It was a very big year for Britney Spears, who’s been named one of PEOPLE’s 25 Most Intriguing People of 2012.
For starters, Forbes put the pop star at the top of its list of the top-earning female musicians (with $58 million), and her new single with will.i.am, “Scream & Shout,” went to No. 1 in 17 countries.
She even took on Simon Cowell, along with the contestants – and any critics – as a judge on The X Factor.
After settling into the Fox reality show – whose two-hour finale airs Thursday night – she developed her own signature sound bite: “Amazing.”
Now, Spears, 31, tells PEOPLE the top three things that made her 2012 “amazing.”
1. Her career
“It’s no secret I’m a shy person,” Spears tells PEOPLE. “I feel doing this show over the past year has allowed me to come out of my shell a lot more. Everyone on the show has been amazing and made me feel really comfortable.”
2. Her sons Preston, 7 and Jayden, 6
“It’s really amazing to see how quickly my boys are growing up,” she says. “It seems like yesterday I was reading books to them at night. Now I sit and listen to them read me books!”
3. Her fiancé Jason Trawick, 41
“It amazes me that no matter what situation I’m in,” says Spears, “Jason has the ability to always make me feel protected and loved.”