Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

Although we’re now over two weeks into January, it’s still not too late to debrief last year and learn some valuable lessons to carry forward into 2018. In today’s post, I share some resources for how to do this, as well as provide a glimpse into my own yearly review process and what I learned from it.

How to Debrief Last Year

How to Close Out a Year on the Right Note

There are many rituals we can use to help us powerfully close out each year and gain knowledge for better navigating our path into the next year. Of course, there is nothing particularly magical about the year end and we can do these processes at any time. However, there is a sense of closure as we move from one calendar year to the next that makes the time around New Year’s a great time for us to take stock. Our birthdays are also meaningful times to take inventory and set goals, as I wrote about in 2010, 2013, and 2016.

If you’d like to take some time now to debrief 2017, below are some tips from my fellow bloggers on how to do so. These processes range from a handful of questions to consider to as many as fifty, and they also vary in terms of their scope and approach. I’m including a variety of options because we’re all different and what works well for one person may either be overkill or not enough for another. Also, feel free to pick and choose which questions you wish to answer. Just because someone has presented a long list of debrief questions for us, it doesn’t mean that we need to take them all on.

I really like the last one because in addition to year-end questions, it also outlines some fun activities for closing out the year, including writing a letter to your future self, organizing your photos, and cleaning up your social media. As I mentioned earlier, we don’t need to only do such things in late December or January. In fact, I plan to take some of them on myself in the coming months and will likely share my process here on the blog.

How I Closed Out 2017

I opted to answer the “year in review” questions from Anuschka Rees, who is also the author of the helpful wardrobe management guide, The Curated Closet (I highly recommend it for those who are struggling with their wardrobe and style). I downloaded and printed out Anuschka’s PDF worksheet on New Year’s Day and thought that I’d maybe just answer ten or so of these questions, but I ended up responding to all of them over the course of about an hour and a half. One thing that I liked about doing the exercise on paper instead of screen was that I could only write so much in the allotted space, so I didn’t overthink things like I usually do. I won’t go into all of my answers here, but below are a select few that I felt were especially meaningful (I will also elaborate on some of these topics in future posts):

What was the most important lesson you learned in 2017?  (okay, two lessons…)

  • Done is better than perfect!
  • It’s very important that I honor myself and my needs and put myself first. This isn’t a bad thing! I shouldn’t say yes when my heart says no (read more about this concept here).\

I will not say yes when my heart says no.

Which mental blocks did you overcome?

  • I have mostly let go of my feelings of “should” around being in touch with people, especially on Facebook, which always seems to have a sense of urgency attached to it. I don’t need to be in touch all the time in order for it to be meaningful and for people to know that I care about them. I had been pushing myself to go online every day and due to other tasks and commitments, it often ended up happening late at night, which I now realize is bad for me.
  • I let go of needing to know what’s next before ending things that are no longer working for me, like my previous blog and the contract writing work I was doing during 2016 and 2017.

What new habits did you cultivate?

  • Not going on my computer in the late evenings (I don’t stick to this 100% of the time, but I increasingly do and it’s made a huge difference!).
  • Going to bed earlier (I still need to improve upon this more, but it’s a lot better than it used to be).
  • Less time on my phone and social media.
  • I go outside before dark on most days (this seems like a no-brainer, but it’s harder to do this time of year and helps my mood a lot).

What advice would you give your early 2017 self if you could?

  1. Take “baby steps” toward change in key life areas. A little bit adds up to meaningful changes over time, and I actually make more – and more lasting – progress this way than when I try to make big shifts all at once.
  2. If it’s not a “hell yes,” it’s a no!

How did your overall outlook on life evolve?

I’m better accepting my limitations in terms of my health and my temperament, and I’m not trying to do as much as I did before. I’m also redefining my definition of success so that it’s not so much about income level and job title.

What do you deserve a pat on the back for?

I’m not very good at acknowledging myself and my accomplishments, but looking back I’m proud of myself for what I did with “Recovering Shopaholic” and its follow-on projects. I published over 400 blog posts, wrote two books, and set up a Facebook group (now transferred to new leadership) with over 1300 members. I stuck with “Recovering Shopaholic” for over four years through many health and life challenges, and I know I made a difference with what I did there. I hope that I can continue to help people through “Full Life Reflections,” and I’m excited for the fresh start and new direction here!

