It’s a common misconception that we learn from experience. In truth, gaining wisdom from an experience requires reflection. When I think back to every achievement I have made in my life, I am undoubtedly reminded of the people who helped me as well as the circumstances that were there at the right time. But it’s not enough to have the best advice and the largest support from friends and family. In the end those achievements were made because of self efficacy: I evaluated where I was and took action to get where I wanted to go.
Listed below are ten questions that will help you reflect on your last year. Be honest and let go of judgement and expectation as you answer them.
- What did I learn this year? There is a difference between activity and achievement. Every day can be full of mundane tasks or situations: what did you get out of them? Within those actions there were successes and failures; focus on those and take lessons from them.
- What was my greatest accomplishment? What are you most proud of? Taking time to celebrate your achievements builds your contentment and confidence. It also helps you track your progress.
- Where did I fail? Where did you come up short? People who take credit for their success and place blame their failures are not people who succeed. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Embrace humility and admit your failures; be wise enough to learn from your shortcomings.
- Is there anyone who deserves a big thank you? Who helped you this year and why? Your battles are personal but you never fight them alone. It is important to thank the people who have been there for you and to acknowledge the support that you have.
- What moment was most memorable and why? What did you enjoy the most this year? Was it the people, the scenery, something else?
- What are my fears? What is holding you back? You can’t win a war unless you know your enemy and fear is your biggest adversary. The longer you wait to face your fears, the longer they will control your life. By facing them, you gain the confidence and strength to overcome them.
- What do I need to do more of? Is there anything that deserves more of your time and attention? What matters most that's been shoved to the side?
- What do I need to stop doing? What isn’t benefiting you? Maybe it’s an activity or a relationship. What clutter or distractions can you remove from your life?
- What are 3 goals I want to accomplish next year? Now that you have had time to reflect on the last year, scan the phase of life that you are in. As you do this you will find aspects of your life that you wish to improve upon. Use this moment to form your goals.
- What will I do to achieve those goals? The first step to achieving your goals is realizing that what you want to achieve is already who you are. If you want to run a marathon, you are a marathon runner, you just need to run. If you want to be a better listener, you are a better listener, you just need to listen. Success is merely a matter of studying and practicing. First acknowledge you have everything you need, then make an action plan to study and practice.
Reflection practices like this one are criticial in learning and progress. If you want to see progress in your own life, take the time to reflect at least once a week by setting aside twenty minutes every Sunday to ask yourself these questions. If you don’t have twenty minutes in one day then stretch it out: set aside five minutes a day to meditate.
My mentor once told me, “There is nothing noble about competing with other people. True nobility is competing with your previous self.” Reach for your goals and build the life you want by being better than who you were yesterday. The only way to achieve greatness is through equal parts action and reflection. Great people and leaders view every achievement and failure as an equal opportunity to learn. It’s true that we improve when we take action, but we succeed when we ask questions.
Want to reflect with us? Sign up for our Reflection & Roadmapping Workshop on December 14th, followed by Candlelight Yoga.
Monica Pirani is a yoga teacher living in New York City with her amazing husband. She grew up loving dinosaurs and shoulder stand, and is a self-proclaimed science geek. She loves writing, yoga, summer, french fries, and empowering others to remember that they are already whole and complete. One day she’ll own a dog, but that’s a story for another day.
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