Okay, What Now, What Next? 12 Questions to Get Ready for the Year Ahead

by | Dec 15, 2021 | 2 comments


First, a Message from Eileen Chadnick (the Questions Follow Below):

This year’s edition of my annual “12 Questions” marks my 10th year of sharing this annual reflection guide. Some new questions for the times, and as always, some familiar ones too. The aim of these questions is to help you bring a fresh lens to your past year — where you’ve been, what has changed, who you have become — and then to look ahead at new possibilities for the coming year.

I need not tell you that these past two years were like none we’ve experienced before. As  I first wrote this year’s questions, things were looking up. Then ‘abort and rewrite’ required as we fell back into another state of flux with yet a new variant in play.  

There are many concerns and unknowns: Will  the vaccines still protect us? Will boosters help? Will the kids still get to go to school? Will we be working largely remotely, or perhaps in hybrid? Will we ever go back to in-person work in a more sustained way? And how will this impact life, career, finances in the months/year ahead? 

No easy answers. It’s frustrating, yes. But we can tap into the wisdom and experience from these past years to be resilient and perhaps even hopeful for what’s ahead.  

Reflect on this year’s questions with eyes and heart wide open. Don’t wait for things to settle. Waiting has no end game these days. Instead, focus on what you CAN do instead of what you CAN’T do (Tool #10 from my book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy). Don’t go it alone. Seek support and give support where ever you can. Be grateful by recognizing and counting what is good even in the bad. Tap into courage and know that the tough stuff always comes with some silver linings – but only if you see them can you benefit from them. 

Let’s look forward to the year ahead with hope, possibility and resilience. May you and loved ones be happy, healthy, and safe this holiday season as we get ready to welcome a new year in. 

Eileen Chadnick

Here are this year’s 12 Questions to help think through your ‘what now, what next?’

Look Back…

Q#1: What went well? 

A core question asked every year… Park all the mucky, mucky stuff for a moment and acknowledge all that did go well. Whether you made it happen or it just happened (count the blessing for the latter; acknowledge yourself for the former!). Recall those joyful, good moments (even if fleeting in a tough year). Name them. When we direct attention to the positive (what was good), we trigger a neurochemical response that expands the brain’s ability to think and see more. You will be primed to notice, reflect, and think more expansively with more potential for insights and possibility. All this will be a helpful primer for the other questions coming up!

Q #2: What did you discover (or rediscover) about your core needs and priorities? 

Living and working amidst all the restraints and uncertainties has clarified for many people what they really, really (and really:) need and want — and what they can do without, or at least with less for a while. Priorities have shifted. We discovered we can manage just fine with some things that once were unthinkable to let go of (what, go grey!!?). But other things we learned were much more difficult to do without — and not tenable for the long term.

So, what do you now know is non-negotiable for your wellbeing? Consider your mental, physical, emotional, and social wellbeing. Then use this self awareness as a compass to ensure  you fulfil your core needs in the year ahead. In these historical times the message here is not to forego your core needs but rather to recalibrate how you fulfill them for the times.

Q#3: Name 3 ways you managed to adapt, pivot, and stretch for the better in the year past? 

Survival of the fittest (aka Darwin) is directly related to our evolutionary sustainability. Things are always changing and those who find ways to work within the changes do better than those who resist, or wait for things to ‘go back to where they were.’ Resistance is futile and waiting is a losing game since change is going to be constant. Whether you like change or not, you had to adapt — and you did. Start by naming at least three ways you have successfully adapted. You now you have solid evidence that you can pivot. Acknowledge that. You may need to do it again and again.

(You may want to check out this article “Are You Ready for the Innovation Economy – and  take the Quiz too!)

Q#4: How were you there for others this past year? 

Compassion is the superhighway to resilience – a phrase I’ve used over and over (in presentations, workshops, coaching, etc.). There’s been a lot of tough stuff going on in our world within  these times of a pandemic – and beyond – such as disruptive (catastrophic) weather events, global humanitarian crisis. Many near and far have suffered enormous distress and mental health challenges this past year.  We can be there for others in large and small ways and even for those we don’t know.

I bet you have done your part: perhaps a small gesture of kindness, an extra dose of patience, or simply being a compassionate listener. Every moment (even tiny) of compassion and generosity can make a big difference. Science has proven that the giver (of compassion, appreciation, generosity) gets as much reward in gratification  as the receiver.

If you aren’t present to how you have shown up for others, quietly,  take stock for yourself.  Count even the tiny acts of kindness. It will fuel you and perhaps even open up a path for more of this goodness in the year ahead.

Q#5: What must go? Choose at least 1-2 things you have the power to bid adieu to so that you can make space for new.  

I have asked this question many times in the past. I think it merits a revisit. More than ever we are seeing  how some mindsets, habits, situations, and even relationships just don’t work well for us in today’s landscape.