What had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

My “peace” theme was life-changing in that it helped me pull back on activities and relationships that weren’t really serving me. It also helped me to better prioritize my health and well-being. I listened to my heart and my gut more, which was highly beneficial to my overall personal evolution (more on this in my next post!).

Coming Attractions and Your Feedback

I hope you found the above resources and glimpse into my personal 2017 debrief process helpful. In my next post, I will share more about how my “peace” theme made a difference in my life last year. I will also let you know what I have selected as my word for 2018 and provide guidance on how you can choose a theme for this year, if you have not already done so.

Now I would love to hear from you:

  • If you have done any of the exercises mentioned above – or something similar, what did you learn?
  • What were your most powerful lessons from 2017?
  • How would you answer the questions I highlighted above? (I also welcome your feedback on what I shared)
  • What were your greatest wins, challenges, and memories from last year?

I invite you to answer these questions in the comments section. You’re also welcome to share anything you’d like related to today’s post. I look forward to reading your thoughts and insights.

18 thoughts on “It’s Not Too Late to Debrief 2017 – and 7 Ways to Do It

  1. Diane langston says:

    So glad you are back! Missed your writing and beautiful insight ❤️.

  2. jerilynb says:

    Dear Debbie,

    I’m glad you’re back. I enjoy your writing.

    I’ve taken about an hour to reflect on your article and looked at three of the shorter lists of questions on year end thoughts. Facing 50 questions is overwhelming.

    My “best investment” this year has committing to having lunch dates with friends on a monthly basis. Sure I got to check out some restaurants, but I deepened relationships with friends. This led to appreciating more friends and connecting with them. One of those friends is my cousin Cathy.

    As the year continued, two of Cathy and my aunts had grave illnesses and eventually passed away. Being open to compassion for my many cousins felt good to me and increased my sense of well-being and self-worth, as well as being of service to them. And prepared me for the death of my own mother.

    Mom passed away at the end of October. She was 100 years old. I was surrounded by friends and family. I’d followed my mother’s advice, “To have a friend, you have to be a friend.” Folks were amazed that the funeral of a 100 year old woman was packed. Mom’s friends had all passed and she was the last of her generation. I have a sense of relief that she is at rest now. My anxiety is lessened.

    There’s more to my year than that. I found out it’s way too easy to spend money on Amazon Prime, it’s easier to exercise with a partner so I tango and I had a new piece of artwork juried into two shows. My health is a struggle and I look forward to a day when my life isn’t centered on resolving health problems.

    That’s my debriefing on 2017.

    Jeri Bar

    1. debbier says:

      Jeri, My deepest condolences on the loss of your mother and aunts. Thank you for sharing your mom’s sage advice on friendship (I wholeheartedly agree!) and the heartwarming story of her packed funeral. I’m glad you have reconnected with friends and your cousin Cathy and are feeling increased well-being and self-worth. I hope this year will bring improvements in terms of your health. I really resonated by your last sentence in your final paragraph and I wish that for both of us. Keep enjoying your tango and artwork!

  3. Tonya says:

    Great post Debbie! I learned a lot in 2017. I think my biggest lesson was to live now. I had two friends die in 2017 and they were both in their 40’s. That was a big wake up call for me. I travelled, went to concerts and plays, and started hiking to waterfalls. I spent a lot of time dealing with personal issues so that I could move forward and feel lighter. I started saying no to the things I didn’t want to do. I stopped feeling as much obligation towards other people and didn’t spend my time trying to manage their problems. I was proud of myself for sticking with the hiking even though it was really hard for me. I never thought I would be walking on these little paths with drop-offs of hundreds of feet just beside me! Or climbing in and out of gorges that were nothing but rock. I learned that I was resilient and more than a little stubborn. It was worth it. Seeing the huge waterfalls was awe inspiring. I also bought a lot. More than the last few years. Overall it was a very good year. I feel like I had a full life. I’m still reverting back to quick fixes sometimes, but I’ve had periods of time living “the real thing”. Now I just need to figure out how to do that without spending so much money!

