Today’s Topic

I'm excited to introduce today's guest, Stephen Marriott. He’s an independent author of two novels in what he calls The Reluctant Pilgrim series, and he’s an avid long-distance walker, as am I. We have a fantastic conversation about the magic of long-distance walking, and how it can change your life. This is one of those episodes where I could have gone one for much, much longer, but I’m not sure I’m ready to break into long-form podcasting just yet.

More About Stephen Marriott

Stephen R. Marriott is a bestselling independent author and traveller. He grew up in Portishead in the West Country of England. Although just a small-town boy at heart he has worked in stockbroking in the City of London and has visited 50+ countries. His writing career began in 2012 when seeking adventure, he took a very long walk across Spain and subsequently discovered his creative spirit.


Instagram: @stephenrmarriott

Book links on Amazon:

Candyfloss Guitar (The Reluctant Pilgrim #1)

Santiago's Guitar (The Reluctant Pilgrim #2)

What You'll Learn

  • What is long-distance walking + why you might want to do it
  • What you might be able to expect from life on a long-distance trail
  • What you can get out of walking a trail like the Camino de Santiago
  • Why walking a long-distance trail is both an inner and outer journey
  • How this type of experience can be life-changing

Things We Discussed

  • Inca Trail
  • Lost City Trek in Colombia
  • The Motorcycle Diaries
  • The Pilgrimage, by Paulo Coelho
  • Wattpadd 
  • Walking Book Promo
Click here to read the transcript

The transcript for this episode can also be downloaded here (no opt-in required).

Holly: Hello and welcome to the Into the Woods podcast, episode 327. This is your host Holly Worton and I am back with another solo episode.

Today I am going to talk about how to do your year-end review, and I know this may be weird timing for a lot of you because it is the end of October and we still have two months left in the Gregorian calendar, however, we are approaching Samhain and this is a time of the year when I find it really natural to start doing my year-end review because I think that part of my system feels like this is the New Year. So Samhain, which I have talked about in previous episodes, is kind of the pagan New Year, I don’t know if everyone sees it that way but if you are in the northern hemisphere as I am, and probably most of the people listening to this, Samhain is technically the 1 November but really more like the period from 31 October to 2 November, so those kind of three days or, in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the 30 April to 2 May. This is when the veil is lifted between the worlds and we have access to the other worlds, and we might be able to perceive things that we don’t at other times in the year. If you have read my tree book you know that I had a lot of really deep experiences with the trees during this time last year and I just felt really, really, connected to everything.

So when we return to our everyday lives after Samhain is over we are basically in a new cycle of our lives, or kind of a new year. So I really kind of feel like this is the end of an old year and the beginning of a new year and I really feel called to do my own personal annual review around this time of the year and I did the same thing last year, I think it was episode 275 that I talked about Samhain and I talked about how I do my year-end review. And, I was debating about topics for this episode and there were a lot of things that I had in mind but really this has been the undercurrent of my thoughts for the last week or so, I thought as usual, what is timely for me maybe timely for you, so this is what I am going to be talking about. So, if you are feeling ready to do your own annual review now, and get ready for the new year, then the timing of this episode will be perfect for you. If you are not feeling ready to do this work then maybe listen to it now and revisit the show notes or the episode again in December, or whenever it is right for you.

