It’s Time For Your Personal Year End Review

There’s one more task to add to your year-end retrospective reviews and planning for next year: your personal review. This isn’t about reflecting on your business goals, like achieving product market fit, expanding into a new channel, or getting to $10M ARR. You likely check in on those priorities already. 


Your personal review is about assessing your growth as the leader of your company. It relates to your intentions for the unique leadership journey that you’re on. 


Notice the progress

As leaders and CEOs, we tend to forget the full breadth of what we’ve accomplished and how we’ve evolved over time. No sooner have we climbed a hurdle than we’re on to the next; barely pausing to celebrate that we achieved what had merely been an idea a year ago.


And as human beings, we also have a negativity bias. We’re more apt to recall (sometimes in excruciating detail) the time we fumbled a critical message, and forget all the times when we accomplished exactly what we’d aspired to do. 


In short, we often don’t appreciate how far we’ve really come and how much we’ve grown. What’s more, many of us get stuck in outdated beliefs about ourselves that keep us from recognizing the true progress we’ve made. 


The distance you’ve already traveled is the launching point for where you’re going next 


If you’re unclear on where you are today, it’ll take longer to evolve into the leader and CEO you want to be.


Here’s the process that my clients follow each year at this time- and the process that I use myself.


1. Take inventory 

Open up your personal goals/ vision board/ journal entries from the beginning of the year. What did you envision accomplishing? What kind of leader did you want to be with your team? What kind of life did you want to have– inside and outside– of your company?


Maybe at this time last year you resolved to finally stop being the bottleneck to your leadership team. Perhaps you wanted to expand outside of your company and assert your voice as a thought leader. Or you wanted to learn how to be less emotionally charged at critical moments. Maybe you were determined to claim more time for the things that bring you high energy. Whatever your intentions, they reflect your unique path, personal experiences, and challenges.


Next, go back to the beginning of the year in your calendar. Scan this and other docs that reflect major events and milestones. Take note of the ones- like that funding round, or your product launch, or the podcast you guest hosted- that became opportunities to work on your personal goals.


Think back on the books you read, podcasts you listened to, experts you reached out to, newsletters you subscribed to. Who is now a part of your world that wasn’t a year ago? These people and resources are helping you expand into the leader you’re becoming. They can also be a helpful reminder that you’re moving forward, especially at times when it doesn’t otherwise feel like it or when your original goal was farther out of reach than you anticipated.


2. Reflect on your growth

Once you’ve reminded yourself of everything that happened during the year, reflect on these five questions.


  • What did you set out to accomplish? How much of it did you achieve? What did you discover about yourself that made it possible to achieve those things?


  • What was on your list that you didn’t achieve? Which outer or inner blocks might have gotten in your way?


  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Why? What did you learn from it?


  • What was your biggest disappointment? Why? What did you learn from it?


  • What stretched you the most this year or took you most outside of your comfort zone? What did you learn about yourself because of it?



3. Set your new intentions for the coming year

Now that you have a clear idea of the progress you made and what you learned over the last year, decide what you want to move towards next. Don’t think of these as New Year’s resolutions, which tend to be lofty and fail more than 80% of the time.  


Instead, take a moment. Close your eyes and picture how you would tackle your vision for your company if you were operating as your best self. What would you be doing that you aren’t doing today? How would you interact with your team, customers, and investors? What’s your approach when the unexpected happens, like when your product launch gets delayed? 


Now, imagine the habits you want to build and experiences you want to create that will help you evolve into this version of yourself. As James Clear advises, focus on the behavior you want to create rather than the outcome. 

5 Reminders On A Hard Day

The founders I coach run very different companies, but they have a few things in common. They’re all dealing with an at times overwhelming amount of change and transition. They’re being pushed, daily, to grow and expand into new skill sets and behaviors and let go of old ones that no longer work for them. As they go, they’re learning new ways to deal with change and the pressure of running their company.

Let’s be honest: as much as they may strive to do so, they’re not always going to show up as their highest, most inspired selves; when their attempts to move through their inner blocks don’t fully succeed.

Those are the days they get just a little too close to the edge of their tipping point. Suddenly it all feels like too much.

Maybe they didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Maybe a client complained or an employee quit. Maybe their child is sick, or the events of the world feel just too damned heavy in that moment.

The point is, despite our desire to consistently show up and be productive, creative, and in the zone, we’re human. And as such, there will be hard days. Days when our energy is low and our self-judgment is high.

Here is the advice I most often give when founders are having a hard day, or when they’re totally falling apart.

1. Stop beating yourself up, already.

If your energy is consumed by frustration and negative self-talk, then you’ll be less able to make positive change. Michael Singer, spiritual teacher and author of The Untethered Soul wrote, “No solution can possibly exist when you’re lost in the energy of a problem”. Instead of judging yourself and your situation, try relaxing and simply notice what’s happening to your thoughts and emotions. Then try to shift your focus to what you want to create. That can be easier said than done, but it’s the trying that counts. When you’re able to make the shift, you’ll lift your energy and make fresh progress more possible.

2. Stay curious.

As you work to remove your blocks and create the growth you desire, be open and test the conditions or routines that work best for you. Over time, you’ll learn which tasks you can delegate so they no longer consume your mindshare. You might find that there’s a time of day where you’re at your most creative. You’ll notice the mental chatter that limits you. You’ll discover what you need to create, and let go of, to make the change stick. Stay curious and experiment to find what works.

3. Focus on small gains.

Right now, focus on making progress toward your goal. Take the pressure off yourself about achieving the ultimate outcome. Celebrate the small gains you make today, like the productive hour you had before your day got hijacked. Or the crucial conversation with someone on your team that went better than last time. Or that you logged off in time for dinner with your family. If the overwhelm feels particularly acute, remember Robin Arzon’s (Peloton instructor and overall badass) advice: “Forward is a pace”.

