7 Constructive Questions to Ask as You Transition into a New Year

Gusto Editors

Do you know how to set yourself up for success in the New Year?

Setting New Year’s resolutions often feels exciting and productive, but it’s important to be able to follow through with your goals. A critical part of succeeding in the New Year is evaluating your previous year to identify what you learned, accomplished, and where you can improve. 

Fortunately, Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, hosted an informative webinar all about setting goals and achieving success in the New Year. Our presentation featured the goal-setting expertise of executive coach Amber Setter. Amber’s insights remain relevant regardless of the year. You can watch the entire webinar here

In this article, Amber asks a series of thought-provoking questions that aim to set you up for success in the New Year. 

Evaluating your year to keep moving forward

Confident African-American woman standing and smiling.

Amber is known for her expert coaching practice, but she’s also an inactive certified public accountant. With her coaching and accounting experience, she offers invaluable guidance to accountants. She noted that one of the fundamentally critical components of coaching is recognizing that you are the expert of your own life:   

“You are the expert on your aspirations. You’re the expert on your growth, what’s keeping you up at night, [and] your relationships. Coaching is the space that allows you to stop and pause.”

Amber Setter

Amber invited her webinar viewers to take a moment to reflect on their year without distractions, such as email and texting. She posed a series of questions that remain relevant every year. You can reflect on how your year is going so far, or reflect on your previous year to identify where you can grow. 

“This is where I’m asking questions to [get] insights out of you, and then from those insights, you … change your life. … If you want to derive maximum value from our conversation today, I really invite you to tune out all the external noise and, for a moment, connect to you. … Listen to the strings of your heart and your soul. … Really take a moment and connect to you and what matters most.”

Amber Setter

If you’re able, consider taking time away from nearby distractions and focus entirely on Amber’s questions throughout this article. Her questions aim to uncover what may be causing discomfort or a feeling of incompleteness in your life:

“[How] I describe being incomplete is when you have a rock in your shoe. … On occasion, that little rock gets stuck in a place where it just is rubbing you the wrong way. It is starting to hurt, perhaps, and you can’t move through life [at] that same pace that you’ve been on. So completion is the act of just kind of untying the shoe, taking that out, [and] putting it back on so that you can move forward.”

Amber Setter

Consider the following questions to identify and overcome what may be holding you back professionally and/or personally: 

What is one word that describes your year?

At the time in which Amber presented this webinar, small businesses and accountants were experiencing an especially tumultuous period with the COVID-19 pandemic. Amber received many one-word viewer responses describing their year, and the different descriptions illustrate how the year was disruptive:

“I think [these responses are] pretty profound as I read them: ‘Evolution,’ ‘chaos,’ ‘busy,’ ‘growth,’ ‘transformative,’ ‘challenges,’ ‘pivot,’ ‘evaluate,’ ‘stressful,’ ‘hectic,’ ‘horrendous,’ ‘challenging,’ ‘hard,’ ‘chaotic,’ ‘new,’ ‘unusual,’ ‘difficult,’ ‘exhausting,’ ‘long,’ ‘hectic.’ … There’s a theme that there’s been a lot of external disruption, and what I want you to know is, if it’s felt like a very challenging and hard and disruptive time that you’re absolutely not alone in that.”

Amber Setter

COVID-19 was incredibly difficult for accountants because they needed to assist small businesses through an unprecedented crisis. The pandemic initially brought a nationwide shutdown that crippled businesses economically, and small business owners turned to their accountants for guidance in PPP loans and employee management. Additionally, the IRS extended tax filing deadlines to help businesses, which meant that stressful tax seasons were even longer for accountants. 

Woman sitting thinking while holding a pen and a notebook.

Amber shared a message of hope for those having a tumultuous and challenging time. She observed that people often grow the most in times of stress and disruption:

“I can tell you from my own personal journey as a human [that when] I’ve felt the most lost or disrupted, were soon followed by exponential growth, so hold steady. Do some introspection, [and] do some soul searching. I promise you that there is a breakthrough on the other side of discomfort. Unfortunately, sometimes the best breakthroughs come after the horrendous, challenging, hard, chaotic, hectic, difficult, all that stuff.”

Amber Setter

It’s easy to become overwhelmed during disruptive periods, but you can experience tremendous growth in times of disruption by practicing introspection. 

What’s the smartest decision you made this year?

Take a moment to consider the smartest decision you’ve made either this year or in the past year. Now, consider what that smart decision provided for you. 

Live webinar viewers provided helpful answers that illustrate crucial growth areas:

“Someone said, ‘To say a daily rosary,’ so to maybe make more space for spirituality. I’d be curious [about] what that provided. Someone said, ‘Started inspired action towards my life purpose.’ Well, when you’re in inspired action toward your life purpose, what does that provide to you? What does that provide the world that wasn’t available when you weren’t aligned with your life purpose?”

Amber Setter

When making intelligent decisions, we often provide benefits to ourselves and others. Deciding to practice spirituality or growing in your life’s purpose is beneficial for your own growth, but it may also be a blessing to others. For example, your life’s purpose could be helping businesses in underdeveloped communities with expert accounting guidance. You can benefit both yourself and others by focusing on your internal growth. 

