🐧 Annual Review: 8 questions to change your life

INSIDE: Death Bed Wishes, Ultimate Questions for Clarity and Purpose
December 24, 2023

New Years Resolutions are overrated.

Do an Annual Review instead.

Today in 10 minutes or less, you’ll learn:

  • 🛏️ What People Say on Their Death Beds and Why You Should Write an Annual Review
  • 📓 8 Ultimate Questions for Clarity and Purpose


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💡 Annual Review: 8 questions to change your life

Research shows that over 80% of New Year’s Resolutions end unsuccessfully.

So how should you reflect on your year instead?

Here’s what I’ve done for the past 5 years:

Write an annual review.

The annual review is one of my favorite reflection tools. 📓 

It has enormous potential for drawing out insightful lessons from your experiences — and transforming them into a clear vision for how you want to live your life.

🤔 Why should you write an annual review?

Here’s the bottom line. In our busy lives, we risk moving through life on auto-pilot.

Why is this dangerous?

Australian nurse Bronnie Ware found that when patients are on their deathbeds, their most common regret is not having the courage to live a life true to themselves instead of the life that others expected of them.

Reflection helps us avoid this regret.

By taking a step back from our daily lives and synthesizing our reflections, we can spark additional learning about ourselves.

📋️ Annual Review Template

Every December, I set aside a few hours to answer reflection questions about my year.

The format I follow is simple, but the challenge lies in answering as honestly and candidly as I possibly can about how I experienced all aspects of my life this year.

The biggest learnings and takeaways for me always happen

I answer 8 questions in my annual review:

  1. What were highlights of my last year?
  2. What were lowlights of my last year?
  3. What created energy?
  4. What drained energy?
  5. What did I not due because of fear?
  6. What beliefs did I change?
  7. What did I learn?
  8. What am I looking forward to this year?

Question 1: What were highlights of my last year?

Jot down 2-4 highlights. For example: positive events you’ve experienced, friends and loved ones you spent time with, peak emotions, or things you’ve achieved.

Action: Celebrate and express gratitude for the great memories created over the past year.

Question 2: What were lowlights of my last year?

Jot down 2-4 lowlights. For example: negative events or setbacks, bad things that happened to good people in your life, your mistakes and failures, or things you’ve lost.

Action: Learn from these bullets. Understand why and drivers to make changes in the new year.

Question 3: What created energy?

Write down people, experiences, ideas, or things that generated energy. For example, working out in the mornings, spending quality time with your spouse, or listening to energizing music.

Important to differentiate between what I control (I write consistently) vs what's less in control (people like my writing).

Action: Do more of these behaviors.

Question 4: What drained energy?

Write down people, experiences, ideas, or things that sapped your energy. For example, spending 4+ hours a day in meetings (true story), getting too caught up in comparison, or spending time with people who don’t care about you.

Action: Do less of these behaviors.

Question 5: What did I not due because of fear?

This is my favorite question of this entire exercise.

Summarize actions that you did not take due to fear or limiting beliefs. Define the fear that’s holding you back and be honest with yourself. Is it the fear of failure, the unknown, or even imposter syndrome? Dig deep.

Action: Unblock the limiting beliefs and fears. Try again next year.

Question 6: What beliefs did I change?

Identify 1-2 core beliefs that you’ve changed this past year. These beliefs are fundamental to you as a person, so you’re probably not changing many beliefs in just one year. However, if 5 years go by, and you’ve changed no beliefs over that time period, then I’d ask, are you really growing as person?

Action: Understand why and how your new beliefs will guide decision-making in the new year.

Question 7: What did I learn?

Synthesize lessons you’ve learned from what’s happened in all dimensions of your life. Put on your detective hat and look for repeated patterns across the above questions. You might find something that surprises you about yourself.

Action: Apply the lessons learned in the new year.

Question 8: What am I looking forward to this year?

Finally, switch gears from hindsight to foresight. Paint a vision of 2-4 aspirational experiences and/or behavioral changes you’re excited to tackle in the next year.

Action: Generate excitement so that I start the year hitting the ground running.

🙏 Final thoughts

Congratulations — you just completed your annual review! 🥳 

One of the best feelings for me is starting off the new year with a sense of clarity and purpose.

The annual review is my favorite exercise for creating this feeling state, and I hope that you experience as much joy as I do writing this reflection.

🌐 Beyond your borders

🇸🇬 Ultimate guide for expats moving to Singapore (written by yours truly): tips to getting a job offer and setting up finances (link)

🫶 How to pick a career (that actually fits you). Hint: it’s not about going for money, status, or your mom’s approval. This framework emphasizes a few factors that I also focus on in my career coaching (link)

💼 These are the top 15 jobs people most want to quit—No. 1 pays $144,000 a year. Clearly, money isn’t everything. This list had several jobs that I didn’t expect (link)

🌎️ Reddit: Where did you live as an expat and would NOT consider returning to? It’s fascinating to hear about all the skeletons in the closet in the comments. South Korea, Taiwan, Netherlands, and more (link)

🇭🇰 Hong Kong to offer residency to wealthy for a S$5.1M investment. Singapore has been presenting stiff competition against HK, so they’re doubling down on new residency incentives (link)

📆 How I can help

That’s all for today!

Whenever you’re ready, here’s how I can help you:

1. Work with my tax team - Get personalized guidance from a US expat tax professional.

2. Sponsor this newsletter - Get in front of over 5,000 professionals and business owners in the US and Singapore.

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Dexter Zhuang

Dexter is the founder of Money Abroad, a website focused on financial independence for professionals abroad. He has 10+ years of experience building products and teams at companies like Dropbox, Xendit, and startups. He's lived and worked across the US, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. His work has been featured in global publications like Business Insider, CBS, US News & World Report, and Tech in Asia. He graduated from Dartmouth College.

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