Do you ever find yourself going from one thing to the next without slowing down or bothering to notice the progress you’re making? I have a tendency to do that which is why I started creating a ‘good things’ list at the end of the year.

a 'good things' list at the end of the year

What’s a ‘good things’ list?

A good things list is a way to review some of the highlights and things that went well during the past year. There are no real rules or structure to it other than to write about things that went well.

Sometimes I decide ahead of time how many items I am trying to put on the list. Other times I will categorize different areas of my life and have a certain number per category, but it’s as fluid and flexible as you want it to be.

The ‘good things’ don’t have to be things you worked toward. They can simply be things that went well just because, maybe even in spite, of your actions.

‘Good things’ can and should be acknowledged even if you did not create them. Other times ‘good things’ can be processes that went well even if the result wasn’t what you wanted.

You have more control over your habits and actions than you do the outcome. It was one of many lessons I learned in reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Why do a ‘good things’ list at the end of the year?

A couple of years ago I started creating a ‘good things’ list at the end of the year. The idea came to me when I started thinking about the goals I had set that year.

While I had not accomplished many things I set out to, there were a lot of good things that happened whether they were helping me make progress towards a goal or were things I hadn’t even set out to achieve.

I also thought about how rare it is to focus on the things that went right. I challenged my goals accountability group to come up with five things that had gone well for them that year.

We got together that December and discussed these ‘good things’. It was such an encouraging time.

a 'good things' list at the end of the year

Forces reflection

My natural tendencies are to be driven and hard on myself. I’m my own worst critic and I set the bar really high. I don’t apply these standards to other people, but I hold them tightly for myself.

In writing a ‘good things’ list at the end of the year, I’m forcing myself to reflect on the positive. My inclination is typically to move from one goal to the next without slowing down to appreciate what’s been accomplished.

It can leave me feeling like I’ll never be or do enough. And honestly, it’s exhausting.

Habits & Practices

Knowing this about myself means I have to incorporate habits and practices that force me to slow down.

I have some people in my life who are really good at this and set a great example. One of them is my brother. A few years ago he sent me on a silent retreat.

That experience was a more extreme reminder of the importance of slowing down and reflecting. Rest doesn’t come easy in a world that’s constantly pushing us to do more.

The practice of creating a ‘good things’ list at the end of the year makes me focus on the good. We get to choose what we focus on and what we choose will impact our mindset and our actions.


Celebrating accomplishments or even just things that are going well isn’t a normal practice. People tend to downplay their wins sometimes. Perhaps it is because they don’t want to seem arrogant, but this ends with very little recognition or celebration for achievements.

When my goals group worked on creating their good lists, it was more difficult for some people. A couple of them had difficulty coming up with a ‘good things’ list without including caveats or future goals.

But when you include in your rules that it has to remain completely positive, you force them to adapt and focus solely on what’s to be celebrated.

And this practice is not meant for people to compare or try to one-up each other. The point of celebrations is to honor and encourage each individual.

Today I got together with my extended family. For part of our time, my sister-in-law planned for us to share encouragements with each other. Everyone wrote something positive they’d seen in other family member’s lives in the past year.

It was a celebration of the ‘good things’. Celebrations don’t have to be fancy or complicated or expensive.

It can be as simple as getting together with close friends or family members and sharing what your ‘good things’ and hearing other people’s as well.

Intentional optimism

We live in a culture that is constantly focused on negativity. If you doubt that watch the news for 10 minutes or look at the headlines and notice the tone of the stories. Sadly it appears that negative storylines receive more attention from people than positive ones.

It takes effort and intentionality to go against the grain. I don’t want to become a pessimist by keeping my attention on what needs to be fixed, changed, or improved.

I’ve always called myself a realist. I see both the good and the bad. However, it would be easy to weigh more heavily on the negative if that’s what I choose to constantly fill my mind with.

I work to be intentionally optimistic. To do that I guard what information I take in and do my best to also work on my thought patterns.

What this world needs more of is ‘good lists’ and people who set their minds to see the good. That doesn’t mean you don’t improve or ignore realities, but the more practices you can incorporate in your life that promote positivity, the happier and more productive you’ll be.

a 'good things' list at the end of the year

Clarifies future goals

I do love setting goals and working on habits and that will continue to be true, but having time where I have to look for the positive has helped me gain a better perspective.

Sometimes goal setting can feel like the focus is on what you are lacking. Often we don’t start goal setting thinking about our past wins and improvements. Rather we think of our failures and where we perceive we need to grow or change.

Creating a ‘good things’ list at the end of the year helps get you in the right frame of mind as you prepare to set new goals. It allows you to have a more balanced perspective with a greater awareness of what good happened.

Before you set any new goals, I challenge you to create your own ‘good things’ list.

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