Amber noted some of the decisions her viewers shared illustrate her point about people experiencing tremendous growth during tumultuous times: 

“Even though it’s been hectic and chaotic, you are learning, you’re growing, and you’re moving your life forward, and you’re seeing that change provides you with something new, something for you, something for the world.”

Amber Setter

Personal growth is a powerful silver lining in times of adversity. You can focus on your growth and the smart decisions you’ve made during challenging times. 

What were the gifts of this year?

Although every year presents unique challenges, it’s critical to cultivate a mentality of thankfulness for what your year gave you. 

Woman celebrating with one arm raised.

One viewer shared how the past year gave them the gift of illustrating how strong and resilient they are in times of adversity. Despite your year’s challenges, you can be thankful for your growth.

“Really challenging times can illustrate our resilience, [and] that’s beautiful. … I know for me personally, I’ve had different times and periods in my life, which have been disruptive and hard, … but all of those challenging times really provided me with resilience and great learning and wisdom.”

Amber Setter

You can also shift your perspective of your year to be thankful for unique opportunities that may have resulted from challenges. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, people had to make a sudden shift to working at home, which presented tough challenges. But people can also be thankful that they had more time to spend with their families. 

“Maybe initially working from home or being confined in a space didn’t feel good, but we realized that there’s a gift in that experience. … [Ask yourself], ‘What was the gift in the experience?’ It really helps me change my perspective into something more positive.”

Amber Setter

Shift your perspective by contemplating what this year gave you. Even in challenging, tumultuous times, you can express gratitude for what you have. 

What was your greatest lesson of the year?

Again, every year comes with distinct difficulties, but people learn and grow during times of hardship. Sometimes challenges teach us lessons we may have never learned otherwise. Amber noted that people discovered unique lessons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amber shared a few participant suggestions:

“[‘Learning to appreciate the things that I had taken for granted,’ [and], ‘Finding a flow state.’ I certainly think that there [have] been times where we had moments to pause. … Literally, things were closed, and we were forced to slow [down] and just see what we learned from that.”

Amber Setter

The COVID-19 shutdown was incredibly difficult, but it also gave people the opportunity to appreciate the things in their lives that they took for granted, and the shutdown also allowed people to slow down and practice introspection. 

Take a moment to consider what your year’s greatest lesson was and how you can grow from it. 

What was your biggest piece of unfinished business from your year? 

It’s important to practice introspection and identify ways in which your year feels incomplete.  

“[Maybe you had] a goal for yourself, and you wanted to achieve it, but you didn’t get to it. It’s something that’s been on your to-do list for a while that you haven’t done. It’s that kind of thing where you’re like, ‘Oh, I really need to do this, but I haven’t made time.’”

Amber Setter

Think about what you were planning on doing this year but you haven’t made the time to do it. Maybe your unfinished business involves developing an exercise routine, taking on clients in a different niche, or practicing mindfulness. Take a moment to consider what you’ve been putting off. Amber noted that we often attribute our lack of progress to not having enough time, but in reality, there’s often an underlying reason why we don’t take action: 

“I don’t believe that we run out of time. We just either change our mind about what we said we wanted to do, or we get scared, or different things, but it’s usually not about time.”

Amber Setter

Consider what self-imposed barriers hold you back and keep you from achieving your goals. 

What did you achieve this year?

Woman sitting at computer considering some options.

Although there may be reasons why your year may feel incomplete, it’s critical to note your accomplishments. Amber observed that accountants often struggle with recognizing their achievements:

“Something that I noticed about high-performing, type-A people that choose to do accounting … [is that] we’re going … [and] pursuing more and more and not really stopping to recognize what we did achieve and recognize our accomplishments to date.”

Amber Setter

Accountants are often perfectionists and hyper-fixated on problems. This makes sense when auditing and performing bookkeeping tasks, but accountants also need to take a step back and consider their accomplishments. 

Amber recommends that you take out a piece of paper and write a list of five to ten accomplishments you’ve achieved this year. Even if you have a long way to go before feeling like you’ve accomplished everything you wanted to do in a given year, it’s critical to recognize your growth and achievements. 

What did you notice about this year? 

Amber’s final question is about taking a broader look at your year to evaluate what you may have noticed more generally. 

“At a high level … what did you notice? [Was there] any kind of theme for you? If you imagine you’re in a drone right now, and you can kind of … get some perspective and look down at yourself, what did you notice? And is there anything else you need to do or say to be complete?”

Amber Setter

Take an extended moment to really evaluate your year as a whole. What did you learn? What stuck out to you? Where can you grow? What do you need to do in the future to feel complete? Taking a moment to practice introspection and consider your year can help you identify areas where you can improve and grow.  

Learn more about succeeding in the New Year

Consider taking some time today to ask yourself Amber’s questions and identify your year’s gifts, lessons, and takeaways. People grow in challenging and chaotic times, and if you experienced a challenging year, we hope that you can grow from it and develop both personally and professionally. 

If you’re ready to learn more about practicing introspection to succeed personally and professionally, read the other articles in this webinar series. Part Two discusses practicing visualization to set goals, and Part Three covers how to establish achievable goals. You can also watch the entire webinar here

Looking for more ways to develop in your accounting career? Consider partnering with Gusto and signing up for Gusto Pro. Gusto Pro is a doorway into the future of accounting. Tap into our expert resources and certification program so you can build a resilient firm and support your clients into the future. Learn more about Gusto Pro.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
Back to top