    1. debbier says:

      I love that you have taken up the hiking, Tonya, and have stuck with it, and that you are feeling less obligation toward others. That’s still a big issue for me, as you know, but you set a good example for me and others. I’m so sorry for the loss of your two friends long before their time, but I’m very glad you have been able to use such a deep loss as a springboard for positive life change. I’m sure your friends would be pleased as well.

  4. Wendy says:

    This year has been about relationships for me. My husband and I have been having problems for years but have not called it quits because we have 2 kids. I have been relatively unhappy and directionless with my life ever since I had children and that unhappiness is the main cause of our problems. I’ve had a shopping addiction for 9 years and I continue to use shopping to avoid dealing with our problems and my own personal problems. My husband knows about it of course but since it doesn’t interfere with our family finances nor creates clutter in the house he doesn’t say anything about it. This year we’ve had a few episodes where it really felt like it was the end for us but then we each took a short vacation to be away from each other, which is something we’ve never done before. I also saw a therapist for a few months and the combination of the two things have really helped us want ing the work things out. While I was away on my short vacation, I connected with old friends and had many shoulders to cry on – friends whom I thought we had grown apart. Once they heard that I was having martial problems, they couldn’t of been more supportive and loving. So re-connectiing to the past and feeling renewd to work on my marriage were two very signficant things that defined 2017 for me. Seeing the therapist, even for a short time really helped me open the conversation of what I really want to do with my life. I still don’t know what that is yet but at least I’m not avoiding it as much as I was before. The shopping addiction is still there and as always, has it’s ups and downs…

    1. debbier says:

      I appreciate your being so open about your struggles, Wendy. I can relate to the unhappiness and feeling of being directionless. I’m glad you have reached out for help to old friends and a therapist and have been able to stay in your marriage and use short times apart to ease some of the pressure. I hope this year will bring more improvements to your life. As I wrote about on “Recovering Shopaholic,” there are many reasons we shop too much (and I continue to have some struggles there, too – it’s very up and down) and it’s usually not about the clothes or whatever else we’re buying. Good for you for not avoiding things so much now. It’s a day by day thing, but you’ve made some wonderful positive steps already.

  5. Michaela K says:

    Great post! I feel as if 2017 was something of a turning point for me. It was a mix of amazing experiences and some not so great moments, the best thing being that I finally had some clarity after feeling directionless for several years. I’ve implemented some changes and am feeling positive about 2018 as a result.

  6. Susan B. says:

    Amazing insights as usual, Debbie. I love how you gently lead us on our journey by sharing your own insights and experiences. I need to give your article more thought … but I’m still living in a state of urgency. I tried keeping a journal of 2017, but forgot about it less than half-way through. 😦 I wish I shared your ability for deep introspection.

    So happy you are doing this blog!

  7. Mo says:

    Must admit I don’t get too into the journaling and long lists of questions. makes me eyes glaze over just to think about it lol. But last year was a mixed bag for me. I had some growth. I went out on a limb and tried Crossfit, to find I really liked it. I had roadblocks. A troublesome coworker undermining behind my back while smiling to my face. Also, was feeling kind of stuck in a rut with the job. Things changed there. I am now part time, at a new, different location, and no longer managing. Happy about all but the further location lol. But I realized I was doing what I felt I *should* by working there x amount of hours and putting my other second job on the back burner. I’m now taking this year on as I feel I want to. More equal time at both jobs, not putting all my eggs in either basket. The freedom in choosing to do what you want rather than what you feel you should do is what I’m finding.
    Regarding shopping last year, I had a pretty strict plan that I stuck to 90% of the time. Then I sort of just started buying whatever whenever by Black Friday. I need that middle ground. So I know I can do restrictive regimes but I am happier if I give myself a little leeway. Trying to find that perfect sweet spot in life in general.

  8. Terry says:

    I didn’t answer someone else’s questions, but came up with some thoughts with reference to the new year.

    As an introvert, socializing drains me and I don’t find superficial relationships rewarding. It’s not easy to find compatible minds without getting out there and wading through the crowd. I have to commit to moving outside my comfort zone.

