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How to Do a Post-Mortem of Your Year

With 2021 just about ready to bite the biscuit, it’s a perfect time to complete a post-mortem: an examination of your corpse year to determine the cause of death what went well and where you really messed things up.

Why is this worth doing? Why not just eat leftover stuffing and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the 45th time? Reflecting on the year you just lived can be insightful and productive. We’re not here to cry over spilled milk if your year rivaled 2020 for “The Best of the Worst” — no, we’re here to become aware and make better decisions about how we want 2022 to be.

So let’s do this formaldehyde-free autopsy of your year! 

7 Post-Mortem Questions to Ask About Your 2021:

I recommend you look at your personal and professional life as a whole when answering these questions, but if doing so gives you heartburn and you’d rather parse the domains out, I’m not going to hunt you down and stop you.

  1. What three things were you most proud of in 2021? Look at your answers. Why did these things make you feel proud? What values were you honoring (e.g.: achievement, serenity, connection, financial security, adventure…)?
  2. How did you disappoint yourself in 2021? What actions do you want to take to avoid this kind of disappointment in 2022?
  3. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently in 2021? How would your life be different today if you’d done it that way instead?
  4. What moments made you feel most alive in the year? How can you do more of these kinds of vitality-filled things in 2022?
  5. What moments made you feel deadened in the year? How can you do less of these kinds of de-energizing things in 2022, if applicable?
  6. What three things gave you the most meaning in the year? How can you continue to find 2022 meaningful?
  7. If you averaged your experience of being alive for all of 2021, where would you plot yourself on my “Astonishingly Alive” model below? The x-axis is all about vitality (how much fun, enjoyment, and pleasure you had), and the y-axis is all about meaning (how much depth and sense of purpose you had in life).Where do you want to plot yourself at the end of 2022?

The Astonishingly Alive Model

In light of your answers, what stands out?

Are you focusing on your disappointments more than your successes? If so, go back and look at what made you proud and revel in those moments instead. (Spiked eggnog can also help with this.) This is meant to be a rumination-free exercise, so jot down a “Lesson Learned Through this Colossal Failure” bullet-point and swiftly move on, my hard-on-self friend.
Are you feeling trapped by a stubborn pandemic that won’t end? Yeah, join the worldwide club. How can you widen your life with more vitality amidst The Plague? How creative can you be to still live a wide life, even if it’s feeling narrowed by variants that are keeping you home/ not getting to go to Ibiza?
Are you surprised by what makes you feel most alive? Many have an inkling of what lights them up but fail to see it with crystal clarity. “DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY” is a good rule of thumb to live a happy, lively life. (Unless ‘more’ involves too much spiked eggnog, which almost always ends up becoming a messy problem.) But really: if cooking makes you feel fantastic, find a way to cook more often. If working on strategic problems at work floats your boat, talk to your boss about getting more strategic issues on your docket.
Are you unsure of how to widen &/or deepen your life, after looking at the model above? It’s okay. I suggest you take this quiz to determine where you are today, which will somehow (with the wonders of technology) cause an email from me to arrive in your inbox with a “Guide to Being Totally Alive” — chock full of ideas to add more vitality and meaning into your remaining years. [If quizzes make you feel angry inside, just click here for the Guide already.] You can also read more about making meaning here, and more on un-deading your life via vitality in a three-part series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

There you have it; you’ve sliced and diced what went down in 2021, and hopefully you’ve learned what to do more of and less of to make your next year of life feel like one you want to call your own. And now, after spending ample time looking backwards, let’s aim our focus forward! There is a year of untapped potential to become the best-ish versions of ourselves. What do you want your 2022 post-mortem to look like? Aim towards that and let’s watch you become astonishingly, undoubtedly alive.

Jodi Wellman

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