We won’t forget 2020. We’ll remember where we were this year like my parents did when JFK was shot. Let’s also remember the lessons learned through self reflection on the good, the bad and the ugly of the year. This exercise of reflection will help identify the silver linings for yourself from what could be called a rubbish year in many respects. For some, the fact you are still here and standing is worth acknowledging and celebrating.
Coaching is often described as a reflective space for coachees to think. Self reflection is when you do this thinking on your own, thinking through things for yourself. It allows you to see and appreciate the good, to learn from the bad and let go of the ugly. At this time of year, self-reflection can be the precursor to creating your New Year’s resolutions as you review what happened over the last year. Sometimes people skip over the learnings and just go to the resolutions. Trust me the self-reflection will assist with any future actions.
Why is Self Reflection Important
Self reflection is a means to both celebrate the good and develop oneself as a leader, manager, parent, friend or person (in any capacity really). You assess your effectiveness in a given situation, in a specific role or over a period of time as a way of identifying how effective you are being, what is working for you and what could be better. At work people often review a project (often that’s failed) to determine what worked and what didn’t to learn the lessons and improve the odds of success next time. There’s value in also doing this for things that have gone well to reinforce the strengths and enjoy the success and journey. Self-reflection is the same thing, except the subject is us.
Self Reflection Questions
My suggestion for how to self reflect is to dedicate some quiet time to reflecting on 2020. It can be with a mug of hot chocolate as one colleague is doing today or a walk in the park. You decide.
Ask yourself the following questions about your whole life – work and personal.
- What were the highlights from the year? Think beyond just your biggest wins or achievements. The discoveries, milestones, adventures, opportunities that you want to remember.
- What are some things you’d like to let go of from 2020? The mistakes, missed opportunities, regrets which you compassionately want to forgive yourself for and release.
- What were the challenges you overcame this year? And what were the qualities or resources that helped you overcome them?
The goal of self-reflection is to determine what’s worked, what hasn’t and what you want to create from those learnings for the future. It’s taking the lessons learned from the reflection and asking So What? What do you want to create for yourself given those learnings?
- What were the lessons you learned from your highlights and lowlights this past year? It could be lessons you’ve learned about yourself (your strengths, weaknesses, talents, beliefs, values, hopes, fears)? About life (priorities, society, the world)? About work (a skill, passion, growth)?
1. Celebrate the wins, really celebrate the good. We often gloss over these things because they went well. This is your life, enjoy it.
2. Release the lowlights. Let go of the missed opportunities and mistakes. Be compassionate with yourself as you would a friend. Some people burn the page they’ve written these regrets on, or go into the woods and yell, or physically shake their body to expel the energy (I know, these sound Woo-Woo, do what works for you to let them go).
3. Articulate the lessons in both the good and bad stuff to help in the celebrating and closure.
4. Next month I’ll have an article on creating your 2021 vision, keep these lessons at hand for that work.
Some reflections by many people this year are:
• Health is important in terms of physical and mental well being. Most people learned something about their relationship to food, alcohol, exercise, coping and self-care this year.
• Proximity and physical connection with friends and family is to be treasured. And how creative we can be in the absence of this.
• Nature and the environment can bounce back if we humans reduce our negative impact on it.
• The life experience is full of tensions (reducing virus spread vs opening up the economy fully, wanting to be with others vs keeping others safe, physical vs mental health) and it’s about balancing risk and reward for ourselves and society. These tensions can be within ourselves and between people.
• The basic functioning of most Western societies is in the hands of essential workers who are often lower paid and more vulnerable. There’s something around what we value, how we compensate, and recognize those key workers.
• Tolerance of differences, acceptance, fairness and equality or lack thereof were in the headlines for the wrong reasons this year.
• We truly are, a closely linked, interconnected world. For some that’s positive and for others negative.
Be more specific and tangible with your reflections and lessons learned than these macro themes that way you can use them to create more tangible outcomes for you.
I can’t share my reflections and lessons with you as I haven’t done them yet. Every year a friend and I meet after Christmas to review our learnings from the year. We reflect, share, tease out and interrogate the things that matter to us. The categories we evaluate can vary slightly each year; we’ve looked at work, well-being, family, relationships, finances, fun, home and essence/who we are as human beings. These reflections and lessons then help us create a vision for ourselves for the next year based on what we want more of or different or to maintain from the current year.
2021 will pass (if you’re lucky; the alternative is not pleasant) like every other year. To have an idea of how you want it to be better or different than 2020 requires reflection. Take the time, it doesn’t have to be long or all at one time. That reflection gives you your starting point for creating something new or different in the future. You can’t get to Paris until you know whether you’re starting from Toronto or London.
Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for some guided reflective time – what have you learned? How do you want to incorporate that into your life? What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and personally?