A Soul Driven Annual Review and Plan for 2013

This is the time of new beginnings, high hopes and promise out the wazoo.

The new year is a good time to take stock of the past year, make course corrections and create a map for the next year. You don’t have to have it all drilled down perfectly. Reconnecting with what you want and remembering what you don’t will keep you headed in the right direction, more or less. More or less is plenty.

I take stock of my internal life regularly. I do it anytime I’m stuck or pissy. I also do longer, written reviews where I look at my resentments, fears and conduct. These are a little more formal and I finish them by reading them to someone else, asking to be relieved of what doesn’t work and then repairing any damage I’ve done in the process of being off track.

The annual review and yearly plan is a little bit different. If the twice yearly review is the inner eye view, this is the bird’s eye. This isn’t the time to analyze your hurts and fears. Note them, yes. But look at them against the larger landscape of the rest of your life.

The most important thing about conducting a review of your inner or outer life, is your mindset.

Approach your review with curiosity and kindness. Going inside without love is like going in with a machete. This is just a fact-finding and fact-facing mission. Just the facts, Jack. What works and what doesn’t?

Treat this process like a treasured ceremony. Light a candle. Brew good tea. Wear your favorite sweater.

Round I


Start with a prayer. Send it to the highest, best source you know. Here’s one:


Go before me

Go after me

Go beside me

Go above me

Go below me

Be within me

Let me see what you would have me see.

1. Make a list of the life categories that are important to you.

These are the areas you’re going to examine more closely. For example:

  • relationship with kids
  • romance
  • social life
  • $-giving
  • $-earning
  • home
  • travel
  • health
  • fitness
  • spiritual
  • creativity
  • business or career–skill development
  • business or career–organization
  • business or career–growth
  • adventure
  • anything else that isn’t listed here

2. For each category, ask 4 simple questions

  • What went well last year?
  • What didn’t go well last year?
  • How do I want it to change?
  • Was it fun?

That last question is so important. If you’re not having fun, something needs to change. A good life is the collection of fun and meaningful experiences. We want to make money, have romance, lose weight, be a better mother/partner/business owner/artist in order to be happier and connect with others. We want those things so that we can feel a certain way. If you’re not feeling good, you must change.

Go do something physical while all of this settles. Take a walk. Do the dishes. Cuddle your kiddo. Orgasm.

Let it settle over you. Hold your judgement. Notice any feelings that come up. Let them roll through without trying to change anything. Sometimes it’s a wariness at the futility of some areas that never improve. Or disappointment is a dream that hasn’t worked out (yet.) Or sadness about what you had hoped for and what actually happened.

If you need to grieve anything, you’ll know it because strong feelings will rise. Allow them to show up fully. If you push them away, they’ll be there waiting for you as you go into the next section. You want to approach the next step with quiet strength that only comes when your insides are clean. Sometimes the best cleansing is tears.

You may feel proud and excited at everything you accomplished. Let this hang out too. Don’t try to make it bigger or pump yourself up. Just let the emotions be.

Round II


This is where you’re going to start making a list of things you want to create or experience in the next year. Most people can do much more in a year than they think they can. And they can do much less in a day than they think they can.

We’re going to extract goals from the desires you analyzed in Round I. And then I’m going to show you where to put them so they fit in with your life, your way.

Look at one section at a time. Cull from your answers to how you want things to be different. You have the power to create something different. Make a list of what you’ll do. This moves your wishes from the land of possibility to something more concrete.

Here’s one of my sections. Look at the way I answered each question and how I culled goals from the third question.

What went well last year?
Really grew to love Max. Settled into having all the kids. Continually tried to meet them where they were and tried to keep my personal agenda and issues out of it. When I couldn’t, kept facing it and trying to let go.
What didn’t go well?
I worried a lot about Lula. I haven’t had strong time and space boundaries so I’m wishy-washy when she wants me to stay home instead of work. Agreed to help in her classroom out of guilt.
What do I want to change next year?
I want to help them be better humans. Cultivate empathy, kindness and generosity. Have dedicated time with them.
Was it fun?
Oh yes. Especially getting to know Max’s funny personality.
Goals: Have one day of kindness every month involving them. Have a short weekly date with each of them.

