2011 Annual Review

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We talk a lot about balance, beauty, and balls around here. But if you want to see an actual change in your life it’s not enough to simply want it really bad, or to read my blog twice a week, or to publicly declare it as your New Year’s resolution. (We all know that those promises don’t make it past mid-January anyway.)

You have to plan for change. You have to plan for self improvement. And this involves a great deal of strategy, which is why — in the footsteps of one of my blog heroes Chris Guillebeau — I’m conducting my own annual review. In Chris’ words, the purpose of an annual review is to reflect on the past year and “create a road map for the year ahead – not a rigid daily schedule, but an overall outline of what matters to me and what I hope to achieve in the next year.

I’ve already completed a modified version of Chris’ annual review for my own personal records, but I’d like to share excerpts of it here on ABL to model the exercise in case you’d like to try it for yourself:


Part 1: General Reflection

What Went Well In 2011

In the annual review stored in my personal records, I have 8 items listed under this category. Here are 3 of them:

  • My husband and I paid off $28,000 in credit card debt that we accrued throughout our 20′s. (It. Feels. Awesome.)
  • I found closure and forgiveness regarding a major trauma that happened in 2005.
  • I finally launched ABraveLife.com and a private counseling practice after about 10 months of conceptualizing, branding, writing, and planning. (Shout out to my hubby for building this website to my insane specifications. I owe you a big wet kiss. Maybe more. Ooh-la-la.)

What Didn’t Go Well In 2011

Again, there are 8 items on my list. Here are 3 of them:

  • I didn’t finish recording my album of original music.
  • I wound up on someone’s sh*t list.
  • I failed to keep up with my exercise/ running plan.


Part 2: Results From Last Year

I don’t have a completed annual review for last year so there’s nothing to share here. (Booo!) But I expect that for next year’s annual review this section will contain some interesting findings. (Yay!)


Part 3: Planning For Next Year

Like Chris, I’m intentionally trying to accomplish small goals in various areas of my life. Here are some examples:


  • have my cholesterol checked (Oh god. This will NOT be good.)
  • exercise 3-5x per week

A Brave Life

  • continue publishing 2 helpful posts per week
  • base all decisions (content, services, comment moderation, etc.) on the interests and needs of ABL readers
  • connect with people who blog about similar themes

Private Counseling Practice

I have a list of goals in this category, but I can’t share any of them just yet. You see, Brian and I are bracing ourselves for some major changes in 2012 that will effect our personal lives and our careers, including my private practice. I’m not at liberty to share any information about it. (Are you intrigued yet?)


  • start a 6-month emergency savings account
  • pay back a friend

Charitable Giving & Volunteer Work

  • volunteer at a military vet center and partner with local groups that advocate for military families (There’s actually a crazy back story that goes along with this goal. Stay tuned for it in an upcoming post.)
  • donate 100% of my album sales to my charity of choice, Doctors Without Borders

Try Something New/ Crazy/ Unusual

It’s important for me to do adventurous activities that make me want to wet my pants – it’s good practice for when I have to make Big Scary Life Decisions that require me to push through fear. In 2010 I jumped out of a plane during my co-ed skydiving bachelorette party:

In 2011 I participated in Warrior Dash, a 3-mile race that involved jumping over fire, slithering in the mud under barbed wire, climbing over a 20-foot wobbly wall (without the assistance of rope on the way down– eeek!), and other mildly dangerous obstacles:

This year I intend to join the Polar Bear Club for an icy New Year’s Day swim.


I haven’t traveled as much as I’d like to, but I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to vacation in Kenya, Tanzania, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. In the US I’ve visited Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Hollywood, San Fransisco, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Orlando.

My hope is to visit at least one new country or city every year beginning in 2012, and to do it without breaking the bank. In a few months my husband and I will be on a week-long vacation in Aruba (with free lodging and maybe even free airfare – wheee!), so I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start.

Miscellaneous Goals

  • Spend time with friends whom I’ve never hung out with outside of work or grad school
  • finish reading a new book every month
  • learn to cook at least 5 new vegetarian dishes (with actual vegetables in them, not just carbs and cheese)
  • do daily morning meditations or spiritual/ inspirational reading

Again, this list is incomplete but you get the picture. The other half of Part 3: Planning For Next Year involves writing out small actionable steps that will enable you to reach your goals.


