Looking Back to the Future

by Ty Gibson  |  January 1, 2018

“Let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Galatians 6:4, NKJV).

There’s a reason why so many treadmills end up at the thrift store.

New Year’s Resolutions are a popular thing to do, but not necessarily a productive thing to do. Sure, there are some people for whom making promises for the future works well, but for most of us New Year’s Resolutions never pan out. In fact, for many people, the overall effect is negative, because when you make a promise and don’t follow through to keep it, the bottom line outcome is a sense of discouragement, impotence, and even guilt. Gradually, making promises and not keeping them causes a person to lose confidence in themselves.

So I’d like to suggest beginning the new year with a backward assessment rather than merely launching forward with grandiose resolutions. Recently I heard someone call this approach a “Past Year Review” (PYR), drawn from a common business practice referred to as a “Prior Year Report.” The idea is really very simple, but tremendously powerful for triggering positive self-development.

New Year’s Resolutions are a popular thing to do, but not necessarily a productive thing to do.

The premise of doing a PYR is that looking back will do more to alter the future than simply making promises about the future. So here’s what I’m doing as the year draws to a close, in case you’d like to do something similar. All that’s required is a notepad and pen. A new page on your computer screen will suffice, as well. Simply write out and answer the following series of twenty probing questions, and watch the stimulating effect the process will have on you:

  1. In a single sentence, or in a series of three descriptive words, how would you describe your life in 2017?
  2. What was the best thing that happened to you in 2017?
  3. What was the worst thing that happened to you in 2017?
  4. Who was the most influential person, positive or negative, in your life in 2017?
  5. What was your biggest success or achievement of 2017—relational, professional, educational, or financial?
  6. What was your biggest mistake or failure of 2017—relational, professional, educational, or financial?
  7. If you could do one event, day, experience over from 2017, which one would it be and what would you do differently?
  8. What compliment or affirmation offered to you by someone in 2017 made you feel most alive, motivated, or eager to be more?
  9. Which one of these words best describes your overall mental state in 2017: curious, angry, content, blah, stressed, excited?
  10. What one practice or habit most contributed to your health in 2017?
  11. Name the three people that you most enjoyed spending time with last year?
  12. What answer to prayer or miracle or providential event/encounter stands out most over the last year?
  13. What is the best book you read in 2017 and what was the key takeaway?
  14. Who can you point to in 2017 that would be super thankful for what you did for them?
  15. What significant part did you play in your local church and/or community in 2017?
  16. Name the character trait of God you were most fascinated or enthralled by in 2017?
  17. Who is your most important human relationship and, in retrospect, what thing did you do in 2017 that had the most positive effect on your relationship with that person?
  18. What is the stupidest thing you spent money on in 2017?
  19. What is the smartest thing you spent money on in 2017?
  20. Who did you take for granted in 2017 and you think they don’t know how important they are to you?

Once you complete your PYR, take the time to read it every day for the first two weeks of the new year, and write any notes that come to mind, especially notes regarding how the coming year might be shaped by the revelations of the last year.

Seriously, if you look back honestly and thoughtfully by answering these twenty questions, you will definitely plan forward for the new year with a higher level of self-awareness and motivation.

“I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to Your statutes” (Psalm 119:59, NIV).

Happy New Year!

Ty Gibson Co-Director
Light Bearers
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