Better outcomes start with the right questions.

Want to Do things Differently in the New Year? Start By Asking the Right Questions

Here we are, with another year on the books.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering where the time went.

Whether the year sped by for you or dragged on, the end of one year and the beginning of another is a good time to assess your progress and to think about what changes you’d like to make in your life. There’s a nice symbolism to starting fresh as the New Year rings in.

So, how did your year go? Did you accomplish everything you wanted to? Or, like me, did you set a few goals you didn’t quite hit?

Either way, it’s important to remember… whether you set goals or not, whether you reached them or not, you can learn from the experience. And, that’s a good thing. This isn’t a time to beat yourself up. It’s a time to renew your motivation, decide what you want, and go for it.

If there are things you’d like to see change in the next year, it helps to ask some hard-hitting questions before the New Year arrives.

Start with What Didn’t Go as Planned

If you want to make improvements, it’s useful to take a closer look at the things that didn’t go the way you wanted them to.

So, ask yourself, what didn’t go as planned?

Did you set a goal and not reach it? If that’s the case, why didn’t you reach it? Did you have time-management issues? Was the goal too lofty? Did you have the resources you needed to realistically reach the goal? Did life throw you a curve ball? Did you lose your enthusiasm?

Did you have a plan to reach your goal? (If not, that would be an easy change to make in the coming year.)

Did you execute your plan and not get the result you wanted? In that case, give yourself a pat on the back for follow through, and think about how you might change the plan to get a different (better) result.

If you didn’t set a goal — and it’s okay to have goal-free years — what are the habits that didn’t serve you this year?

Action Step:  Set a timer for 20 minutes and free write in response to these questions.

Next, Look at What You Want to Keep

After getting down on paper (I count computer documents as paper) all the things that weren’t quite in line with what you wanted, the next thing to do is think through the things that did go well.

This is essential.

I can all but guarantee you accomplished more than you think you did. It’s important to give yourself credit for that. It’s also important to identify what’s working but working slower than you’d like. You don’t want to toss out those things that are serving you. Again, dig into this by asking the right questions.

Start by asking yourself, what did I accomplish this year?

Did you land a new client? Learn a new skill? Did you launch a new website or promotional campaign? Did you attend any events? Did you follow up with the people you met there? (Virtual events count!)

Don’t stop at the work stuff.

Did you give your fitness and health the attention they deserve… at least some of the time? Spend more time with your family? Have more fun with your friends? Did you start journaling? Or take up a new hobby?

Also ask yourself, how far did I come this year?

What’s different now from when you started the year? Are you more confident? Are you earning more money? Do you have a bigger network? Are you happier?

It’s easy to identify your accomplishments as the end goals you reached or the measurable milestones you nailed, but don’t overlook all the other progress. Some things are more difficult to measure, but just as important.

Action Step:  Take 20 minutes and free write your answers to these questions.

Now, a Harder Question… What Do You Really Want?

Listing your accomplishments and shortfalls is easy enough. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper…

The next question to ask is, what do I really want?

Humans have an unfortunate tendency to see what someone else is doing and to feel like they should be doing it, too. So, it’s possible you have goals that aren’t really your own.

When you think about the coming year, what do you want?

How much time do you want to spend working?

What kinds of projects do you want to work on?

What kinds of clients do you want to work with?

Do you want to freelance or work in-house?

How much money do you want to earn?

How do you want to spend your days?

What non-work goals do you want to pursue?

And then, ask yourself, why do you want these things?

If you want them because they’ll make you happy and help you grow into the person you want to be, because they align with your values and will let you have the balanced life you dream of, then… excellent!

But, if you want them because it will finally get your Aunt Sally to stop nagging you about getting a real job, or because it will finally win the approval of your mother (or father or sister or third-grade teacher), or because it will let you say, I told you so, to all your high-school friends who didn’t believe in you… those reasons will be less fulfilling and less likely to serve you.

Action Step:  Go for a nice, long walk. Think about what you want and why. When you get clear on those two things, write them down. Start by expressing them succinctly. Then, go into detail.

And, Finally, the Real Meat-and-Potatoes Question… How Will You Get There?

Right about now, you have a good idea of what didn’t work in the past year and what did. You also know what you want in the coming year (and maybe even in life, in general), and you know why you want it.

You have all the information you need to figure out the practical steps to make the progress you want to see for yourself.

A few questions to think on to help you define those practical steps…

Based on what you want to change in your life, what is a practical amount of progress to make in the next 12 months?

Knowing your current schedule and the demands on your life, how much time can you realistically dedicate to making progress this year? (Plan to reevaluate this at least every quarter — schedules change!)

What actions have you been taking that are moving you forward? Can you do more of those?

What actions have you been taking that are holding you back? Is it possible to eliminate those?

What are the things, big and small, that typically pull you off track? How can you recognize when they’re happening? What can you do to either adjust, so you can stay on track while dealing with those obstacles, or sidestep those obstacles completely?

Action Step:  Spend 30 minutes answering these questions.

Bringing It All Together

All right, now take a look at everything you’ve learned about yourself and use it to put together a plan… one that will lead to steady progress toward the changes you’d like to see in your business and your life.

Really think about the time you have each week to dedicate to pursuing these changes. Block that time out. Put it on your schedule. Make it sacred.

Then, go into each week with a solid outline for how you’ll use that time.

Take this steady, methodical approach, and you’ll be amazed at what you achieve!

I would love to hear your plans in the comments… and I’d love it even more if you posted the occasional update on how it’s going. Happy New Year!

Heather Robson

Heather Robson

Managing editor of Wealthy Web Writer, Heather has over ten years of content marketing and development experience.


  • Happy New Year, Heather! I think this might be my most favorite article yet. I’ll continue to refer to these questions (and my answers to them) throughout the year ahead. I created a vision document with them so I can read it daily and constantly remind myself of these things.

    One of my plans for 2022 is to write more long-form sales letters — and maybe even specialize in it.

    But first… I gotta pass the AWAI Sales Letter Writing certification test this month! 🙂

  • Happy New Year, Heather! I’m using the R from SMART to record when I submit AWAI Method assignments. I read through 11 Parts, then circled back to do the assignments and continue. How different it seems from 2004’s 6-Figure course. Of course, technology has given us so many resources to expand perspectives! And, like Nick says, user control to deal with. All positive, in my feeling! Thanks again for your UX accomplishment for so many of us.
    Lynelle, best wishes for your test!

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