Reflect and recalibrate for the New Year

Karen O'Grady


Karen O'Grady


Life for us all can be hectic. Between work, family, friends, you name it, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. It seems like we’re always playing catch-up. Often, it feels like our schedules, to-do lists, and obligations run our lives, not us. And, the festive season only adds fuel to the fire!

While, we all face these challenges, one of the consequences, if we’re not careful, is that we fall into the trap of living reactive lives, instead of proactive lives. Our lives become dealing with short-term or urgent things that ‘happen’ to us, rather than proactively determining the life we want to lead. Next thing you know a year flies by, you pause and you realise you’re not where you wanted to be.

However, don’t worry. One simple habit can help change this. Reflection. Scheduling time into your life to pause, ponder where you want to be, evaluate where you’re at and set a plan in motion to get from where you are to where you want to be is all it takes. The key is actually making time in your busy life to step away from the world for a simple moment and reflect – otherwise, your day-to-day will continue to dictate your life path.

The end of year marks a threshold and invites this pause for reflection. It’s a great time to take stock of the year behind us and look to the future and put together some reflective questions for this very purpose.

With this mind, I have put together some questions for this week’s ‘Tribune Living’ that include some of the old favourites, some that truly need to be asked each year, and some new ones.

The Year Past – What went well?

This question is a keeper from year to year. Twelve months have gone by now. Most likely too fast. How did it go? Acknowledge all that worked out well. The goals you have achieved, the events, circumstances and memories you feel good about.

Your first take on this will most likely capture enough of the good. Your brain is built to default to remember more of those negative events or happenings. Blame it on evolution. The positives, albeit nice in the moment, tend to be more fleeting in our memories. Be intentional in remembering more of the good. This will fuel you and likely surprise you, too. Perhaps enough to make your year better than you first thought.

Who needs to be acknowledged?

After acknowledging what went well, think about the people who played a part. Let them know. Consider all the contexts in your life (personal, professional, volunteer, etc.). Expressing gratitude will not only make the receiver feel good, it will make you joyful as well. It's a great gift and 'tis the season, after all.

How did you grow this past year?

Having trouble answering this question., then you aren’t creating enough exercising goals for yourself. Leaders - at any level - must continually learn, evolve and grow. By the end of the year you should be a better version of yourself in some way. Maybe smarter, more informed, more skilled in some areas? Stagnation is not a good thing for personal and professional well-being.

What were the stand-out, peak moments for you -- and why?

This is different from "what went well?". This is about identifying the truly stellar, stand-out moments where life just felt "right and good." Then ask why they were so meaningful. Mine those peak moments to strengthen self-awareness of your values and character strengths. Leaders know that when one lives and works in congruence with their values and strengths a whole lot more good happens.

What's not working?

What happened to all that positivity from those earlier questions? This question is just as important, but make sure you reflect on it without judgment. Resist the whine-fest and instead just take an honest look to acknowledge what isn't working and try to work on addressing why it just didn’t work for you.

Perhaps a situation (work or life) that was fine or great for a long time isn't anymore. Times and conditions change - have you changed, too? What are you putting up with? What are you settling for? Where are you playing too small? Where are your values being compromised? This is a tough question, but if you are true with yourself this could reveal insights leading to more meaningful goal-setting for the year ahead.

Wrap up your year by giving it a theme or name.

For instance, 2018 was the year of ___________.

The Year Ahead – What thresholds will you be crossing?

As you leave 2018 behind and begin a new year you are crossing a threshold. What other thresholds do you need to prepare for? Will there be some big changes happening at work (or elsewhere)? Or perhaps an intentional change you want to create? Naming the threshold can sharpen your focus and planning to help you get ready.

Who will you connect with more in the year ahead?

We all need people but sometimes the busyness of our lives gets in the way. Is it time to put more priority in your relationships? Consider your work, social, community and social relationships. Who do you need to reconnect with or perhaps start new relationships with? For inspiration? For career well-being? For other? How about you with you? Time to take more time to tune in, reflect and get to know yourself better.

What kind of leader, peer, friend, partner (and other roles) do you want to be?

You wear many roles in work and life. Think about how you are showing up in each of them. Where do you want to be better? Get specific and create intentions that you will act on. If you want to be a more open, collaborative leader, then set goals for how to achieve that. Make time to give more meaningful and frequent feedback, connect authentically and learn to be a better listener.

What do you want?

Now it's time to think about your goals, intentions and possibilities for the year ahead. Perhaps something in this reflection has spurred you to a new goal that's now ready to be declared. Write your goals down, making them specific and concrete.

How will you put this into action?

Of course, naming the goal is only the start. You also have to back it up with a plan, commitment and action! What will you do?

What's the mantra for 2019?

I like the idea of having a theme, mantra, or even a powerful question to define intentions for the year ahead. If you have never tried a mantra, this is the year that you should. A lot of people experience the frustration of having negative, hateful comments bounce around in their brains. All this negative self-talk does is make you feel bad and you’re the only one who can fix this, which is where a mantra comes in.

A mantra is a word or sentence (or sometimes even just a sound) said repetitively to yourself. Mantras quiet your brain and help you focus on one particular thought. It can be anything but my favourites are ones that focus on helping you feel good about YOU.

Wrapping this ‘Tribune Living’, the habit of reflection can build self-awareness, efficacy and resilience. If done right, it can also help you establish and achieve more meaningful goals. In the days ahead, I encourage you to take the time with these questions over several settings. Let your thoughts percolate and stay with the questions over the new few weeks. Powerful questions will help you to wrap the old year up and get ready for the new one ahead, whatever it may throw at you!

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