So, I think it is really important to do an annual review because it helps me stay on top of my life. It helps me stay on top of my goals, and my plans, and my path, and my achievements and it helps me create the life that I want to create. Now I don’t usually achieve 100% of my goals, actually saying that I don’t think I have ever achieved 100% of them. Oftentimes that’s because other things have been more important, or I just haven’t quite figured out what I need to do to achieve them, so I need to tweak them for the next yea. But, I do feel generally really satisfied with what I get done each year and I think that it can really, really, help if you are feeling kind of disappointed with yourself – I can be hard on myself sometimes – so if you are feeling disappointed in yourself for whatever reason, like you haven’t achieved what you wanted to achieve, the year-end review is really important because it kind of reminds you of what you did do. Maybe you didn’t achieve everything that you set out to, maybe you did other things instead, I have just written an email because I have just gotten back on track with my Druidry program, my Ovate grade, and I had started this in the beginning of the year, I think March, sent in my first update to my mentor, and then stopped. I just stopped doing the work because I was really, really, occupied with other things and really occupied with my plant-spirit-healing-apprenticeship and I really felt bad about myself for what I thought was neglecting the OBOD coursework. And, while I didn’t do the coursework itself, and I have just kind of picked it up again in the last couple of weeks, one thing that my mentor said was, I may not have been doing the coursework but I was Ovate grade work, the type of healing that I have been doing in my plant-spirit-healing apprenticeship is very much aligned with that, my being outdoors, my tree book, all of that was really aligned with the kind of work that you do and the kind of experiences that you have in the Ovate grade. So having that perspective was really important to me because it made me realise that I wasn’t doing the actual coursework, but I was doing the practical work, even though I didn’t realise it.  So, let that be an example for you, and try to think about what other things you might have done this year which has helped you to achieve your goals or have an experience that you wanted to have in your life even though it wasn’t exactly what you thought you were going to do, when you planned your year.

So, how do you do your year-end review? What I do is I do a lot of journalling, first thing I do is I usually go through my old journals and one of the first things that I noticed this year, was, I usually go though and use A4 size journals, which is roughly letter-sized if you are in the States — so it is a big journal I don’t like the smaller ones. So I usually go though two or three of those in a year, about one journal every four months or so, but this year I have only gone through two journals and that has made me realise that I haven’t spent as much time writing in them. Now, my first thought was: oh that’s disappointing, but really, it is partly because I have been using other journals as well. I have a special journal for my Ovate grade course, which we were really encouraged to have something separate for our Druid work and so I have been writing in there a little bit, and I also have a separate journal for my plant-spirit-healing apprenticeship. And while I usually have just one journal for everything I do, this year I branched out into a couple of different journals, partly because I was asked to for the OBOD course and for the initiation for the plant-spirit-healing it just made sense to have separate notebook with all of the notes from the program and notes from my journeys and experiences. So that possibly contributed to the fact that I have only had two regular journals rather than three.

So the first thing I do, I just kind of go through, I just flip through the journey, read through stuff, I have got it next to me as I am recording this. Looking at my year-end review last year, the kinds of things in my life that are not benefiting me, the things I want to let go of. I look at the year-end review that I did, and I did it a bit later last year, I can see from my notes here it was on 27 November when I actually did the formal year-end review, but I remember starting to work on this even earlier and around this time of year. So I did a whole series of questions and answers and liked that, I think it really helped me to give me an idea of what this year had been like. So, let me give you an idea of some kinds of questions that you can ask yourself, and if you go online and you search for, ‘how can I complete my year in personal review’ or ‘how can I review my year’, you will see something like a top 50 questions to review your year, some of those maybe relevant to you and some of them may not. So let’s keep it simple for this. Start out by reviewing your old journals so if you keep journals, go through your last journal and trace from the last year. See what you have put in there and what you wrote in there through the year, my memory is quite honestly pretty bad, so I am often really surprised at some of the things that I found in my journals and I think: oh wow, I totally forgot that happened, or I totally forget that I was thinking about that. So, go through those and see what you find that might be a surprise, look through and I like to tick off things with a check off mark that I have achieved, that I wanted to do and I actually did, go through those and just relive your year through your journals and if you are not a journalling kind of person you will be able to skip this step.

Another thing that I do before the end of the year is that I pull 12 oracle cards, one for each month of the year and then I also pull a 13th card which is kind of the over-arching theme for the year and then I write that all down in my journal. This is something I did last year around this time I did it, according to my notes on 26 October. So, I pulled one oracle card for each month, wrote down the month, little bit of a description of the card and then as I said, a thirteenth card which was the overarching theme. So, I go through that and I kind of look and I usually check this out throughout the year, and I look each month and I kind of see how the month coincided with the card and it is usually really, really, accurate which I have always found to be – I work with oracle cards and I don’t know why it still surprises me when this stuff is so accurate but I find it really, really, useful.  I go through my notes from that and I see how my actual year coincided with the cards and it usually coincides quite well. So the overarching theme for 2019, for my cards, was bloodstone and I used this oracle card deck that is, I will put it in the show notes it is crystal cards, so it has different crystals and their healing meaning. So, bloodstone is all about detoxification and chaos, transformation and preserver range, locked doors open, and obstacles are swept away. A farewell is called for, mourn and let go, let go of the past and look closely at ancestral lines, recognise toxic patterns — perseverance was kind of the overarching theme.

