Looking Forward and Looking Back: Planning for 2014

by Lisa McKay on December 30, 2013

It’s almost the New Year, folks! I’m in Udon Thani, Thailand right now, on a three-day holiday away from Laos. My last life lesson of 2013 might just be that 4 people sharing one hotel room when two of them are under three = ¼ the sleep. My two year old just refused to eat breakfast, lay down on the floor of the hotel dining room and started screaming for his crib at 9am.

Man, days when I’m this tired are the days when I find myself looking at my own child with something close to envy. I wish someone would pick me up, make sure I’m warm and dry, and put me to bed to let me sleep as long as I wanted.

But, since I can’t sleep because the baby will soon need to be fed, let’s talk about 2014.

Have you done any planning for 2014 yet? Have you thought about the important life lessons that 2013 had to offer you? Have you made any New Years Resolutions?

I think some Christians, sometimes, neglect to do things like set goals and make plans because they feel that they need to stay open to God’s will. Sure, I think we always need to be open to changing our plans if we feel led (or prodded) in that direction. However, I also think that not thinking about the future and not setting goals means that you’re probably not being as proactive and intentional as you could be about how you’d like to “grow and use your talents.”

When I talk about goals I’m not just talking about them in the corporate sense of tangible achievements. To borrow language from Mary Oliver, I’m talking about the whole range of our desires and intentions related to this one wild and precious life that we’ve been granted.

Goals, for me, aren’t just about how many books I want to publish this year. They are also about the qualities I would like to develop more (or less) of. They are about personal disciplines I’d like to cultivate, relationships I would love to see grow, and how I want to get ever-better at living fully present. They’re about growing towards the sort of person that I want to become.

Being thoughtful in setting your goals (and taking some time before the New Year really picks up steam to think about how you might actually achieve them) makes it more likely that you’ll follow through and accomplish your goals next year.

So as we all look forward to celebrating the dawn of another year, I’ve got two lists of questions for you to answer this month. One list will help you reflect on 2013. The other will help you plan for 2014.

LOOKING BACK: 2013 IN REVIEW

Before planning for the future it’s always wise to pause and consider the past. If you don’t take time to consider where you’ve been, setting smart goals related to where you want to go becomes much harder. It also becomes harder to identify your progress and celebrate real achievements. The whole exercise can leave you feeling rather empty.

Take some time to answer these questions about the year that’s just ending before you start thinking in detail about the year to come.

  1. Pick three words to describe 2013
  2. What was the best thing that happened this year?
  3. What was the most challenging thing that happened this year?
  4. What were the two biggest areas of stress in your life this year?
  5. What were the two biggest sources of joy and refreshment in your life this year?
  6. If you’re in a relationship, what is one thing you and your partner “did well” in your relationship this year? What is one way you and your partner could have “done better” in your relationship this year?
  7. In what ways were you able to contribute something meaningful to others this year?
  8. What are two things you achieved this year that you’re proud of?
  9. What is one thing you would have liked to achieve this year but didn’t?
  10. What are some ways you disappointed yourself this year?
  11. What books did you read or experiences did you have this year that helped you become a better version of yourself?
  12. What were five of your favorite moments this year?
  13. What are five things from this year that you’re grateful for?
  14. What are two important lessons you learned/relearned this year?
  15. How did you see God at work this year?

LOOKING FORWARD: 2014 TO COME

  1. Pick three words you would like to describe 2014
  2. Given what you experienced and learned in 2013, what are two things you could do (or do differently) to reduce stress and increase your own resilience?
  3. What is the one habit you would most like to stop this year?
  4. What is the one habit you would most like to start this year?
  5. What are two ways “character strengths” you’d like to grow in this year? What specific steps could you take to develop these strengths?
  6. How would you like to “live out your faith” this year?
  7. If you could only ask one thing of God for this upcoming year, what would it be?
  8. If you could only “do” one thing for God this upcoming year, what would that be?
  9. What is one thing you’d like to learn this year?
  10. What is one thing you’d like to do more of (or do better) to take care of your physical health?
  11. What is one thing you’d like to do more of (or do better) to strengthen your relationship with your partner this year?
  12. What is one way you could better support a friend(s) or be of service to your community?
  13. If you could only do one big thing this year, what would it be?
  14. How will you keep yourself accountable and track your progress on these goals and aspirations?

Phew! If you’ve answered all of those questions then you’ve probably crystallized some important experiences and lessons that 2013 had to offer and outlined some hopes and dreams for 2014.

I don’t know where the dawning of the New Year will find you, but I know how I hope it finds you – feeling well-loved and loving well, and excited about the new adventures and wondrous mysteries headed your way in the next 365 days.

Happy New Year!!

Will you join me in reviewing this year and planning for the next?

Leave a comment with your favorite “reviewing and planning” question, or share with us an insight or goal from your own planning.

2014-happy-new-year

Lisa McKayauthor, psychologist, sojourner in Laos
Blog: www.lisamckaywriting.com      Books: Love At The Speed Of Email and My Hands Came Away Red

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About Lisa McKay

Lisa McKay is a psychologist and the award-winning author of the memoir Love At The Speed Of Email, the novel My Hands Came Away Red, and several books on long distance relationships. She lives in Laos with her husband and their two sons.
  • Tammy Brouwer

    I’ve never really been formal in writing down goals for the coming year. This has been a good exercise for me and I pray it will help me to better grow in 2014! Thank you.

  • KatherineH

    Hi Lisa,
    I’m a pastor in a network of house churches in Sydney Australia, and I’d love to encourage our house church communities to consider the looking back and looking forward questions you list here and to be able to discuss their thoughts together over the next couple of weeks. Would you mind if I distributed this post (or an extract of it) to them with appropriate acknowledgement and a link back to this page? Thanks for considering such a request. Katherine

  • This is one of my favourite posts from this website (which is an awesome website and resource). I have passed this link and the questions on to so many of my friends. It’s a good tool to use to process the past year and step freely into the next year with hope. Bless you.

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