Part 4: Theme For The Year

I like Chris’ idea of creating a theme for the next year of your life. He explains that your theme is “the summary of the whole year – what’s it going to look like? Who will I be for the next year?”.

In terms of my personal and professional life 2012 will be: The Year of Planting Seeds.

It’s important to be very clear about your theme. It’ll keep things in perspective. If you forget your theme, you’ll get sidetracked into worrying about all the wrong things.

Take A Brave Life, for example. Even though ABL is only about a month old, my mind keeps racing into the future about what ABL could be one day, and what I’ll have to do on the business end of things in order to get it there. Remember when you were a kid and you used to spin around like a top before falling to the ground in a dizzy spell? When I start thinking about the future of ABL, that’s exactly how I feel – energized, intrigued, and a little nauseous.

But when I focus on the idea of “Planting Seeds” I’m reminded that ABL will still be in its infancy until its first birthday in November of 2012, after which it will transition into a new phase of growth. This means that my only task for the next 12 months is to do an excellent job of making the conditions right for the seeds I plant. It means writing content that aligns with ABL’s message. It means fostering a positive community in the comment section and on our Facebook page. It means meeting other writers with similar goals and intentions. Anything else is a just a distraction.


Final Thoughts

Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” I think that our greatest regrets and disappointments in life arise from instances when our actions failed to reflect our deepest personal values. And that’s what an annual review is all about — identifying the things in life that are important to us, and creating strategies that enable us to be living reflections of those values.

Is an annual review something that you’d like to try? What are your intentions for 2012?

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10 Responses to 2011 Annual Review

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  5. Allie says:

    This post really reminds me of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My disclaimer: I totally drank the kool-aid… When I took the course in college I was at a point in my life where some big life decisions were needing to be made and I was feeling a bit rudderless, so I may have become a pseudo-evangelist about it.
    Anyway, if you or any readers haven’t ever read the book, I would highly recommend. A lot of the above listing is similar, but it maybe goes one step further and has you evaluate what your true core principles are so that the activities/goals you choose are in harmony with what you really value in life, and so that you can identify the things that are truly important to you and make time in your life for them.
    It’s all actually fairly obvious/logical stuff once it’s put down in front of you, but it sets it out very nicely and concisely and provides a good framework. I return to it any time that a big shift in my life is happening (moving, getting married, new job, etc, etc) or I’m feeling a bit un-centered / off balance and know something’s not quite right in life.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Hi Allie! Thanks for the fabulous suggestion. I skimmed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens a few years ago but I think I’ll go through it again and maybe pick up the original version. And you’re totally right — the steps necessary for achieving our goals are often obvious and logical. We always attribute long-lasting change to discipline, but before that phase must come the collection of quality tools and resources for formulating an effective plan of action.

      • Allie says:

        I think the real key is figuring out what you’re aiming for- you don’t want to go through all the discipline and hard work to finally accomplish your goal and figure out it’s not actually compatible with your true self / what you _really_ want out of life!

        I definitely recommend picking up the book- it’s something that you have to commit to- the ideas themselves are worth reading/skimming, but the real power is working through the recommended exercises at the end of each chapter and delving into and applying them to your own life…

        Would definitely love to hear your thoughts on it if you do so!

  6. Sheryl says:

    I love the actual review in terms of positives/negatives and PLANNING for the new year. It’s most thoughtful review structure I’ve ever seen.

    Tip on the vegetarian dishes …. try gratins, if you haven’t already. There’s a kick-ass broccoli and cauliflower gratin at The Kitchn (I never remember how to link things) that’s DELICIOUS and I get constant compliments on. Still cheesy, but healthy(ish) too. Easy way to get veggies in, and make it look fancy.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Ooh, I am SO on that recipe Sheryl. If my husband starts hating me for making it 3x per week for dinner, I’m blaming you. ;) Thanks for the tip!

      • Kimberly Eclipse says:

        Oh, and yes, Chris Guillebeau’s annual review method is fan-freakin’-tastic. So is he. I’d like to bow in front of him, wash his feet with exotic and expensive oils, dry it with my hair, follow him around all day, and keep a small statue of him in my living room.

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