This level of detail is about right for me. I have also looked closely at the beliefs that caused me to make decisions based on guilt, worry and to not have clear boundaries. That happened in a different type of inventory. This isn’t the time for that. This is more of the “yeah, I’ve struggled with this and that or been pissed about this or that.” Good to know. Deal with that later.

Round III


Go do something physical while all of this settles. Take a walk. Do the dishes. Cuddle your kiddo. Orgasm.

Next, you’ll go inside and find something more powerful to guide your path as you look at your goals more closely.

Part A

Now, consider how you want to feel most of the time. What do you crave?

When you drill down to your most desired feelings, you can focus on that before anything specific. The goals are just a roadmap. You can stick to them or not. It’s good to have a plan to start with.

We want the circumstances we want because of how we imagine we’ll feel when we have them. Actually, when you feel the way you want to feel you’ll be equipped with everything you need to create the circumstances you want.

How do you want to feel?

  • Clear
  • Focused
  • Strong
  • On purpose
  • Light
  • Free
  • Real
  • Generous
  • Affluent
  • Feminine
  • Sexy
  • Loving
  • Joyous
  • Vital
  • Vibrant
  • Any of 1 zillion other feelings not listed here

Part B

Pick a theme or word of the year.

Mine for 2012 was twinkle. For 2013 it’s leadership.

Let yours come to you without force. If you feel like you’re grappling and lost when it comes to picking one, choose something that is close. You can change your mind later.

With your desired feelings and yearly theme in hand, you can fit your goals into the next year.

This process is sort of like arranging puzzle pieces. You can’t do everything at once but over the course of a year you can do quite a bit. More than you’d think.

Watch for fears and Oh-Shit’s that say you can’t possibly make all of that happen. Don’t worry about it. You don’t have to marry any of these goals.

A word about goals

Don’t worry too much about exactly what you want to do. Some people love specificity. Some don’t. Go for exactly as much specificity as feels good. I think of goal setting as a starting point. As long as wherever you end up helps you feel the way you want to, the exact details don’t matter.

As part of my annual review I went through several years of notes I had taken while trying to figure out what to do next. Most of this collection was about creating this coaching business. But some of it was from the time I was still doing massage and yoga and didn’t know how to transition to something better. I was at the bank one afternoon and I grabbed the first piece of paper I could find–a loan application. I was fed up and tired of the constant spinning and worrying about what the hell I was going to do with my life. On the back of that paper I wrote out the main things I wanted in my life. I had specific ideas about how they were going to happen and I didn’t see any way I could get there, but it was what I really wanted so I listed them.

Today, about 3 years later I’ve created every single one.

I didn’t mean to. And none of them have happened the way I thought they would, but all have been born. This is despite my best efforts to control the outcome and hold on as tightly as is neurotically possible.

When you consider your goals, do just that. Consider them. Make a plan. Use your desired feelings and theme for the year guide you. This is much deeper and more powerful than the best organized spreadsheet you could create.

Go back through those goals and get rid of any that don’t sound very interesting or fit in with your feelings and theme. If a goal isn’t a hell yes, it’s a hell no. Sometimes your hell yes response is obscured by fears about how you’re going to do it. Or if you’re too big of a damn loser to get it done. (Hint: you’re not. This is Resistance speaking her holy and misguided message.)

Stay focused on what would feel like a hell yes if you were able to create it. Suspend your disbelief. Dream. Honor your cravings.

Make sure your goals are actionable and measurable so that you have something to track.

Yes: One day of kindness per month with the kids

No: Help the kids be nicer to people.

Got it?

Choose where each goal is going to go in the year. Pick a quarter to put it in. Give yourself a deadline.

That’s it.

