It’s clear from both the theory and practice that taking time to reflect boosts our performance and is an incredibly important part of growing, learning and developing ourselves.
Kolb’s experiential learning model, for example, says that the opportunity to reflect on our experiences is a vital part of the learning process.
Peter Drucker, one of the most influential writers on management theory and practice, said: “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection, will come even more effective action.”
In the world of business, the ‘Retrospective’ is an essential part of widely used Agile methodologies and it involves asking three questions at the end of key milestones: what went well, what could be improved and what will we commit to improving next time?
Taking time to reflect
Outside of Agile methodologies, in the business world of tasks, goals, action and doing, taking time to reflect and looking at what needs to change is however often neglected or crowded out by other demands on our time.
The natural break of Christmas and New Year – when many of us stop work or slow down for a while – is a wonderful time to pause, reflect and take stock. And to set yourself up in an intentional way for the year ahead.
Reflection, review & future focus
Here are some key questions which will help you to reflect on the past year, and to use this to help you set yourself up for the year ahead:
- What were my key successes?
- What am I most thankful for?
- What experiences gave me the most joy and why?
- How did I grow or what did I learn about myself?
- Who were the people I most enjoyed spending time with and why?
- What am I most proud of this year?
- If I had to describe the year in one word it would be…
- What would make 2022 a really great year for me?
- For fun or joy, this year I would like to…
- To learn or challenge myself this year I will …
- What will I say no to?
To get the most out of this exercise you really do need to put pen to paper and write out your thoughts – rather than just thinking about it. We spend so much time in our heads, you might be surprised what comes out when you take the time to write, rather than just think.
The power of reflection
When I thought about 2021, my first thoughts were quite negative. I felt I’d achieved very little new. The word ‘hard’ also popped into my mind as I remembered the long, long lockdown of the first few months of the year and the fact that we’re having the same conversations about Covid that we were having this time last year. And I say this as a person who is naturally very positive – someone who instinctively finds the good in things!
However, as I wrote my answers to the questions, I discovered more and more successes and positive experiences from the year. In fact the more I wrote, the more I surprised myself.
Interestingly for me, I found most of my successes were personal or family related rather than work. While a little surprising at first, on reflection I found this a really great affirmation of the fact that my definition of success truly has broadened to be based on more than work achievements – something I’d been actively working on for some time.
The more I wrote, the more positive I found myself feeling about the last year. And as a result, the more optimistic I felt about the year ahead. Despite all the negativity surrounding us, if I found so many positives in the previous year with everything that was going on, I knew that there had to be many more positives in the year ahead too.
And this is what writing and reflecting so often does for us. It gives us a shift in perspective. Or creates clarity. Or greater awareness. It really is such a powerful thing to do.
And then as you look at the answers to your 2022 Vision questions, you might like to set an intention for yourself for the year ahead. Rather than a list of goals, setting an intention is more like creating a theme or tagline for the year.
I’ve worked with clients, for example, who’ve decided to have “A year of fun” (for someone who worked too hard and needed more balance), or “A year for me” (for someone who always put others’ needs above their own), or “A year of learning” (for someone who was in a bit of a rut and who wanted to challenge themselves).
Intentions can also be about how you want to BE in the world, rather than just what you want to DO. For example, you might set an intention to be calm, positive, fun, more creative or thoughtful this year.
Once you’ve set an intention, it then becomes easy to spot lots of ways to achieve this as the year progresses.
Reflection isn’t just for Christmas
And while the Christmas/New Year period is a perfect time to look back as well as look ahead, I’d really encourage you to make reflection a regular thing. Just a few minutes every now and then to review things– and especially if you feel things in your life or work could be better or happier – can help you course correct and make some simple but important changes throughout the year.
You can literally do this anytime, anywhere and yet the impact can be profound. I have yet to take some time to write down my thoughts that hasn’t helped me in some way!
It can be as simple as:
- What’s going well in my life and work?
- What do I need to change?
- What’s blocking me from living my best life, and what can I do about it?
So, I would now like to wish you a very, very happy new year – full of joy and connection, as well as some great reflections and positive intentions for the year ahead!