Review Your Yearly Goals and Set Yourself Up to Win

The end of the year is fast approaching, as is the start of a new one. With that, now is the perfect time to review your goals, record your learning, and use any insights to help you accomplish more next year.

For the last few years I’ve spent a few days in December thinking about what goals I want to achieve the following year. It's become a bit of an obsession which I get genuinely excited about.

In this article I’ll walk you through a step-by-step approach that’ll give you an opportunity to consider what you've achieved and learned this year, and then apply your learning to the coming year.

The approach consists of five steps:

  1. Identify your top achievements
  2. Consider your overall commitment to your goals
  3. Identify the habits that supported your goals
  4. Assess the impact of your habits and behaviours
  5. Identify where to focus your energy next year

This process requires focus, so I invite you to set aside some distraction free time where you can give it your full attention. I'd recommend at least an hour of undistracted time to get the most out of the process.

Step 1: Identify your top achievements

To get started, identify the areas of your life you want to review. For example, the goals you set for physical health, finances, spirituality, friends and family, business and learning. Of course, there are others you could include, but these are a few suggestions to get you started.

Next, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What were my top three goal achievements (wins)
  2. What were my top three goal failures (loses)?

Deeper questions:

  1. What am I most proud of?
  2. What am I most disappointed of?

To help demonstrate how it works, a couple of examples from my year include the following:

Achievement (learning) – After completing the ILM Leadership & Management course the previous year, one of my goals for this year was to earn a BSc Honours degree as a mature student.

This was a challenge as I studied whilst working full-time and maintaining other commitments. However, despite the challenge I graduated with a First-Class Honours.

I also managed to gain myself the Social Sciences Prize, awarded for the most outstanding performance in the Applied Social Sciences and Sociology courses.

Failure (health) – Though I managed to remain relatively energised, I frustratingly failed to reach one of my health goals. This was partly due to a long-term rib injury. But on reflection, I also see where I allowed my injury to become an excuse to feel sorry for myself and eat unhealthily.

As answering these two questions are the starting point of the exercise, it’s important to be brutally honest with yourself. Allowing room for excuses might result in not getting the most value from your reflections and impact your chances of achieving next year.

Step 2: Consider your overall commitment to your goals

Next, you’re going to score yourself on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest) for (1) overall effort and (2) overall outcome in each area. As an example, you might ask yourself:

  1. How much effort did I put into achieving [your goal goes here]?
  2. How close to achieving [your goal goes here] did I get?

Deeper questions:

  1. Did I achieve the goal or not?
  2. How committed was I?

The thinking here is that once you’ve given yourself a score for effort and outcome, you’ll start to see a link between input and results. Equally, you could also spot where your results were impacted by things beyond your control, as can often be the case. For example, one of my health goals was to increase strength/energy and decrease weight to <75kg by December 2019.

When answering the two questions, I scored effort and outcome a 5/10 and 4/10, respectively. Now, if you’re wondering why I scored outcome lower than effort, it’s because I accounted for a long-term injury which prevented me from training.

Step 3: Identify the habits that supported your goals

This next step is where you start taking note of what contributed to your overall results. Some of the things that stopped you from succeeding would’ve been circumstances out of your control. Others, on the other hand, would’ve been solely down to you.

The questions you’re about to answer will invite you to evaluate your behaviours and habits.They’ll also help you to identify the impact of your daily choices and actions. So now, ask yourself the following:

  1. What behaviours and routines contributed to me achieving my goals?
  2. What behaviours and routines contributed to me not achieving my goals?

Deeper questions:

  1. Which of my habits are helpful?
  2. Which of my habits are unhelpful?

For example, some behaviours that contributed to me earning a First-Class Honours degree and being award a prize included:

  •  Removing all distractions, e.g., phone notifications
  •  Attending lectures, when possible
  •  Taking notes in lectures
  •  Working in set locations, e.g., quiet library space
  •  Reading lecture slides on the university website
  •  Scheduling a target number of hours for research and writing
  •  Setting specific tasks, e.g., read five peer reviewed journals
  •  Regularly exercising
  •  Asking for feedback from a mentor
  •  Meeting regularly with my supervisor
  •  Meeting with peers for support

Equally, a habit that contributed to me not reaching my target weight, was comfort eating. Despite my injury preventing me from training, if honest with myself, had I focused on reducing my caloric intake, I would have certainly seen better results.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Being clear about the impact of your habits is essential for one obvious reason – knowing what works equips you to recreate your success. Having insight into what works will also give you greater confidence in your ability to achieve your goals.

Step 4: Assess the impact of your habits

With step four, you’re going to examine your habits a bit deeper. By applying the Pareto principle (80/20 Rule) you’ll identify the few vital habits that had the most significant impact on your outcomes.

The 80/20 Rule observes outcomes as being the result of uneven distribution and as resulting from a minority of inputs. For example, 20% of a team will contribute to 80% of organisational results. So, focus on rewarding those people.

It’s important to note the ratio doesn’t necessarily need to be 80/20, it could be 70/30, 98/2 or even 90/10. The principle is that in most scenarios, it’s the small but vital things that tend to get the biggest results. Simply put, some actions will contribute more to your accomplishments than others.

So, to apply this principle for the purpose of your review, you’ll need to look at your lists from Step Three and answer the following questions:

  1. What 20% behaviours and routines contributed to my top achievements?
  2. What 80% behaviours and routines contributed to my top failures?

For example, to earn my degree, I believe the 20% behaviours contributing to my success included:

  •  Scheduling a target number of hours for research and writing
  •  Setting clear and specific tasks for each day
  •  Asking for feedback from my mentors and my supervisor

Likewise, the 80% behaviours contributing to me not meeting one of my health goals included:

  •  Eating late at night
  •  Skipping breakfast
  •  Not drinking enough water

Once complete, you should be clear on which habits resulted in you making the most progress towards accomplishing your goals. Equally, you’ll know which ones didn’t. You can then move to the next step which is where you’re going to wrap it up and start to think about how to apply your learning to the next year.

Step 5: Identify how to focus your energy next year

The odds of accomplishing your future goals are dependent on how well you engage and apply the final step. So, having considered your achievements and what’s within your control (your habits), you’re now going to apply this insight to the following year.

"Always remember, your focus determines your reality." ~ George Lucas

To make the most of your review, finish off by answering the following questions:

  1. How can I increase and incorporate the 20% habits?
  2. What steps can I take to limit the 80% habits?

Answering these questions will help you identify where to place your focus and energy. Focusing your efforts on measurable routines, behaviours and habits, will increase your chances of accomplishing your chosen goals in the coming year.


Firstly, if you've completed the review - well done! I'm confident you'd have got value from investing time in the process.

It’s easy to underestimate the power of conducting a review of your accomplishments. Yet, knowing how much your achievements are influenced by your behaviours, routines and habits can be empowering.

Hopefully, once you’ve completed your review, you’ll feel more equipped to set and accomplish your goals for next year. And, with what you’ve learnt, you should also feel more confident to get started.

By choosing to apply the knowledge gained in your review, you’d have also seen there’s more in your control than you might have thought. This awareness is one of the huge benefits of giving priority to going through a review process.

You never know, completing an annual review of your goals might set you up to experience your best year yet!


If you think you might benefit from working with a counsellor or coach, book a free Exploration Call with me to talk about what working together might look like.

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Photo credit: Thought Catalog

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