Check in quarterly to see what you’ve done and what you haven’t. Make changes as necessary. Let go of anything that no longer matters.

Go forth. Create. Love.


14 Responses to A Soul Driven Annual Review and Plan for 2013

  1. Becky Swenson December 31, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Wow. SO much great information here! I also wanted to thank you for the Coachspot call you did on treating your biz like a client. I was able to gain some real insight into what my business is wanting to do…which is huge for me just starting out. Thank you.

    • Sarah December 31, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      Oh, that’s so great to hear Becky. I’m glad it gave you some clarity. XO

  2. Joanna Weston December 31, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    As I already said on twitter, this is by far the best year planning advice I’ve seen! I’ve always had terrible experiences with setting intentions, picking a word of the year, etc.

    What I did this year is figure out the basic feeling state I’m after (which I already did yesterday, after looking at a list of potential goals and determining what feeling that would evoke). Then I’m going to set goals each month. I love your advice on setting the goals! I plan to use your questions at the end of each month in order to determine where my priorities need to be for the next month. When I plan for a whole year I either get overwhelmed (so many things that I want to work on!) or else feel like I’m leaving out a huge pile of really important priorities. I think that going month to month will let me focus on a few things at a time, without feeling like I’m putting anything off for a whole year.

    I had sworn that I would not pick a word of the year (had a terrible experience with that in the past), but one came to me unbidden as I was reading this — center. This year needs to be about finding my center, returning to my center, and carrying it with me.

    This turned into a bit of an off-topic essay, but I’m pretty excited about this approach. 🙂

    • Sarah January 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

      When I read this about your center, I got chills. I love all of your comments here. And reading about how you’ll use this to inform your own process.

  3. Pam Pearson January 2, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    I LOVE that you combined goal setting with feelings! For most of my life my goals were outwardly driven and detached from real feeling and emotion. ‘Go out an make it happen.’ Now I am at a place where I also ‘go in and make it happen’. Maintaining this balance, giving things time to settle, and constantly checking in to see where I am are so important. Thanks for this great approach and the inspiration!

    • Sarah January 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

      It makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Making anything happen is exhausting. But going within gives us access to all the power.

  4. Sarah January 2, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    I super LOVE how you said the number one important factor is our mindset. I couldn’t agree more! I too regularly inventory my shiz and going into it with a shamey mindset sucks. And it certainly doesn’t serve me, or the purpose of growing.

    As for new year goals, I am simply aiming to express myself more. With words. Publicly. Hopefully as a art form.

    • Sarah January 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      It is an art form already. Love.

  5. CJ Blaquera January 2, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    Great post, very comprehensive and helpful.

    • Sarah January 8, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Holla!!! xo

  6. Jenn Burton January 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Sarah, I love pick a word for the year… I am a little sleep deprived today so as soon I get some rest I am picking one.

    I think you are absolutely right about not going in with a machete. As easy as I can spout off we need to be kind to ourselves, I know I enter with judgement into my own mind…. old habits die hard. Excellent article.

    • Sarah January 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Oh yes. Put down the machete. Enter with love. That could be a lovely mantra. 🙂

  7. Sandi Shroads January 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Hey Sarah – Thanks for a super-useful and inspiring way to approach the new year. I’m always about a week behind everyone on this because as well as being a life coach, I’m a professional musician who is super busy all the way through and including New Year’s Eve. So, while the hub’s away on a business trip, this is the week I finally go inside myself and think about 2013, and when I happened on your post today, my Essential Self said YESSSSSSS!!!!!! I LOVE going for the feeling and desire, BEFORE setting the goals. I’ve never done the “pick a theme for the year” thing, but you made it sound fun. As I was reading your “Soul Driven Review…” post, I clicked so many links and opened so many tabs to your blog that I look like a stalker! 🙂 I’m not – just really finding your writing clear, soulful, and HELPFUL! Thank you!

    • Sarah January 8, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

      Love this Sandi! Everything about it, ESPECIALLY that you’re all over my blog. I love me a good stalker. xo

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