to be careful not to beat yourself up or dwell on could’ve, would’ve, should’ve. Remember to show yourself grace.
The goal is to learn from your experiences.
How do you summarize your year?
While you are answering some of these reflection questions, understand that summing up 365 days is not a small task. As a writer and aspiring novelist, I remember countless times having to shorten my essays and fiction stories to fit the page or word limit. Sometimes it can be hard to be brief!
So when you summarize your year, think about it as making a resume for your year.
Instead of letting one bad memory taint the whole year, think about your year as a whole, as a string of moments with each one connected to the next. And even if your year was littered with tough circumstances, focus on where you were before the year began and who you are now. Chances are, you’ve learned and grown in a positive way.
BONUS: Questions for New Year Intentions
Once you’ve mused over the reflection questions, you’re probably ready to set your new year intentions. Why set intentions instead of resolutions?
I prefer to set new year intentions over new year resolutions because resolutions are too concrete. It’s easy to get discouraged and disappointed when we don’t achieve our resolutions, even if something out of our control prevents us from achieving them.
With a new year’s intention, we are only setting our direction for the year. It’s as if we’re picking a guiding principle or word that we want to encompass our year. In 2021, the word I chose was cleansing because I believed God was shaping me to be more life Christ by taking away the things and relationships hindering that.
Since January 2021, my idea of how the cleansing would happen has definitely changed. It was a hard year of having to let go of harmful relationships and draining commitments, getting off of social media, and saying no to new things. But my new years intention has remained the same and has guided me throughout the year to stress less and simplify my life with joy.
How to Do a New Years Writing Activity
My favorite way to settle on an intention for the new year is to find a list of questions to reflect on the past year (like the ones below), pick ten of them, and then spend twenty to thirty minutes doing a free write.
I try to hit all of the questions at least in part, and even if I don’t respond to all of them completely, I have a great starting point for reflecting on the past year and setting my new year intentions.
To settle on a new years intention, complete a new years writing activity where you ask yourself some questions for new year intentions and questions to reflect on the past year.
Questions for New Year Intentions
These reflection questions will help you pick a word or phrase to guide you, inspire you, and motivate you, in the new year. After you answer these questions, if you’re still stumped, check out this list of weekly focus ideas. Perhaps you’ll find a word that you love! Otherwise, it may help you brainstorm other focus words for new year intentions.
- What one word would you use to describe your past year?
- If you had an ideal year, what one word would you use to describe it?
- In what ways do you want to grow this year?
- What’s one thing that went badly or that you wish you’d handled differently?
- How can you learn from that moment?
- What would you change going forward?
- What character trait or skill would you like to develop more?
- What has God been teaching you?
- How can you lean into that lesson more?
- How has God been speaking to you and what has He revealed to your heart about the future?
- What did you struggle with last year that you want to conquer or embrace this year?
Other End of Year Questions and Activities to Reflect on the Past Year
Quizzing yourself isn’t the only way to reflect on the past year. While I feel like it’s a great place to start in order to organize your thoughts, I’ve also done other end of year reflection activities to help me reflect, like some of the activities below.
End of Year Journal Prompts
As you reflect at the end of the year, take time to respond to some journaling prompts in addition to self reflection and year in review questions. With journaling prompts, what you write is less about answering the question and more about processing your feelings about the past year.
These open ended journal prompts leave room for much more soul searching and reflective thinking than the year end reflection questions.
With 2021 reflection prompts, there is never a right answer nor a wrong answer, but they do get the gears in your brain turning.
List of Journal and Writing Prompts
- Ways I Bloomed this Year
- Places I Went this Year
- People I Met this Year
- Friendships that Grew this Year
- New Friendships I Made this Year
- How I spent my Vacation time this Year
- Things on my Bucket List I crossed off this Year
- Goals I Achieved
- New Goals I want to Achieve
- What Surprised me this Year
- What I Celebrated this Year
- What I Cried over this Year
- What Challenged me this Year
- New Things I Learned how to do this Year
- What Made Adulting Hard this Year
- Things that Brought Me Joy this Year
- My Favorites this Year (Songs, Albums, Movies, Books, Artists, etc)
- What Made this Year Special
- Major Life Milestones
- How God worked in my life this Year
Using the (December) Journal and Writing Prompts
At the end of the year, I use these journal reflection prompts to reflect and reminisce on the days past. They are great December Journal and Writing Prompts, but you can use them anyway you wish and at anytime!
Personally, I take these prompts and start jotting down bullets of phrases, words, and short sentences to make a list underneath each journal prompt.
If you’re in a group, you may want to ask them out loud and discuss them together. If you’ve got a pen and a blank piece of paper, you can write them in your journal and scribble down your thoughts. If there is another way of creative expression that you prefer, you can use that, too.
End of Year Reflection Activities
Besides journal prompts, they are many other ways to reflect on the year, such as these creative end of year reflection activities:
- Write a short poem or haiku to express how you feel about the year overall.
- Take a couple of artifacts that you’ve gathered during the year and make a scrapbook or collage.
- Print some of your favorite photos from the year and put them in frames or hang them from a string of lights across a wall in your house. Photo albums are nice, too!
- If you have some basic video editing skills, you can take your favorite pictures and put them in a slideshow to some of your favorite music. Or, if you often take videos on your phone, see if you can put them together into a short video.
- Make a 2021 playlist with a soundtrack of songs that describe your year. Start with 12 songs – one for every month, and then build from there.
- Draw a map of the places you went this year the were meaningful to you and what happened there. This has always been an enlightening activity for me. One, because I realize how terrible I am at geography, and two, because I’m always surprised at what makes it on the map and why.
End of Year Reflection Worksheet (free printable!)
I’ve created an end of year reflection worksheet so you can start your reflection and set your new year intentions. This FREE printable includes a list of my favorite end of year questions to ask yourself mentioned in this post. It also has the list of free writing topics and journal prompts and space to respond to the prompts.
As a bonus, I’m including my questions to help you set your new year intentions, too!
Reflecting on the Past Year
Reflecting on the Past Year is an activity that is often overlooked. But there is great benefit in taking time to process all of the events that have occurred and our thoughts and feelings about those events.
Particularly when it comes to navigating the adulting struggle, questions for reflecting on the past year and year end reflection activities can help us get our bearings again when the world knocks us down. It reminds us to be thankful for the last 365 days and excited for the 365 days to come.
I hope these end of year questions to ask yourself spark fruitful reflection and positive change! As you reflect on the past year, be gracious to yourself. Because adulting is hard, but you’re killing it! 😉
How do you reflect at the end of the year?
Leave me a comment below!
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