4. Use your imagination.

One of the founders I work with spends five minutes each morning visualizing having already had a good day and the details that made it so. It’s a particularly powerful routine to keep his energy high during periods of prolonged intensity. The power of visualization has been well documented: imagining the outcome you desire conditions the brain to more readily turn it into reality.

5. Treat it like a practice.

The inner blocks that limit you today were created over a lifetime, so they’ll take time to unwind. Instead of expecting immediate results, continue to work the process until you start experiencing the level of energy, confidence, and inner alignment you desire. Like any practice that you dedicate time to, your results will fluctuate along the way, but it’s the long game that counts.

What’s In Your Way?

A founder I’ve been working with–I’ll call her Alice–was noticeably frustrated when she arrived at a recent coaching session. Despite months of effort, she still couldn’t master her inbox. Each morning, she awoke to a tidal wave of new emails and immediately felt buried– stuck in reactive mode for the rest of the day. 


Logically, Alice knew she should be concentrating her time on her highest priorities. And yet, the slides for the next day’s all hands meeting stared back at her unfinished and a note to her investors was long overdue. To make matters worse, none of the new routines she tried seemed to help her break out of the pattern.


The overwhelm made sense. Her company was growing so rapidly that the demand for Alice’s time outpaced her capacity and the many hats she was still wearing. And with each failed attempt to gain control of her time, she felt more and more desperate.


Sound familiar?


The tension between expanding into new behaviors and responsibilities while feeling stuck in the old ones is a common growing pain for founders. It can feel especially acute when your company is expanding rapidly.   


So, what can you do when you know you need to adapt for both you and your company to thrive, but you can’t seem to make a new approach stick?


First, you need to understand what’s getting in the way of creating the change you seek.



It Could Be an Outer Block


Sometimes, we’re unable to change our behavior because we don’t have the right skills, tools, or knowledge to make it happen. As a trained Core Energy coach, I think of these obstacles as outer blocks. As the name implies, outer blocks are limitations that are external to us, like time, money, or education. 


You may need to learn a better way to organize your inbox. Or figure out who to delegate to in order to reduce your volume of email. Maybe an app that helps you keep track of your highest priorities each day could help. 


By addressing outer blocks with new knowledge and routines, it’s possible to gain control of things like your inbox.


But perhaps you try all of that and only make minimal progress. Or worse still, your attempts work for a while but you eventually slip back into your old habits. In that case, something bigger is likely holding you back.



It’s Probably an Inner Block


More often than not, when we’re struggling to make sustainable change, it’s because inner blocks unconsciously disrupt our progress. Like the inner voice that persuades you to respond to the emails that are more in your comfort zone in favor of the ones that will make a bigger impact on your company. 


Inner blocks are fueled by unproductive thoughts and beliefs. How can you tell they’re unproductive? Quite simply, they’re the ones that limit you. They don’t serve you in a healthy way, empower you, or help you achieve your true goals. 


Dr. David Burns, a well-known cognitive psychologist, explains how our unproductive thoughts lead us to have unproductive feelings and, in turn, unproductive actions. In addition to derailing our best intentions, such thoughts (when left unchecked) can also cause stress, anxiety, and depression. 


In my coaching practice, I see four main types of inner blocks:


Assumptions are born when we expect that what happened before is bound to happen again. Like when you assume you won’t really be able to delegate your work because you failed at it the last time you tried to do so.


Generalizations look like limiting ideas that we’ve been told and that we’ve adopted as the truth. You may have heard (and taken as fact) that “it takes money to make money.” Or that people with MBAs (or conversely, college dropouts) make better founders. 


Interpretations are the stories we tell ourselves about events, viewed through our personal lens and informed by our past experiences. Though our interpretation is based on our individual perspective, we often see it as the absolute truth. Like believing that you’ll never truly get control of your inbox because you’ve been scattered and disorganized your whole life.


Your Inner Critic is the most powerful block of them all; this is the inner voice that tells us we’re simply not good enough: not smart enough, not capable enough, not creative enough… the options are endless. The inner critic is what makes you believe deep down that your struggle with your inbox is further proof that you’re not capable of expanding into the CEO you need to become. 


What can make the inner critic so destructive is that it surfaces the most when we’re attempting to change. This is what often causes us to retreat to what we know to avoid the potential pain of the unknown. The inner critic goes to extraordinary lengths to keep us “safe”.


How To Move Beyond An Inner Block


First, understand which type of block is causing you to feel stuck. Is it a generalization that you’ve been carrying around and need to let go of? Is your inner critic telling you not to stop until something is perfect? 


Next, tap into your curiosity and challenge the limiting belief. Note: it’s incredibly important to approach this from a place of curiosity- which ignites your creativity and solutions-thinking, than from a place of judgment- which draws on shame and will only fuel your blocks.


Start by asking yourself, “what makes this belief true and accurate? What’s different about me now that makes it less true? If I reshaped this belief, what would be possible?”


Then, choose a new belief that you want to move forward with. A few options:


“I’m ready now to delegate this work.”

“There are countless ways to make it as an entrepreneur, and I’m proud of the path I’m on.”

“I’ve overcome way bigger obstacles than my inbox. I have the creativity and resilience to make this happen too.”

“I have the confidence and openness to grow into the CEO I want to become.”


You’ll find that some inner blocks are relatively easy to shift (like generalizations) once you’ve replaced them with a new belief. Others may take far longer to resolve. We become experts at what we practice, and you’ve likely practiced your old, limiting beliefs for much of your life. It may be time to build new expertise.