Why Reflection is critical to creating goals for the New Year

Grüezi!  I just returned from a family Christmas holiday in lovely Scuol, Switzerland. Scuol is a picturesque Alpine village that borders both Austria and Italy. The mountains are even more spectacular when covered in fresh snow. I shared a few of the pinch-me photos on Instagram. I returned feeling very grateful and relaxed.

I love this time of year. Winter solstice arrives in late December and we begin the transition from the year behind us to the one ahead. Ancient cultures viewed winter solstice as a time of death and rebirthSo, it makes sense that it’s a time for reflection, introspection, and, when ready, taking action. Much of the talk around the new year is about goals and resolutions. I have a bias for action, so slowing down and reflecting on the past is a muscle that I’ve had to develop. And, let’s face it, if we’ve had a tough year, we most often just want to move on. But, some of my greatest teachers have been the most challenging of times. So, I encourage us all to roll-up our sleeves and take a keen look at 2019.

Here are some insights to develop your reflection skills and get your New Year goals started right.

Go Deep

Reflecting is the act of self-observation and self-evaluation. It requires self-awareness which is the cornerstone to a high EQ. We have to be honest about our strengths, limitations, and how we reacted to the events of the year. When asked a simple reflection question like, “What was the highlight of my year?” It’s easy to accept an answer that immediately comes to mind. But, in practice, reflection isn’t about the first thing that comes to mind. It’s about evaluating our observations.  We need to evaluate our responses and say, “Is that really true for me?” Critical thinking skills are also required. For example, Why do I think that event was the highlight of my year?”  

Go Solo

Because we all have a bit of people-pleaser or concern for how we are being perceived, it’s best to practice reflection alone. Extroverts often process their thoughts by saying them aloud. So, if you are an extrovert, you can talk through your answers, but do it alone. Give yourself the gift of intimacy with Self. Introverts won’t have any trouble with this one. Go it alone so you can be completely unencumbered to show up with whatever comes up. 

Pen to Paper

Writing down your answers will serve as a record for you to refer to and use for action-taking later. And, it can also keep you honest. In crafting this very post, when sharing something personal, I ask, “Is this really true?” The physical act of writing something down can literally reduce stress. So, if you did have a really tough challenge to overcome during the year, it is a great way to relieve any latent stress you may hold and clear your mind.  Studies have shown that even writing for 15–20 minutes on a stressful topic leads to significantly better physical and psychological outcomes. 

Avoid Recency Bias

Recency bias sounds fancy, but it really means our brains are wired to remember the most recent events. If you are trying to memorize a long to-do list, studies show the majority of people will remember the items they looked at last, more accurately. That’s recency effect. It becomes a bias when we use it to take action with the information. Corporations cautioned their managers to be mindful of recency bias when conducting year-end evaluations for their direct reports so they would take into account the entire year’s performance, not just the most recent months. So, when reflecting on 2019, make sure to scan all the way back to January. 

The ability to create our own happiness is central to our well-being. We need reflection to understand what really makes us really fulfilled. For if we don’t fully understand our experiences, we can’t make changes or continue to do what is working for us based on what we learned from reflection. Think of it this way – we have to slow down to move forward. 

7 Reflection Questions for 2019

Let’s put these tips into practice! Get your pen ready! Here’s a list of 7 reflection questions for 2019. We just ended a decade, so you can view from the perspective as well. These questions can also be asked from work, family, or relationship perspective, as well. I have shared those frames, too. Enjoy!

  1. How would I describe 2019 in just 3 words?
  2. What were my biggest achievements for 2019?
  3. What were my biggest challenges for 2019?
  4. How have I developed as a person?
  5. What surprised me most about 2019?
  6. What can I leave behind in 2019?
  7. What can I bring from 2019 to 2020?

Relationship perspective (Each person reflect and record independently, Then, share completed answers for discussion and learning.)

  1. How would I describe our relationship in 2019 in just 3 words?
  2. What were our biggest achievements as a couple for 2019?
  3. What were our biggest challenges as a couple for 2019?
  4. How have I developed as a partner?
  5. What surprised me most about our relationship 2019?
  6. What can we leave behind that didn’t serve our relationship in 2019?
  7. What can we bring from 2019 that worked well in our relationship to 2020?

Family perspective (Each person reflect and record independently, Then, share completed answers for discussion and learning.)

  1. How would I describe our family in 2019 in just 3 words?
  2. What were our biggest achievements as a family for 2019?
  3. What were our biggest challenges as a family for 2019?
  4. How have I developed as a (mother, father, daughter, son)
  5. What surprised me most about our family in 2019?
  6. What can we leave behind that didn’t serve our family in 2019?
  7. What can we bring from 2019 that worked well for our family to 2020?

Work perspective 

  1. How would I describe my work in 2019 in just 3 words?
  2. What were my biggest professional achievements for 2019?
  3. What were my biggest professional challenges for 2019?
  4. How have I developed this year in my profession?
  5. What surprised me most about my work in 2019?
  6. What can I leave behind that didn’t serve my work in 2019?
  7. What can I bring from 2019 that went well at work to 2020?

Once you’ve taken the time to reflect, then you can decide if there’s any action that needs to occur. In my next post, we’ll talk goal-setting! Best of luck and may your light shine bright in 2020!

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