Yes, I feel like this year has been a lot of, I wouldn’t say chaos, but definitely detoxification in terms of letting go of stuff that no longer serves me, I have done a lot of deep work in the plant-spirit-healing apprenticeship in terms of rewriting soul contracts and working with the ancestral line, for the first time ever. Doing a lot of that kind of healing and letting go of blocks, obstacles, I have a very dear friend who is doing a kind of distant — I hope to be able to talk about this more in the future because I hope she is going to be able to open this up and offer this publicly to people — but a really deep kind of house cleaning energetically but also it is kind of intuitive, she calls in her guides, she is clearing energies, she is still doing it this week, we are in the middle of it and I think that is also probably why I am feeling the need to review my year and let go of the stuff that no longer serves me, because a lot of stuff is being cleaned out during this process and I will talk about that later in the year hopefully. It has been very much a year of detoxing and really getting clear on what I want to let go of and letting go of that stuff and doing that at a very deep level, as I said with the soul contracts and ancestral line and they need that kind of healing.

So, I go through the 12 cards and then I look at my list of goals for the year and I go through those, so things like publishing my tree book, I did that in April; getting my brown-black belt, I did that in the summer; I go through all those goals and see what I have achieved and see what I haven’t achieved and the goals that I didn’t achieve, why didn’t I achieve them? Are they still interesting to me? Are they still important to me? Are they still goals that I want to focus on, if so, I pass them onto my list for next year, if not, give myself permission to let go of them and then celebrate the goals that you have achieved if you haven’t done that throughout the year and just as an excuse to celebrate them again, I think celebrating our goals is really, really important and I know that personally I don’t do enough of that, so celebrate your goals.

And then look at your focus: what did you focus on in 2019? I am looking at my journal and it says: focus for 2019, spending time on writing which I did, nature, I kind of did; OBOD didn’t do much of that (that’s my Druid training); reading, read 32 books so far this year; more outdoors courses, I don’t even know what that means, oh yes taking more outdoor courses, so I didn’t have time for that this year, I did do my NNAS — and I will link to this in the show notes because it is such a great course — the NNAS gold training, that’s the National Navigation Awards Scheme, and I I’ll link to the guy I do these courses with he is up North in Yorkshire and he is absolutely fantastic so if you want to learn how to navigate, use a map, this is the really great way to do it. So I have done a few courses with this guy in the past, his name is Mark Reid, he is fantastic, and I just, his courses didn’t fit into my schedule this year, there were so many more of them that I wanted to do but there were conflicts with so many other things. So, I only got to do one, so I have made a note to do more of that in 2020.

So, what did you focus on? What did you not focus on as much as you wanted to? And make note of that for next year, as I have said more outdoors courses in 2020, coincidentally I have already signed up for two outdoors courses with the same woodcraft school that I took me plant-identification for wild food and foraging course, and I will link to them also in the show notes. It is this really great school in West Sussex where they have got this place in the woods and you camp, you don’t have to camp but you can camp, and then you just learn plant stuff and nature stuff. So I am doing their ethno-botany course which I think is an eighth or nine month course next year and also their wildlife identification and tracking, which I am super-excited about.  So, I have already signed up for things for next year and then I also need to look at Mark Reid’s calendar and sign up for some of his stuff for next year, because I really, really, like doing his programs so it is a good excuse to go up to North Yorkshire, because I don’t otherwise make it up that far. So what did you focus on and what would you like to focus on more? What did you achieve? This is kind of going back to your goals, what did you achieve and what did you not achieve? Is it still important to you? If so make a note for next year.

