16 Fill-the-Blank Prompts to Recap Your Year (in 30 Minutes or Less)

What’s the difference between feeling like a year has happened to you and feeling like a year has happened for you?

For me, it’s all in the story you tell.

Take my last two years, for example.

At this time last year, I was not describing my year to you in the glowing, heartfelt terms that I used when I wrote to you last. At this time last year, I was describing my year to you as one in which a “wave of change” left me “suddenly soaking wet” with hurt, confusion and second-guessing.

And yet?

Regardless of how different those two years might seem on the surface — when we overlook the story of what happened to me — I can sit here now and tell you that I value, appreciate, and feel gratitude for my 2018 just as much as I do my 2019.

I hold equal thanks for each, despite how dissimilar they sound from each other.

Why? Because of the deeper understanding I found in what each of those years did for me.

As a writer and journeyer.

As a business person and coach.

As a man and partner.

As a human.

As a soul.

Thanks to the ongoing practice I’ve made of “storying” my year as a reflection ritual — as I have every year for the last 10 years, and oftentimes to share the story here with you — I’ve found a wealth of valuable insights, awareness, gratitude, and appreciation for every year that’s come to pass.

Today, I want to share that ritual with you.

So, sometime in the next week, I’m encouraging you to “story” the experience of your 2019 for yourself.

I’ll give you precise scripts and journaling prompts below to help you get it done.

As simple as it is in practice, here’s why this exercise is so valuable:

Exploring your year through the lens of a “story” brings with it a natural pursuit of discovering the personal value, context, relevance, and your individualized understanding of why your year mattered to you.

By “storying” a reflection of your year, you’re not just listing what happened or how it happened. A “story” requires a why. Thus, when you “story” your year in hindsight, you’re compelling yourself to connect to some deeper understanding — prompting yourself to ascribe a series of conscious choices and willful perspectives — about why happened matters, and to what extent it can serve your continued growth and expansion as a soul.

In other words, when you reflect upon your year through the lens of “story,” what comes with it is a natural search for meaning, significance, and relevance: how the year’s events and experiences have happened for you, and for your continued benefit.

How to Play

Reserve 30 minutes — a small, affordable, extremely manageable amount of time — of uninterrupted “You” time sometime in the next week.

Make space. Do this exercise offline — not on your phone or on your computer, because typing typically prompts less-mindful reflection and a bad habit of self-editing as you go. Paper and pen do wonders for mindful unpacking and slow reflection.

Stay detached from any expected outcomes.

Remember, this is for your eyes only, and there are no right or wrong answers.

Reflect as instinctively as possible; try not to second-guess yourself.

Utilize your brilliant mind, your limitless imagination, and your profound power of personal choice to reflect upon your 2019 by filling in the scripts below.

— In short fields (“_________”) respond with a word or two, or short phrase.
— In longer fields (“___________________”) respond with a few words or short sentence.
— In long fields (“______________________________________”) respond with at least one to two sentences. If you feel inspired, go longer.

Try to answer every field, and complete the exercise in one 30-minute session.

Fields that prompt you to respond with two or three answers are deliberate exercises in stretching your imagination. Typically, instinctive responses are the most accurate reflections of your feeling. But when you’re prompted to go longer — or, answer more than once — you may discover a new angle, related thought/feeling, or complementary ideas to the original thought that better informs your exploration.

Use all of this as a guide, but otherwise, trust yourself.

Follow the trail of thoughts and flow of ideas as they come to you.

Explore your way into a new sense of understanding for your year; don’t over-logic or over-rationalize the unfolding.

You may surprise yourself with what you come to discover.

By the end of this exercise, you’ll have your very own short and sweet “self-storied” understanding of what your year entailed for you, and why that matters to you moving forward.

Ready to begin?

Great. Let’s go.

“Story” Your Year in 30 Minutes or Less

a. “If I had to pick just one word to sum up my year, I would say that 2019 was my year of _________.”

b. “Why that one word? Well, because as I think back across my year, I would say that…

________________________________________________

________________________________________________.”

c. “The three most defining events or experiences that shaped my 2019 were _________, _________, and _________.”

d. “If I had to pick one major theme or feeling-state that connects those defining events/experiences, I’d have to say it is _________ because ___________________.”

e. “Most of my time and energy this year were spent _________, _________ and _________.”

f. “In hindsight? I wish I had made more time and energy for ___________________ in particular, because I really suspect it would have helped me ___________________.”

g. “This year was full of lots of moments of learning and growth, especially when I think back to…

  1. _________ when I learned ___________________.”
  2. _________ when I learned ___________________.”
  3. _________ when I learned ___________________.”

h. “I expect these moments to serve bigger trends of learning and growth in 2020 and beyond, like when I think to…

  1. How I have been learning ___________________.”
  2. How I {expect/intend} to start practicing ___________________.”
  3. How I {want/wish/intend} to grow, such as ___________________.”

i. “The three {feelings, emotions, or feeling-states} that I most wish to inhabit, embody, and experience in 2020 are…

  1. _________
  2. _________
  3. _________

j. “If I experience those {feelings, emotions, or feeling-states} often throughout my 2020, I’ll be able to call the year ‘a success’ because it will mean that I…

________________________________________________

________________________________________________.”

k. “One thing that I no longer want to be {saying, feeling, or experiencing} by this time next year is…

________________________________________________.”

l. “To stop {saying, feeling, or experiencing} that story in 2020, this is likely the year that I will have to…

__________________________________________, once and for all.”

m. “In order to {achieve, embody, inhabit, or receive} my best year and highest self throughout 2020, I will remind myself all along the way that….

  1. _________________.”
  2. _________________.”
  3. _________________.”

n. “If I sense my {shadow, bad habit, old self, or old story} holding me back in ways that do not serve me in 2020, I will get back to my center by…

  1. {Something you’ll do, say, or receive by yourself, for yourself} ____________________________________.”
  2. {Something you’ll ask, invite or offer with/through others} ____________________________________.”
  3. {Something you’ll create, share, or put out into the world around you} ____________________________________.”

o. “At the start of this reflection, the word that came to mind when describing my year was ____________ {your answer in Response A}. As I look back across my responses now, I can say that the story of my year was…

________________________________________________

________________________________________________.”

p. “As for 2020, the story that I want to hear myself telling by this time next year is a story of…

________________________________________________

________________________________________________.”

Look at you. You did it!

As an annual practice in reflection, to me, there is no more powerful way to discover the meaning, purpose, and significance of the year-that-was.

And, what better way to welcome in a New Year, and a new decade, than by being the teller of your own story — the captain of your ship, the hero of your journey, the champion of your one life.

In 2020 and beyond, please remember this:

We are the tellers of the stories of our lives.

No one else gets to tell our stories for us — even when they try; even when they do.

Our stories are our own to tell.

Tell yours.

In your own words. In your own voice.

Lay claim to your own story.

Tell it strongly, completely, and well — this year, and every year after.

To me, there is nothing more powerful, more freeing, or beautiful than that.

Your partner in story and beyond,

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