“Reflection gives me perspective within context; it allows me to continually connect with my journey; and it provides counsel and direction concerning my future.”
—John C. Maxwell
The end of the year and the beginning of a new one mark the season of resolutions. In order to make these resolutions, reflection is key. In engaging in self-reflection, we acknowledge that we are works in progress. Out of reflection come new resolutions and goals.
Reflection enables us to learn from mistakes as well as successes. While we often make resolutions based on perceived shortcomings, we are capable of learning from both failures and achievements. In an article titled Systemic Reflections: Implications for Learning from Failures and Successes, the authors found that through systemic reflection or continual self-reflection, people are capable of identifying the key choices or practices that enabled their progress and applying those methods to other areas of their lives. Stated differently, it is as important to know what to keep doing, as it is to know what not to do.
Self-reflection and evaluation are corresponding processes. Evaluation helps us understand what has worked and has brought us closer to our personal, relational, or professional goals. It also helps us understand where we are in the journey, acknowledging where we have made progress and where there is yet more work to do.
Six Tips on Self-Reflection
Below are six tips and questions to help spark fruitful reflection.
1. Set aside time to think. Take time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and conduct a year-in-review. Half an hour would suffice, but take more time if needed. Going forward, commit to spending three minutes a day in self-reflection.
2. Identify your priorities. What is most important to you in each area of your life and why? Think about the various roles you play—are there relationships, either personal or professional, that you would like to commit more time to? Is there a practice or business tool that you would like to learn more about? Are there skills you would like to develop?
3. What did you do well? Consider what went really well this year. What lessons can be gleaned from those successes? How can they be improved? What is the next level of success in those areas? Renowned author and management consultant Peter Drucker recommends, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From quiet reflection will come more effective action.”
4. What would you love to do better? Keep in mind that “better” doesn’t equal “perfect.” Striving for perfection in everything can weigh you down and distract you from what is most important. Focus your time and resources on the people and things you love, and strive for growth and progress in relation to those.
5. Consider the short term and long haul. Are there goals that can be easily accomplished in the next few weeks or months? Which goals will take longer to achieve, and how can the attainment of your short-term goals support the long-term ones? Accomplishing “mile markers” or smaller goals will better enable you to reach the finish line. How can your unique experiences help you to move closer to your vision?
6. Set new goals, and write it all down. Once you’ve identified new goals, commitments, or intentions, write them down in a paper or digital journal. According to Henriette Anne Klauser, author of Write It Down, Make It Happen, writing down dreams and aspirations is a form of declaring yourself “in the game” and is like hanging up a sign that reads Open for Business. It alerts the part of your brain known as the reticular activating system to join you in the game and get to work to help make your dreams happen.
Revisit your goals regularly, renew your commitment to your whys, and celebrate big and small successes as you reach them. Doing so will spur you on toward more success.
Consider self-reflection and the resulting intentions as ways of staying in tune with yourself and your journey. Rather than saving reflection for the end of the year when all has been said and done, let’s commit to keeping in touch with our dreams, goals, and visions daily and throughout the year.