January Retrospective: More on Achieving Those Goals

Bet you thought Jenny and I were so busy elsewhere that we’d forget to come back to you on the subject of Achieving Your Goals – no chance! after a few minor diversions including Jenny getting her cat seen to and me organising Hugo’s 5th birthday party, (not to mention the proper work in between of course) – we’re back on track.

In today’s posting I’m going to share with you an interesting tool, devised by Dr Martin Seligman, called the January Retrospective. This is a bit like Out with the Old, In with the New which Jenny described in her posting on 1st January, only in more depth.

Here’s how it works.

At the end of January set aside 20-40 minutes of quiet time to reflect on the previous year. Think about how your life has gone over the past 12 months. What has happened, what goals did you set yourself (if any) last year, and which ones have you achieved? If you missed some, what stopped you? What successes did you have, how did they come about? What good things happened that you’d forgotten about? Reflecting on those positive things, identify what difference they have made to you, and how do you feel differently now that they have happened. Consider what you know now that you didn’t know then. Consider also the negative things which happened and rather than dwell on them, think about what you have learnt from them, and how you have changed for the better because of them.

Once you have spent about 20 minutes on this (or more if you want), you need to organise your thoughts on one page that you can keep and refer back to. For ease, Selgiman keeps his record on his PC.

On a scale of 1-10 rate your satisfaction with your life in each of the categories which are of great value to you, and jot down a few sentences to sum up. Seligman uses the following categories:

Generativity (leaving a meaningful legacy for the future)

Other categories could be:
Faith / spirituality
Learning / personal development
Relationships:  intimate / family / friends/ community / business
Work / career
Health & Wellbeing
Fun / Hobbies/ Recreation
Self Esteem

Choose whichever categories are most meaningful to you. Because Seligman has been doing this exercise for the last decade, he also uses a category called ‘Trajectory’ in which he scrutinises the year-on-year changes and their course across the decade.

The idea is that you keep this summary of 2006 in a safe place until next January, when you go through the same process, reflecting on how 2007 was for you personally.

Over time, you will build up a fairly detailed appraisal of how you, and your life, is progressing, which is important for balanced decision making. And you will have reminded yourself of the positives, and reinforced the learnings too.

From ‘Authentic Happiness’, Martin Seligman (2003)

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous Says:

    This is really brilliant, will try and set the time aside thise week to do this excercise

  2. Bridget Says:

    Great that you found this useful – please do let us know how you get on!

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