As each year passes, we should be able to take stock of our experiences and learn from them, bringing the lessons and understanding into the next year, building a life that is more aligned with who we are and who want to be.
Life should build on itself, and in theory, get easier, shouldn't it?
But let's be honest, that's not how it goes for most of us.
Instead, we stumble and fumble with the same mistakes again and again, stuck in the vortex of our life, wondering why year after year we can't drop those 10 pounds, build a consistent writing habit, or make the strides in our career or business that we want.
Sound familiar? Keep reading.
The truth is that almost all positive change in life starts with one thing – reflection. An understanding of where we are currently at, what's good and bad about it, and what we want going forward.
As we close out 2017, we have some simple but powerful questions that – if you take seriously – will help you set a strong foundation for 2018 and build a trajectory that aligns with who you want to be.
1. What was most memorable about 2017?
This question gets the juices flowing. What immediately pops into your mind when you think back over 2017? Was it certain moments? People? Experiences? Good times? Or hardships?
Take a few minutes to think back over the last 365 days and figure out what stands out, why it stands out, and how you feel about it.
2. What went well?
Fact – your brain is wired to fixate on the things that didn't go well. It has this nasty habit of erasing the positives and focusing on the negatives, making it far too easy to skip over the good stuff and have your whole life seem like one big problem.
This worked well when we were cave people and tigers were at our door, but in the modern world, it just leaves most of us stressed and depressed. Understanding this matters because it is this mechanism that in our brains that stops us from being grateful and seeing the good. And the good is what fuels us to keep going. The good gives us the internal drive we need to step into challenge and make changes.
Understanding that, build up a list of all the things that went well in 2017 and try to understand what caused them to go well? Ask yourself how you can get more of that in 2018?
3. What Didn't Go Well?
Yes, it is also powerful to acknowledge the things that didn't work out or go so well. Especially if they are things you can learn from or change or things that you can close the door on and leave in the past.
What parts of the year didn't go well? What parts downright sucked? What parts were a struggle? What were the conditions that lead to those circumstances? Are you grateful for that experience or would never wish it on anyone?
4. What did you learn?
In theory, you should learn more and more about life each year, making it easier and easier. But, hmm, it never seems to work that way. Most of the time, it's because we never stop to take account of what we've been through and learned, and, more importantly, how to apply that to our lives going forward.
Every experience, good or bad, can teach us something important about ourselves, the world, and life – but only if we let them. As you reflect back on the memorable, the good, and the bad, reflect on all the things you learned this year and how you grew from those experiences.
Ask yourself: What did I learn about myself, the world, and my life in 2017? What insights, knowledge, or skills did I gain? Especially focus on those related to self awareness, trust, adaptability, resourcefulness, and resilience. These core internal skills are critical today and will take care of you in the years ahead.
Finally, rather than just knowing them, ask yourself how you can apply them in 2018 so that you actually take advantage of the learning.
5. What Mattered To You (and where did you focus your time & energy)?
There's some old wisdom out there that says if you want to be great at anything, you get no more than three focus areas in life. That means, at any one time, you have to choose between your career, your family, your friends, your hobbies, and your self-growth.
Many of us don't want to admit that and continuously try and do all the things, generally leaving us burnt out, scattered, and not much further ahead than where we started.
Really, it's quite: where you spend your time is what your priorities are.
Looking back at 2017, what were the things that actually mattered to you? Did you spend ample time focusing on them? Why or why not? Did distractions get in the way? Do your priorities hold the same for 2018 or do you need to make some changes?
6. What surprised you?
It's should be no surprise that life will always throw surprises at you, so take a few to reflect on what surprises came your way and, more importantly, how you responded to them.
Ask yourself: What did you learn about your ability to adapt, pivot, and change to the inevitability life throws at you? What can you learn from these surprises that you can take into next year?
Remember that those who are quick and nimble are better able to take advantage of opportunities and work with the changes of life. If you resist or insist on certainty, you may find yourself stressed out and on the sideline.
Life is fluid. Be fluid with it.
7. What needs to be left behind?
Old ideas, bad habits, and self-limited beliefs and behaviours. Whether we like to acknowledge them or not, we all have them. Year after year they can linger, constantly leaving us stagnant and in the same place.
Take some time to have a real talk conversation with yourself about things in your life that no longer serve you. We suggest focusing on these areas:
- Your self beliefs / thought patterns
- Your habits / behaviours
- Your environment (physical and digital)
- Your social circles
8. Who were the important people in your life This Year?
Who you surround yourself with matters – a lot. It influences everything from your work ethics, to your habits, to the way you think about life.
Who were the most important people in your life? Who did you spend a majority of your time with? Did you invest enough in the relationships that mattered to you? Are there people you are spending time with that you feel no longer serve your life?
9. What do you want to take into 2018?
Life should build on itself. As each year passes, we should be able to take stock of our experiences and learn from them, bringing the lessons and understanding into the next year, creating a life that is more aligned with who we are and who want to be.
To do that, ask yourself: What pieces of 2017 do you want to carry forward? How can you take advantage of lessons you've learned? What things are you holding onto that you can leave behind?
10. What do you want from 2018?
As you finish up your reflection, take a few to start looking forward. You don't have to fully dive into it, but in a few words or sentences, describe your intention for the next 365 days.
Give this a bit to stew.
Speaking of 2018
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