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  • Vanessa Barajas, MPH

Year-End Reflection & New Year Intention

Year-end reflections 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. Lastly, it helps us form a new vision for where we want to go next. In other words, you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been!


First, start with some questions that will help you summarize the past year:

  1. How did you begin this year? How do you want to end it?

  2. What sentence or phrase sums up your year?

  3. What one word would you use to describe your year?

  4. What sticks out to you most about the past year? For example, an event, a memory, a change, a big accomplishment, or a milestone.

  5. How did the year surprise you? What things went as expected?

  6. What are the biggest events or headlines from this year?

  7. What significant life events or transitions did you go through this year?

  8. If this year were a milestone on a project plan, what would the milestone be?


This next set of self reflection questions are more personal. However, it’s important to ask yourself tough questions during an end of year reflection. If you’re honest here, these answers will guide you in setting new year intentions and starting off the new year strong.

  1. What accomplishments are you proud of this year?

  2. Which of those is your proudest accomplishment and why?

  3. What mistakes are you still holding onto from the past year?

  4. Why are those mistakes hard for you to let go of?

  5. How did you take care of yourself this year? Emotionally, mentally, physically?

  6. What character trait did you develop most over the past year?

  7. What character trait did you rely on or practice the most this year? (Examples: patience, forgiveness, courage, hope, joy, thankfulness)

  8. What excited you this past year?

  9. What disappointed you this past year?

  10. What is the first word or thought that comes to mind when you think of the past year?


While you are answering some of these reflection questions, understand that summing up 365 days is not a small task. So when you summarize your year, imagine “making a resume” for your year. Hit the highlights, grab the moments that stood out the most to you, and don’t get caught up in the tiny details.


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 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. If not, make a commitment to reflect and write down your lessons learned.


Once you’ve mused over the reflection questions, you’re ready to set your new year intentions. Notice I did not say resolutions. 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.


To settle on a new year's intention, these reflection questions will help you pick a word or phrase to guide you, inspire you, and motivate you, in the new year.

  1. What one word would you use to describe your past year?

  2. If you had an ideal year, how would you describe it?

  3. In what ways do you want to grow this year?

  4. What’s one thing that went badly or that you wish you’d handled differently last year? How can you learn from that moment? What would you change going forward?

  5. What character trait or skill would you like to develop more?

  6. What did you struggle with last year that you want to conquer or embrace this year?

  7. A long journey starts with one step. When you think of your goals, what would the first step be to work toward them?

  8. In what areas of your life do you feel momentum building?


I’m sure we’ve experienced both ups and downs this year but regardless of how your year went, you are here and you made it. I hope you find that reflecting on the past year is more than checking off what you’ve accomplished and more about how you’ve evolved as a person.

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