At this time of year, it's normal to look back over the past year – or even the decade – and also to look forward to what's to come.

Most people do this in a very un-directed way – looking back and just recollecting what happened, and looking forward with some vague hopes or expectations. But you can take advantage of this mood of retrospection and forward-looking, and do the whole thing much more purposefully and consciously. The result can be insightful learning that leads to real changes that make a difference.

The technique I'm going to explain is taken from a broader topic called Action Inquiry – developed by some very insightful management consultants/academics/developmental psychologists.

You can apply this to any activity, on any timescale – but I suggest you do it in relation to your online activities for the last year (or even the last decade if relevant and if you want a very broad picture.)

I did this for myself for 2009, and it helped me identify a critical change in my strategy/approach. It's powerful stuff.

You can either do it quickly, or take a lot of time over it (it can raise many issues). Obviously, the more time you put in, the more you'll get out of it.

So – here it is. Complete these sentences as honestly and completely as you can.

Purpose, Intent

At the beginning of the year/decade (or when you first started), my intention with regard to my online business was …….

Strategy, Plan

As a result, I decided that my approach to building an online business would be….

Actions (observable activities that create outcomes)

What I actually did was…..


The result of taking these actions was ….. (these are changes in the world that result from your actions; describe them in the same terms as your original intent).

Given these results, I feel …. <try to insert only a single word here> because …..

[If you are happy/satisfied with the results, stop this analysis and keep doing what you are doing, otherwise – continue below.]

My learning from this means that I want to make the following changes from now on (complete one, two or three of these):

Changes in the Actions I take…. (single-loop learning)

Changes in my whole approach – my Strategy/Plan … (double-loop learning – which also means changing your Actions)

Changes in my Purpose/Intent…. (triple-loop learning – which also means changing your Strategy/Plan and Actions)


Be free in your interpretation of words such as Strategy and Purpose. For example, don't limit Strategy to mean Business Strategy. It could/should also include your psychological strategy that influeces how you make decisions about what activities you get involved in.

Take the time to do this properly, and it could learn some very valuable lessons from 2009.

Do add your comments about this technique below.