Whatever it is you choose to let go of, take time to appreciate whatever it was that did serve you well in the past in some way. Give thanks to that. And then let it go.  As you part ways, step back and look into the space you’ve just created and ask: what else is now possible?

Q#6: Give your year past a personal theme. Complete this sentence: “2021 was the year of____”  


Look Ahead…


Q#7: What do you want for the year ahead? Identify 1-2 starting actions that you can take towards that aspiration. 

I’m not talking about wishful thinking here or resolutions. Rather, I’m talking about getting clear on a starting vision of possibility. Make sure it is something that you would be willing to put some attention on and invest some effort.

Time will pass no matter what. If you could work towards something meaningful what might that be? What would you have to do? What would you need to learn? Name the first two steps you can take to move towards that vision. It’s okay if they are tiny steps. Then take two more, and two more. Tiny steps add up to….well a whole new journey and a road to a new possibility.

Q#8: What are your top 3 learning and development priorities for the year ahead? 

Years ago the term ‘knowledge economy’ was a predominant theme. Today, the pace of work and life is so fast, that knowledge is no longer enough. Rather, it’s the ability to learn. Not one time, but over and over throughout your life.

Everyone would be wise to craft a learning plan for themselves each year and refresh as the year progresses. Your learning plan can be focused on facets within your inner world and on your outer world. Personal and/or professional.

Inner world learning might focus on things like building more self awareness, confidence or courage,  mindfulness, and more. Outer world learning might be developing a new skills related to your profession, deepening and/or expanding your relationships. Many skills involve both inner and outer world focus — such as communicating better, interpersonal relating, and leadership (a vast array in itself).

Don’t worry about doing this perfectly from the start. You can begin by writing out your top three learning priorities for 2022. If you are present to more, then capture them too. You’ll want to have an abundant resource to revisit to keep yourself on your best learning toes! You’ll feel good about it too — hello mojo!

Q#9: How will you tend to your own self care and self compassion? 

We’ve been living and working in times of relentless pressure, pace, and change for some time. And this has become even more amplified with the pandemic. The world has seen even the seemingly heartiest people start to wilt from all the wear and tear — including Olympians, hockey stars, tennis champions, and more.

We owe great thanks to these ‘stars’ for sharing their stories about their own humanity and vulnerability and normalizing this very human part of themselves. No one is immune from burnout – mentally, emotionally, and physically.

If ever there was a silver lining around this truth it’s that the need for extreme self care and self compassion are being recognized as essential for every single one of us.

Ask yourself, how will you make this part of your new year commitment and plan? Seek support where and when you need it. And perhaps revisit your priorities (See Q #2) to ensure this is high on your priority list. By the way, you can read a bit about my sharing of this self care commitment in last year’s article Remember the Pause“. I’m still paying attention to this and feel significantly better for it.

Q#10: How will you create more belonging and connection in the year ahead?

The need to connect and to belong has been a human need since beginning of time. Perhaps we’ve taken this for granted until we experienced these past years with lockdowns and virtual work.

I’ve met people this year in my work who have never actually met their boss or team (or new hire) in person in our virtual working landscape.

A shout out to leaders,  your people will always need more than directives and operational clarity. They need to feel they are part of a  team (whether in person and especially when working remotely). So how will you create and/or support ways to build more team and belonging into the team?

And if you are not a leader, how can you show personal leadership to create more opportunities at work and within your social spheres for more connection and a sense of belonging? For yourself and for others?

Q#11: If you could summon just a bit more courage what would you do with that in the year ahead?

Courage is what fuels dreams. It’s what moves us forward even when something feels daunting, scary, and unthinkable. We don’t need to be without fear or doubts to do great things, or take action towards our goals. We just need a bit of courage to get us started. Sometimes only a few moments of courage is all that we need. And the good news is that courage is a renewable strength. You can tap into it over and over again.

Where in your life would a dose of courage help move you forward on something important to you? Help you be more authentic? Perhaps using courage to ask for help when you need it? Take a stand? Courage is where it’s at baby! Just a few seconds at a time.

Q#12: Give yourself a personal mantra or a theme for the year ahead.

Complete this sentence: For me, 2022 will be the year of ___________


If you enjoyed this article, I’d be grateful if you would share this post with others via the social share buttons. Thanks!

Eileen Chadnick, PCC, ACPC of Big Cheese Coaching, is an ICF credentialed executive coach, team coach, workshop facilitator, and writer specializing in career navigation, executive and leadership development, culture-building, and communications. Principal of Big Cheese Coaching and Chadnick Communications in Toronto, Eileen draws from the disciplines of positivity, emotional intelligence – and Conversational Intelligence®(C‐IQ®) in her work. She is author of the book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy. See more at www.bigcheesecoaching.com


  1. Tina

    Great questions for reflection. Figured out the problem with reading the article.

    • Eileen

      Hello Tina! So glad you were able to get it working – and more importantly, that you like the questions. I hope your reflection is meaningful for you and I wish you a great start to 2022!! 🙂


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