Continuing an annual tradition, I’ve written 12 reflection questions to help you complete your year and plan ahead. Some of the questions are familiar and some new. But we are on the cusp of a new decade. As we approach 2020, there’s an even more salient opportunity to learn from the past and lean in with intention toward the future.
We live in an increasingly high-pressured and frenetically paced world. Reflection is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for resilience, efficacy and well-being. Whether you are a leader, an aspiring leader, or simply want to be your best, a reflective practice can help you be more impactful, mindful and intentional in your work and in your life.
As you ponder the questions, cast your reflection as wide or narrow as you like. Perhaps consider the 12 months behind and ahead – or go full gusto and reflect on the decade. Make it work for you to create your Vision 2020.
Look back (on the year or decade)
What went well? A staple in our annual question bank, this one can (and should) be asked year-round. It might seem counter-intuitive if you’ve been having a tough time of late, but when frustrations and challenges are top of mind, it’s even more important to intentionally notice the good. Our brains default to holding on to what’s wrong or didn’t go well. Focusing on the good balances your perspective and provides more meaning to your year – and life.
What do you need to acknowledge yourself for? How often do we default to our own inner critics, chastising us that we didn’t do enough or “coulda shoulda” done better? Or wait for others to praise our accomplishments? Ditch that self-limiting narrative and, instead, celebrate your wins – large and small. Not comfortable acknowledging yourself? Do it anyway. An emotionally intelligent leader knows how and when to meaningfully acknowledge others – and themselves – to boost resiliency, motivation and growth. If you are stingy with yourself, you may not be as generous with others. Practice!
What growth opportunities made you different and better this year? Did you learn new skills? Develop a new leadership competency or a healthy new habit? Sometimes we grow by intention and other times by simply dealing with what life throws at us. Recognize your growth from all opportunities – including the silver linings of the tougher moments. You can leverage this awareness and growth in the year ahead!
What needs to change or go? Celebrating the good doesn’t mean we ignore what’s bad or no longer working. What do you need to confront and let go of? Where do you need to be proactive to make change?
What was your impact on others? Whether it be through your leadership roles, volunteer life or simply by showing up with others, you made a difference. Hopefully for the better. Reflect on who you’ve had an impact on and what that meant to them and to you.
Give the year (or decade) behind a theme: Celebrate and complete your year by giving it a theme. Complete this phrase: This was the year (or decade) of "_____.”
Look and plan ahead: Vision 2020
What do you want and are willing to invest effort in? What do you really, truly want for the year (or decade) ahead? Reflect through the lenses of your highest priorities, values and aspirations. What somehow keeps getting pushed to the side? Separate wishful thinking from genuine, meaningful aspirations. Then focus on what you can and will do in the year(s) ahead to bring this to the fore.
Where will you focus your attention? There’s a war on attention these days. We multitask, face enormous workloads, say yes automatically and get lost in time-consuming social media mazes. More than ever, we need to harness the competency of focused attention by setting “attention intentions.” Need to put more focus on your people rather than just tasks? More on your goals and higher priorities? More on what’s good and well in your work and life? Pick at least one or two things to pay less attention to in the year ahead, and one to two that you will focus more attention on.
Where will you intentionally stretch yourself? To grow, we must stretch – stretch our minds, stretch our capacities (responsibly) and reach beyond our comfort zone. What will stretch mean for you this year? New habits, skills, responsible risk-taking? Rewards await: More confidence and experience lay just ahead!
How will you do more “we”? While independence can be a virtue, there’s a saying that “we go farther together.” Today’s paradigm of work calls for more collaboration and greater connection to inspire success, engagement and better results. Reflect on who you need to connect with more often and more meaningfully. Consider both your internal work network (teams, colleagues, and beyond) as well as outside of work (volunteer groups, broader networks, family and other communities).
How will you give back generously? It’s said that those who give more get more in return. Where and with whom will you be more generous? Your team? Your community? Family? In networking, pay more attention to how you can help others, and you’ll likely be rewarded in return. Make generosity a priority.
What’s your word or phrase for your Vision 2020? What word or phrase captures your intentions for the year (and/or decade) ahead? Complete this phrase: This will be the year of “_____.”
Bonus: If you want to go deeper, write out a few phrases to convey your vision for 2020.
Here’s to a great, intentional start to 2020!
Eileen Chadnick is principal of Big Cheese Coaching and author of Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of ‘Crazy Busy’.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
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