What did you lean this year? Were there any new skills that you studied or learned? Was there something that you wanted to learn but you weren’t able to because you didn’t have time, and do you still want to learn it for next year? So, you know I didn’t focus on my OBOD coursework this year, but I did learn a lot through my plant-spirit-healing apprenticeship which I will link to in the show notes because Suneet finally has her new website up and you can learn all about the apprenticeship, she as got two different versions, for next year. It is really, really, good and if you are in the South East of England and are interested in this kind of work I highly recommend it. So, what have you learned?  Is there something that you kind of want to dig deeper into for next year? Write that down.

And were there any over-arching themes, so like I said in my cards the overarching theme was detoxification, perseverance, and I feel like those were themes. I did a lot of reading this year, I am really, really, happy with all the books that I have read, so I guess I achieved and surpassed my reading goals but looking at the overarching themes for the year and see what things came up for you. I became aware of this pattern that I have had in terms of certain type of person that I come across in my life at certain points and I have realised that one of the people that is currently in my life fits that profile, and I am really wanting to let go of that relationship but can’t just yet. So it has been really eye opening to me so kind of see that I am still in that cycle, it is still really, really, useful. So, any overarching themes to the year?

Next, what do you want to let go of? What do you want to let go of as you move into the new year? Any clients? Any type of work? Any people? Any feelings? Probably I should have asked you this questions before the last one, but how do you feel about the year? How do you feel about 2019, is that a satisfying year? Do you feel good about yourself? Do you feel good about all the things you have done? For me I feel like I did a lot of deep healing this year. I thought I was doing deep work with mindset work that I was doing but I feel like I have taken my own personal healing and work with others to a much deeper level that I didn’t really realise was there, so that was a really pleasant surprise and I am really, really, satisfied with the inner work that I am doing. And also the other work that I have been doing for other people because I have been offering through my newsletter, every once in a while when I needed guinea pigs for my practice, plant-spirit-healing journeys and I might be offering those next year, we will see but we have learned some really good stuff so I think I might be sending out some very targeted offers for very specific healings. So if you are on my newsletter you will hear about it there but if not, I probably won’t make it available anywhere else except for Patreon.

So, moving in, once you feel like you have really kind of evaluated your year and you have done your review, really with some of these questions we have already started looking forward to the future and to next year, so think about 2020, think about your word of the year, do you have a theme? What is the overarching theme that you want to experience in the New Year — I can’t believe we are at 2020 — what do you want to be? Who do you want to be in 2020? What do you want to do? What do you want to have? What do you want to experience? What do you want to learn? What are your goals for ht year? What do you want to focus on? And again, look at all of your goals and things that you didn’t achieve last year and that you still want to achieve this year and add those to your list and the things that you wanted to focus on last year and didn’t manage to do so, add those to the list if you still want to focus on them.

What do you want to call in? So we talked about letting go of things at the end of the old year, obviously you need to take action to let go of things, but every time we let go of things and we declutter, it makes space to call in new things and I think that is one of the most exciting things about decluttering and doing that kind of work. You have got that kind of vacuum, that space to call in new stuff. So what do you want to call in for 2020? I think perhaps most importantly how do you want to feel? How do you want to feel in the New Year? And I think for me that, “how do I want to feel”, is the most important thing and perhaps for you as well, because ultimately why do we choose the experiences that we choose in our lives? Why do we seek out these experiences? Why do we set these goals? Because we want to feel a different way. And thanks to a session that I had earlier this year with Fabeku, I put words to the feeling that I strive for which are: expansive joy. That is the feeling that I feel when I am out on a long distance trail, that is the feeling when I was at that house in Avebury that I really, really, wanted last year, it just gave me that feeling of expansive joy. It is a feeling that I crave, it is a feeling that I feel when I am backpacking and camping, when I am out in nature. So, what is that feeling that you crave in your life? What is that feeling that you are doing all of these things, because you want to experience? What activities will help bring more of that feeling to your life? I think all of that stuff is really, really, useful, to identify.

