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Reflections on 2016

As a year draws to a close, it is human nature to start thinking about the next: the opportunities, goals and plans that we have fill our mind with excitement and focus. I love planning, dreaming and keeping my mind focused on what is ahead and what I can work towards next. There’s something so inspiring about a new year – full of promise and potential.

Perhaps, though, there are some moments that cause us to look back. Maybe there has been a stand out moment or two that encourages us to reminisce and rejoice – reaching a certain goal, a new job, a promotion, starting a family, getting married and so on. But from time to time, a year has been so challenging for a whole host of possible reasons that looking back can be so painful that we want to turn the page as quickly as we can and start over.

What’s quite certain, is that we can be so single minded on what is ahead, focused on our shortcomings, and on what we have not yet accomplished. We think about all the things that didn’t turn out as we had hoped, all the parts of our conversations or feedback that left us feeling we weren’t quite measuring up. It’s good to have an attitude of self-improvement, of driving towards the best version of you, but remembering and taking time to celebrate needs to be a big part of this process, too.

Sometimes disappointments can be shouting for attention so loudly that the daily or weekly triumphs don’t get heard. We need to actively plan some positive reflection time so that we hit the right balance. Here’s some top tips from me on how to do this:

  • Take some time to review the outgoing year. Look back over your diary – scan through, looking for the big and the small moments that are worth remembering. Make a list of these – for the purposes of this exercise don’t include any disappointments.
  • When you’ve made the list, ask yourself what contributed to this success. As a Strengths Coach, I use the Clifton StrengthsFinder (link as a lens to view my successes – what Strength was I activating to achieve this goal? How can I recreate more moments like this? Use this knowledge to enable more achievements in the future.
  • Once you have taken some time to see the accomplishments of the year, there is nothing wrong with taking time to remember the challenges. There is something of worth in everything, in fact you could argue we learn as much, if not more, from the mistakes along the way. Dale Carnegie, the famous writer on self-improvement tells us, ‘The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.’
  • If you are a leader, look for ways to take your team through this process – help them to reflect well using these suggestions and questions to prompt so that they can look forward with momentum. Reflecting and praising staff for small and large accomplishments is a key to engagement, and engagement leads to increased productivity, retention and efficiency.
  • Going forward, make a habit of choosing something every day to note in your diary or planner that is worth celebrating or being grateful for. This is such a positive habit and addresses the balance on a daily basis. I bought the Happiness Planner (this is a link ) this year for this very reason – it forces me to think about this every day.
  • Here’s some questions to help you review your year, taking the positive forward, learning from the challenges, and begin thinking about what’s ahead:
    • If you had to describe 2016 in 3 words, what would they be?
    • What new things did you discover about yourself?
    • Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
    • What was the most important lesson you learned in 2016?
    • What was your biggest breakthrough moment career-wise?
    • Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
    • What one thing would you do differently and why?
    • What, or who, had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

So, my advice to you – take the time to reflect. Not only is it a chance to remember the good, it enables us to take time to think about lessons learned, and it helps to set the agenda for the year ahead. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmastime.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” Neil Gaiman (Author). 


Next time: looking purposefully forward into 2017…

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