A Birthday Year in Review

year in review

What is a Year in Review?

What is this practice of a year in review? It’s a way to reflect on your year and your life to see where you have been, what you’ve done, and the lessons that you can learn. It is a way to understand where you are, where you have been, and it gives you the opportunity to reflect on what’s hanging you up so you do not repeating the same mistakes again.

This kind of life reflection is important because it helps you to learn about who you are and what you are capable of. It can give you the tools to analyze things that happened, how you reacted, and what you can learn from and change for the future.

If you do not spend time reflecting on where you have been and what has and has not worked in the past you will not be able to change and grow into the future self you desire.

My thoughts on turning 35

I am thinking about this right now because I am coming up on a big birthday: 35. I know it isn’t a major milestone, like 30 or 40, but to me it feels really big. It is one of those ages I always expected to be ‘fully an adult’. To have it figured out…the career…the family…the marriage…life. Hahaha!

As if I could have it all figured out at 35! But it;s so funny, I know that is what I thought I would have/be/understand at 35 and now that the birthday is approaching I am confronted with my expectations for myself and the nagging and judgmental feelings are starting to creep up.

I am trying to be objective and look at my life from a place of observation, not from a place of un-met expectations (for more on this idea check out this post). One way I have found to do this is by sitting down and doing a year-in-review. It helps you to be objective and curious rather than judgmental or disappointed.

I think a birthday is the perfect time to do this. Many people think of the New Year as a time to do a year-in-review, and I agree, that is a wonderful time and in fact I have a whole post about doing a year and a decade in review for 2020 (see that here). But I think a birthday is an even better time to reflect on the past year and spend some time in self-reflection. The New Year is all about big goals and possibilities and a bit of competition am I right? Setting bigger and better goals than you did last year…or than your friends and colleges?

But a year in review on your birthday, is about you, who you are, and want to be. It can be less about goals and more about your purpose and mission in life and checking in with yourself to make sure you are living those values to the fullest.

I also think milestone birthdays are a great place to reflect on your whole life, like a decade in review but deeper, and bigger. Again, to assess where your values lie and what your mission is in life. To see how that has changed and evolved over time and to check in and make sure you are doing things in alignment with who and what you really value.

year in review

How to Reflect on Your Year

A Year-in-review

Here are five steps I found to produce a productive and enlightening Birthday Year in Review:

1.Pick one thing from each month to rejoice over and one thing to learn from

By focusing on the good and looking at experiences as opportunities to learn we can stay out of the self-pity and judgment trap and keep things more observation oriented instead of expectation oriented.

2. Pick one word for each month

I loved picking the word for each month. It really helped me to put things into perspective. It is so easy to dwell on a few things or events and think it was all a waste but when I look back, I realize how much I have to be proud of and to celebrate or laugh at.

3. Look at the 8 key areas of life

  • Career
  • Finances
  • Personal space
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Health/exercise
  • Fun
  • Personal growth

Pick one thing to rejoice over and one thing to learn from in each area over the last year.

This step is always so important because it is a way to look at your life holistically, not just in individual experiences or lessons. Each part is interconnected and reflecting on your year in each of these areas individually can help you to see the ways each area can contribute to your overall well-being as well as point out areas to improve.

4. Plan next year

Now that you have looked at last year, it is time to look forward and decide what you want this next year of your life to look like. I think starring from the eight life areas is the best place to start. Create an intention for each area and make a plan to increase (or decrease) your efforts for each. Then pick one area you want to focus on for the year and set a goal around that.

5. Create a vision statement

A vision statement is a paragraph, written in the present tense, about what your life will look like exactly one year from now. Birthdays are perfect for this! To do this write out a paragraph in the present tense about the who/what/where/when of your life exactly one year from now. Make it very visual, something you can see/feel/smell/hear. Talk about who you will be, what you will be thinking and feeling, what you will spend your time on etc.

Make it something that will be easy for you to read and enjoy and visualize. Make it compelling. And revisit it often. read it to yourself at least once a week if not everyday. Be intentional.

how to do a year in review


Reflection is a great way to put life into perspective. It is important to be able to see things in your past as valuable lessons, not mistakes or fumbles. Go easy on yourself. This is not an exercise in self-pity or criticism. This is meant to keep you on track and reflecting on your overall well-being and values in life. If last year wasn’t the greatest for you, don’t beat yourself up. Ask yourself: what can I learn from this to make next year better?

After reflecting on my life over the last year and the last 35, what jumped out at me was a common theme: not trusting myself and holding back. This helped me to see the area I wanted to focus on and improve most the next year is trusting myself. Trusting that I can do hard things- I have and I will. I am Gutsy and I will be Gutsy.

If you are inspired by this concept I encourage you to do a Birthday year in review! 

Good luck and Happy Birthday!

Be Gutsy! Share the Love!

Amanda Richey