THE BLOG
12/15/2014 02:13 pm ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

How to Learn From 2014 to Make 2015 Your Best Year Yet

There's a reason a lot of the biggest movies of the year release on Christmas Day. Hollywood executives know that people have more free time over the holidays and are looking for something to do. So, sure, go see the latest blockbuster with your friends or family, but consider using some of your end of the year downtime to review what you learned in 2014 so that you can make 2015 your best year yet. Taking some time to think through this year's lessons learned can help you avoid reliving the same movie again and again (remember Groundhog Dayhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107048/?) and set you up to produce your own blockbuster in the new year.

Ready to give it a try? Get your favorite cup of coffee or tea, find a quiet space and take an hour or so to consider these questions:

What went right this year? -- There's almost always something that's going right. How can you acknowledge that, celebrate it and build on it? Make a list.
What am I proudest of, most grateful for or happiest about this year? Out of all the things you listed, which ones most warm your heart or charge your batteries? What steps did you take to help make those things happen? Get as specific as you can about actions you took, behaviors you exhibited or habits you set and followed through on. Connect the dots in reverse from the outcome back to the sequence of decisions and actions that eventually led to those outcomes. What patterns do you see that inform your goals and plans for 2015?

What changed this year? -- Of course, there are lots of factors in our lives that we can't control. Economists call them externalities. It's all the things that happen that are independent of any action you take. Some are good, some are bad, some are mixed or uncertain. Over time, your perspective on whether they're good or bad may change anyway so it probably doesn't make sense to spend a lot of time and energy labeling them. Just list the big changes in your life this year that seemed to be more out of your control than in your control. That's all of the extrinsic or external stuff that was going on around you. Once you have the list, we'll move on to a more important question.

What was my response to the big changes? -- Now we're into the things you can control and that's your response to all of the big changes that occurred this year. Focus in on three or four of the biggest changes and take an honest look at your internal or intrinsic response to them. Did you do happy dances and victory laps when good things happened? Did you freak out and throw a pity party when bad things happened? Did you stay more or less even in your response no matter what happened? If you graphed your range of responses or reactions would it look fairly steady or more like a seismograph during a big quake? No matter what the shape of your graph is, consider what impact your responses had on your actions and subsequent results this year. Does your pattern seem to be working for you or do you need to make some changes next year?

What did I start doing this year that I want to keep doing next year? -- All of us human beings learn by doing. When you look back on the past 12 months, what have you started doing that seem like good things to continue doing in the coming year? To hone in on specific things you've been doing that have helped the cause, focus on four domains of routines -- physical, mental, relational and spiritual. Is there anything in any of those four domains that you started doing this year that you want to keep doing?

What habits or routines have I had this year that don't serve me and my goals? -- And, of course, you want to take a look at the flip side. What have you been doing this past year that when you take a really objective look at it, doesn't serve you and your goals? Take a few notes on the most important things you want to do differently next year. It may not be the most fun part of this exercise, but you know what they say -- name it and claim it.

When you boil it all down, what do you have? -- okay, that's been a lot of reflection. One last step for now. Mentally step back and take a look at everything you've written down in the last hour. Look for the patterns and connections. When you boil it all down, what do you have? My guess is that you have a greater sense of clarity about what worked and what didn't work as well in 2014. You probably also have a sense of what you want to do to get 2015 off to a great start. I want to help with you that.

Check back here towards the end of December for step-by-step instructions on how to create a Life GPS that will help you turn next year into a blockbuster.