Each December, I use 10 awesome questions to reflect on my experiences and the lessons I learned over the previous twelve months. It guides the goals and intentions I set for the next year. I thought I would share my process in case it helps you in crafting your own.
Reflection is an important part of how we rise to our potential. Taking time to review and reflect allows us to see things from a fresh perspective as well as gain valuable insights from our successes and challenges. Our ability to grow and change is sourced in the act of taking stock.
We see the benefits of reflection in everything from the annual performance review process and the most effective leadership development models to the core competencies of emotional intelligence and the benefits of mindfulness on our health and wellbeing.
Every wisdom tradition has a process of reflection and it’s no accident that this time of year finds people all around the world engaging in a time of review. The winter equinox signals a change in seasons as we start gaining more light each day, and as we end one year and turn our sights to the next, it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect with intention.
The first part of my tradition is to get my journal (I keep one per year). I put on music, brew some tea, light the fireplace, and allow myself quiet time to reflect. I read through my journal and I take a spin through my calendar and photos to refresh my memory. Below are the 10 questions I answer and the order brings me insights that I can’t get to just by thinking about the year. Let yourself blend together professional and personal reflection—I always find that they are not separate pieces but part of the integrated, whole person that I am.
10 Awesome Questions to Reflect on 2018
- What are your 9 greatest successes and miracles of 2018? It’s OK to have more but get at least 9.
- What was a key challenge of this year and what did you discover about yourself in meeting this challenge? What new skills, knowledge, or insights did you receive as a result of this challenge?
- What 3 people had the greatest impact in your life this year (could be positive or negative)? What has their presence stimulated or awakened in you?
- What are some of the most joyful moments of 2018?
- What are 3 key lessons you’ve learned through your experiences in 2018?
- Is there anyone whom you need to forgive? Forgive means to release judgment and blame that is causing you unnecessary pain. Who is it? What quality do you need to forgive them for? Can you find that same quality within yourself (to any degree) and love yourself anyway?
- What “risks” (taking action though fear is present) did you take this year and what greater freedom did you discover in the process? What did you learn about yourself in taking these risks?
- In what key ways have you been of service this year? What meaningful purpose have you contributed to through sharing your time, or your talent, or your resources?
- What has been the underlying, unifying theme of your year? “2018 has been the year of…”
- What are your greatest blessings of 2018? List those people, experiences, and insights that fill your heart with gratitude.
Looking Ahead to 2019
- As you look at the lessons and insights of 2018, what wise counsel would you give yourself as you move into 2019?
- Now, articulate your goals and intentions for 2019. Consider having at least one for each these areas so that you have work/life balance: career/calling, relationships, health/wellbeing, happiness, creativity/play, and community. Also explore what things gave you energy and what drained it—try to dial up the energy boosters. I write my goals/intentions in my journal, and post them in various places where they will remind me of my focus like my home, car, office, smartphone, etc.
- Is there anyone you need to reach out to as a result of this reflection? I am usually moved to send a note of gratitude or appreciation. Keep it simple—often a quick email or voice message can really make someone feel great and you will enjoy acknowledging them too.
That’s it. This process takes me less than an hour but it’s one of the best hours I spend every year. I do this ritual alone but then gather with my friends to share our insights and intentions. This connects us, not only this one evening, but throughout the year. You can even build in a quarterly check-in to continue to support each other, address any roadblocks and celebrate successes! When I consult with leaders and teams, I take them through a similar process and it’s amazing what comes out of those sessions.
If you wish, make a vision board and/or playlist to anchor your intentions. Both are surprisingly powerful tools that can support you in staying focused throughout the year, and are often more fun to make than a traditional list. Make a playlist of songs that represent who and how you want to be in 2019. A vision board is essentially a poster of images and words that can be made with old magazines and glue or put together using your computer. I use Powerpoint, adding images I clip from the internet and words or phrases I type on the page. I print mine out and post it at home and at work to keep my eyes on the prize.
Reflection is one of the most powerful processes for achieving your potential. And when you do it in community with others, it creates a sense of engagement and accountability that helps everyone achieve more than they could alone.