    Every time I think my health has stabilized, something new and weird crops up. I need to prioritize my health this year in order to have a more fulfilling life.

    I am in a life transition, at a crossroads. I can passively let the scope of my life shrink, or I can actively pursue a bigger life. I choose bigger.

    So many of my favorite activities require physical abilities that I no longer possess. I need to find new activities about which I can be just as passionate.

    It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I need to hone my pacing skills and keep moving forward despite unexpected obstacles. Focus! Commit! But be patient with, and kind to, myself.

    1. debbier says:

      Wow, Terry, I really feel like i could have written exactly what you shared here. We have much in common in terms of temperament, health issues, and being at a crossroads. The health stuff can make us feel like we’re in a holding pattern and can make it very difficult to move forward in life and to even pursue anything bigger. You’re right that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and that we need to be patient and kind to ourselves. That’s a lesson I’m constantly trying to learn. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wishing you positive things this year.

  9. Terra says:

    Debbie, most of all I’m thrilled to know that you have moved into your new online home and are once again sharing your thoughts. Not only have I missed your writing, I’ve also missed the wealth of reader comments and conversations here. As for me, I wrote about my end of the year reflections in my December post, “Winter Count.” Now it’s time to sow. Long morning walks. The winter sun soaking into my flannel shirt, mist from the ocean spray on my face, and my thoughts turn over, like the waves on the beach.

  10. debbier says:

    I’m so pleased to read all of the wonderful heartfelt comments on this post! I realize that some of the lists of year-end questions I linked to were pretty overwhelming, which is why I included some shorter ones in the mix. I usually wouldn’t be game for answering 50 questions, either, but I was just in the right sort of mood on New Year’s Day, I guess. It’s also not necessary to respond to questions or even journal in order to reflect back upon your year. We all have different ways of doing this, but I do think there’s value in doing it.

    I am going to reply to a few of the comments above individually, but as I mentioned in my first post, I need to step back from replying to each and every comment, especially if the number of comments here gets to be like how it was on “Recovering Shopaholic.” Please know that I read all comments and am grateful to all of you for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts here with me.

    Reading your comments drives home to me more and more that it can be the “little things” in life that hold the most meaning, like Jeri’s lunches with friends, Tonya’s waterfall walks, Wendy reconnecting with old friends, Mo’s Crossfit, and Terra’s long morning walks. I love walks by the water, too, and maybe one of my experiments for this year will be moving them from the afternoon/evening to the morning to start my day out on a different note!

    Thank you for sharing yourselves here and opening up to me and to each other. I learned so much from readers on “Recovering Shopaholic” and I’m sure I will here as well. Much love to all of you!

  11. Claire says:

    I also admit to getting overwhelmed with lists of questions, although I loved reading your answers to some of them! A win for me last year was making significant progress in unraveling my lifelong mysterious health issues. A major part of that was finding an incredibly competent and compassionate neurologist who seems to have some kind of a handle on the complexity of my neurological profile. Also, over 3 years after losing our precious and beloved dog, we have rescued an older male Papillon mix. It’s pretty awesome having a dog around again after so long.

    1. debbier says:

      I’m so pleased that you have made great progress with your health issues, Claire. Finding the right doctor can be such an important piece of the puzzle. I’m happy for you and I also congratulate you on your new dog, who I’m sure is bringing a lot of joy to your life!

  12. Mame says:

    So glad you decided to write again! It seems that it feels very purposeful and intentional to you. I welcome the notion of your writing expanding to a wider variety of topics.

    My habit is to keep my word of the year to myself for the entire year and then share it when the year is over. Last year’s word was persistent and it was a great fit. It was my last full year of grad school and at times it was hard to hang in there. [I am now in my last semester]

    Besides finishing grad school I have a goal of meditating daily this year. After meditating off and on for ten years. So far, so good!
    [hmmm, i think I used to comment on your old blog with my official name Mary] 🙂

    1. debbier says:

      I can see the value in keeping one’s word secret until the year is over, Mame, and persistent was a great word choice! Best wishes with finishing grad school and meditating daily this year. I need to get back into meditating myself!

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