Whether you’re someone who sets resolutions or not, the closing of a year is a clear delineation that many use to gauge their progress, assess their goals, and refine their plans going forward. It’s a great opportunity for a moment of pause that offers the potential for some important insights. Though the approaching of a new year is certainly not the only time that reflection is beneficial, it is a powerful marker that can remind us to look back on the last twelve months and to think intentionally about what we want for the twelve months to come.
Reflection and Self-Improvement
Reflection fuels self-improvement. Taking the time to reflect on your year can give you valuable information. You might highlight some choices you made that resulted in success and some situations you’d navigate differently now. Becoming more aware of yourself and the actions you made in the past year can help you create a greater sense of ownership, a feeling that encourages positive change. If you do take this opportunity to pause and reflect, here are a few strategies to help you get the most out of that practice:
Note some of the things that happened without judging them a success or failure right away. Think about milestones you may have reached, goals that you set, and unexpected hurdles you encountered. Think about challenging situations and how you reacted, and think about how you balanced your time between your work life and your personal life. Map out the past twelve months, highlighting the memorable occurrences and general day-to-day feelings.
Ask productive questions
Once you have an objective outline of your year, you can start asking yourself some questions to dig a bit deeper — questions that focus on what you’re proud of, what inspired you, the kinds of skills you gained, what you learned about yourself, and what challenges you faced? Allow yourself to ask questions about mistakes, failures, things that you would now do differently. Consider these things in a way that looks for the lessons instead of wallowing in a feeling of defeat or disappointment. The point is not to make a judgment on your past year but to give yourself an honest overview of how things went.
Write it down
Writing isn’t necessary for productive reflection, but I find it to a be a great tool that helps me focus on the specifics and uncover deeper insights. It can help you identify patterns and connections that you might have otherwise overlooked. It’s also a great record to have that informs my work and goals as I move forward.
Set new goals
Once you’ve reflected on the past year, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the coming year with new and improved goals. The practice of self-reflection allows you to better know yourself and create resolutions that align with your vision and values. Often, creating one or two overarching goals for the year and some smaller monthly goals that support them is a smart strategy. You can then pinpoint the daily and weekly tasks that will move you towards your goals and schedule them into your days. It’s an action plan for success, powered by the insight gained from self-reflection and greater self-awareness.
While the motivation to make positive changes and set new goals is strongest at the start of a new year, this kind of reflection is powerful year-round. When life gets busy, try to take a moment or two to slow down and reflect. This practice can help you learn more about yourself and leads to the kind of constructive growth that powers achievement.