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  • Writer's pictureCarli Rosencranz

Vision Setting Exercise 1 - Looking Back Before Looking Forward

As we prepare our hearts and minds for a fresh new year, it’s important to start with an honest assessment of where we stand.  Regular reflection and “After Action Reviews” have come to be important practices in my life… and I will call them “practices” because I’ve not mastered them by any means, but have found them to be so valuable and worthy of the time investment to “practice”.  They are part of the rhythm of my days and weeks and months, and it’s important to take time to reflect on the past year as we prepare to look forward to a new year.


There’s a famous quote by James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  This principle applies in society, in our communities, in our families, and in our lives.  I have been chewing on it quite a bit lately and have been using it to search my own heart in many aspects.  For today, let’s apply it to our year – we cannot hope to transform our year to come without first facing the year we have lived. 


The act of reflection and honest assessment can be uncomfortable and intimidating, and without a framework it can feel overwhelming.  Here’s a format I use – Think, then Feel. 


First, I start with an audit of…


Things that happened…

Things I did…

Books I read…

Things I learned…


This is a list, kind of a mental dump.  I have used a paper journal, a digital journal, or my laptop.  Use what feels most free flowing to you.


Next, I review the list and notice how each one makes me feel.  Am I proud, sad, thankful, remorseful?  I take a moment to celebrate the good things from the year and grieve the hurts from the year.  I note areas that feel like they need to be explored further.  Now, I am an Enneagram 7, so “feeling” is scary for me, and it doesn’t come natural or easy.  Some of you may lead with the heart, and this approach will not help you at all, but for me, I have to remind myself to feel and remind myself those emotions are a gift and a guide.  Mind you, I don’t hang out here for too long, because while we can learn from the past we can only live in the present.


I take a brief moment to honor the past and the journey that has brought me to where I am today, and from that point I can think about the future being informed by my past.  I can see more clearly where I want to choose to put in more effort, or where I can adjust my attitude to better serve the work I want to do for the next leg of the journey.  I hope this simple framework is helpful to you as you do your own vision setting for the year ahead.

Download a printable workbook with all six exercises here

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