I was just reading a blog post, kind of skimming through it this morning, I think it was a Gretchen Rubén one and I will try and find it and link to it in the show notes, it was like a quiz to find out if you were a drifter, are you drifting through life? And I used to be like that, for the first three decades of my life, at least, maybe first 35 years, I was really just drifting through life, I had no concept of reality creation, I had no concept of setting goals, I mean outside of a business setting, I had no concept of identifying what I wanted to experience in life and then doing the things thatI needed to do to achieve those things and to have those experiences. So I think that so many of these podcast episodes are about this, because I was a drifter for probably 35 years, and now, for the last. 11 years, I have been very conscious, increasingly conscious, of how I want to live my life, and taking the actions that I need to take to have those experiences.

So, I think in summary, the reason that I think it is so important to do a year-end review is precisely so that you an create the experience that you want to have. Now, I don’t know, like I said I don’t achieve 100% of my goals, I would be lying if I said that I did, but step-by-step, year-by-year, my life is becoming more and more aligned with the overarching vision that I have for myself an that I have for my life and for how I want to live an what I want to do and how I want to feel, and that has only been possible because I have invested the time in getting clear on that vision. I think that the more that we can do to know what we want, that’s the thing, most people don’t know what the the heck they want so that they more work that we can do to at least get clear on what we want, that is the first step, and the next step is taking practical action to achieve it, and again, you might not achieve 100% of your goals every year, that is fine, you are still taking action towards the vision, towards the goals that you want, what you want to have, what you want to achieve. I was thinking the other day of the old Leonie Dawson planners, and I will link to those in the show notes if you don’t know what they are, I used to get those every single year and she has this section in them where you write down 100 things that you want to do in the year. To me, it wasn’t just stuff that I wanted to do, it was kind of mini-goals, for me, that was how I used it. And I used to get so upset with myself, because, I would kind of tic them off at the end of the year, and usually didn’t achieve the majority of them, and I would feel kind of bad, and unfortunately I haven’t kept any of those journals, I threw them all away, and I am really sad about that because I am now realising that in my current life today, I am experiencing a lot of the things that I had written down in those 100 things lists a handful of years ago.

Sometimes it takes longer than a few months to achieve our goals, sometimes other stuff needs to come into place first and it is like when you look back in time you can kind of see: oh I had to do this before I could do that, before I could get this, before I could achieve that, and it makes sense. I think that is why it is important to, again, get a really clear visions of what we want to have and experience, to feel, even if we don’t achieve 100% of our goals every year, we are still taking action towards our vision. And again, I have been talking a lot about our year-end review and setting our goals, obviously you need to take practical action to achieve those goals; obviously you need to the work, for me it wasn’t enough to just sign up for my plant-spirit-healing apprenticeship, I had to go to all the weekends and do all the homework, obviously you have to take the action. But getting that vision is so, so, important, if you don’t know where you are going, you are just going to be drifting, you are going to be wondering around and I think so many people do that and it is not a great way to live your life because it often leads to making the wrong decisions and living a life that you don’t want to live. And I have done that before and it is not great, it is not nicer to know what you want and take the action to experience that. So, that’s all for today.

Next week I will be back with another solo episode, I am starting to think of bringing other guests on to do the kind of thing that I do with Jo and Joanna, not doing interviews but having deeper conversations. And so I am just letting you know that I am thinking about maybe doing a couple of those kind of episodes every month, so it is not just me, because I really do feel like some of my best episodes are often when I have someone else to kind of bounce ideas off of, and we both speak to a topic, because also that way you get a variety of perspectives on the topic in hand. So, I am probably going to be digging through old lists of my old podcast guests, people that I know that I had good rapport with and want to bring on again.  I probably won’t be opening up the show to getting people to pitch themselves to me, because I really haven’t had the best conversations with random people, we’ll see, we will see where this is going, but as we are going into the new year, I am feeling like switching things up on this podcast a little bit. And again, it is probably going to be like I used to do when I was doing two solo episodes and then one with Jo and one with Joanna, it will probably be something like that except I will a have additional people on instead of just Jo and Joanna.

So that’s all for now and I hope you find this interesting and useful, if you have any questions about how to do your own year-end review please get in touch, my email is [email protected] or you can find me online and get in touch there. So if you have any questions or if you have any comments please let me know and as always thank you so much for listening. Remember to visit: for the show notes on this episode.

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