At the end of each calendar year, my wife and business partner conduct a thorough review, recounting both the highs and lows of the year and evaluating our satisfaction levels before we set goals for the following year.
What Parts of Your Life Mean the Most to You?
But our audit isn’t just about our business. In fact, we spend most of our time assessing other “buckets” in our lives. And you can do this review on your own. In fact, my wife and I start our reviews individually; later we compare notes to see how we can help one another squeeze even more satisfaction in the year to come.
And here’s the best reason to conduct your own year-end review:
If you don’t like where this year took you, good news: you can CHANGE it! And if you like where this year took you, good news: you can REPEAT it!
1. Define Your “Buckets”
I count eight buckets in my life that matter most to me. You might identify more or less. Here’s what my list looks like:
“Bucket” Description Year HIGH Year LOW Satisfaction (1-10)
Professional Work milestones
Emotional Feeling milestones
Physical Body milestones
Spiritual Eternal milestones
Relational People milestones
Financial Monetary milestones
Developmental Learning milestones
2. Revisit Your HIGHs.
You have two kinds of milestones each year: HIGHs and LOWs. Human tendency would have us speed over HIGHs to jump right into LOWs. It’s called a negativity bias. It means we are more inclined to focus on and remember negative events instead of positive ones.
I’m especially conscious of the nouns (people, places, and things) that brought me joy, happiness, and energy. Some of my own HIGHs that jump out at me include growing my business above my goal; visiting 5 states I’d never been to; hiking in Montana, Idaho, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; making some new life-long friends at Lake Placid; learning how to build a table; and saving a ton of money by switching to GEICO (true story)!
3. Revisit Your LOWs
Do you remember the Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule)? Simply put, the Pareto principle teaches us that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Here’s what that means in practical terms: 80% of your drama, stress, and tension come from the same 20% of nouns (people, places, and things)! Why do you detail your LOWs? Because the best way to reduce the bad things in your life is to identify, quarantine, and remove that 20% that causes you the most pain!
Some LOWs you can change; others you can’t. This last year, I spent more time in the hospital with treatments and surgeries than in all other years combined (thank goodness, the problem has been forever resolved!). And my wife has been plagued with yet-undiagnosed health issues, too. On top of that, I lost some friends and family members. So no, I can’t do things differently to prevent those LOWs in the future. But I can do one thing: take notice and express gratitude when my health and the health of my wife is strong, and I can savor the time I have with my friends and family members while they live. Outlining LOWs allows us to seek a contrast, to make the most of what we have with gratitude.
4. Rate Your Satisfaction
Comedian Steven Wright said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Likewise, it’s not possible to hit 10 level satisfaction on all of your buckets at all times. And you have to become okay with that. Perhaps your marriage has fallen apart this year, and now you practice home-avoidance behavior by working longer hours or spending more time at the gym exercising. While you might rate yourself low on satisfaction under the category of Personal or Relational, you might find that your satisfaction in the Professional or Physical categories have increased.
Maybe you can have it all, just not at the same time. When you do your year-end review, you might find that you experienced the most happiness around certain nouns (people, places, and things); conversely, you might find that you felt drained when you were around certain nouns!
What do the areas you rated as highly satisfied have in common? What do the areas where you are less satisfied have in common? What changes could you make to experience the greatest increase in your overall happiness? What are you willing to do to make this next year your best, most fulfilling year ever?
I’d love to hear from you about what you wish to see repeated in the coming year as well as anything that you would like to put behind you!