Make Changes That Last: Annual Reflection Guide

Make Changes That Last: Annual Reflection Guide

Today I want to help you make changes that last.  The key to this is REFLECTION.

Having said that, for those in recovery reflecting on the year (let alone the last week!) can feel daunting:

“Am I just going to see what a failure I’ve been?  How things never change?  How I’ve hurt myself and others?”

Whether you’re helping people in recovery or in recovery yourself, REFLECTION is medicine for the tired, wounded and broken soul.



It’s often more difficult than it seems: It’s like jumping into a cold lake before you have to swim around in it.  Yes it will sting, but then you’ll feel refreshed and renewed. It may be that what keeps you from jumping into reflection is really a problem with self-acceptance.

Self-acceptance is about fully acknowledging what’s wrong as well as what’s right.  It’s acknowledging the good choices and the bad, then saying “that’s me.”  Only with a sane honest view of yourself, will you be able to see clearly what next steps to take in life.

Self-acceptance is the birthplace for changes that last.  

REFLECTION, therefore, is a discipline of self-acceptance.



REFLECTION is also a practice in making meaning of your life.

Meaning-making is powerful.

Viktor Frankl, one of a few survivors of his holocaust cohort said that meaning-making is what allowed him to survive the soul-crushing torture.  Not only did it allow him to survive, it is what allowed him to be kind to others and to strive to live fully every moment until his liberation.  Here is what he wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning:

“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Imagine how having clarity on your unique mission would impact your career, closest relationship, finances or recovery.

Here is my invitation for you to practice self-acceptance and to make meaning of your life.  Here is an invitation to learn, grow and take one step closer to where you want to be.  Ultimately, here is an invitation to making changes that last.



After or during my thankful communion with God, clarity often comes with a phrase, image, poem, song or verse.  This year the phrase that came to me was “pursue the path of peace.”  It’s a way I’ve begun to think about all the decisions I make now…is this the path of peace?  

PEACE is an interesting concept because the connotation is not necessarily with happiness, relaxation or an absence of stress.  What this phrase leads me to ask myself is “Am I living at peace with myself, with God, with my values, with my body, etc.?”  It’s with this lens that I evaluate my family life, marriage, sexuality, health, vocation and all the decisions that will impact each part of my life.

I wonder what phrase or image you will have for next year?

Tribe On in the New Year!



STEP 1: Find a quiet place you can unplug and relax for an hour

STEP 2: Review reflection questions (listed below)

STEP 3: Go through your photos

When I start to take stock of the year, I go to my phone and start looking at photos & videos of the year (your timeline in Facebook could also helpful for this). Having skimmed the questions, start looking for the answers in your recorded moments. The photos will jog your memory for the different themes and parts of the year.

STEP 4: Start filling in the blanks

STEP 5: Skim personal journals, workbooks and blogs

After my initial review, I take it to the next level and skim my journal, blog or anything else where I’ve written down thoughtful work. Usually this will just add to what you’ve already sketched, but it’s interesting to see how your perception of the year may change.

STEP 6: Reflect

STEP 7: Expressing gratitude to God (if you are a spiritual person)

Often I end up seeing more clearly how God is a living actor in my life.  Pause here and have a moment of conscious contact, to have a moment of thankful communion.

STEP 8: Look forward

Knowing where I’ve been and what I’ve done is my foundation for setting next years goals.  Identify the things you truly want to (and can) change then create a plan for how you’re going to go about changing (including any resources you may need).  Having one will increase your likelihood of being successful, just like in construction.

Annual Reflection Questions

  1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
  2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
  3. What were your best/worst decisions of the year?
  4. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
  5. What was an unexpected obstacle?
  6. Pick three to five words to describe the year.
  7. Pick three to five words your family and friends would use to describe your year. Don’t ask them; guess and ask them afterward if appropriate
  8. What book impacted you the most?  How?
  9. What person impacted you the most?  How?  Share with them if it is appropriate to do so.
  10. How connected or disconnected did you feel with the most important people in your life?  Who did you grow closer to?  Who did you grow farther apart from?
  11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
  12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
  13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
  14. What was the most enjoyable part of your work experience?
  15. What was the most challenging part of your work experience?
  16. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
  17. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
  18. What were some of the important things you learned this past year?
  19. Create a phrase or statement that describes the year for you.
  20.  What meditations, concepts or scriptures shaped your year?

After all this reflection what most stands out?  What do you have clarity on now that you didn’t before?  How does will this change what you do next year?

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