Career/Life Tips, Reflections & Questions, Resources

One habit to launch a great new year: pause and reflect.

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I’ll admit: I’m a bit of a reflection nut. For me, life seems most meaningful when – rather than just floating through tackling the day-to-day – I make time to step back and reflect on my path. While I’m not as extreme as Socrates (“the unexamined life is not worth living”), I do tend to think that an examined life is more likely to be a fulfilling life.

As a result, I love taking the week between Christmas and New Year to pause and reflect – both looking back at the past year and ahead at the coming one. Along the same lines, I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions (why would I want to limit myself to something I can only do annually?!), yet it’s still a nice time to revisit my ongoing list of goals and decide what to focus on over the course of the year.

If you have a bit of down-time during the holidays, consider giving yourself the gift of reflection. Below are some prompts to get you started. (I recommend journaling on these rather than just thinking them through. The act of writing adds a bit of heft to the project, and it’s fun to go back and look at your list the following year to see what’s remained the same and what has changed.)


LOOKING BACK

  • The best thing about this year…
  • The worst thing about this year…
  • This year I am most grateful for…
  • What I would do differently this year…
  • What I’m proudest of this year…
  • What was most challenging this year…
  • Time I wish I had spent differently…
  • What brought me the most joy this year…
  • One thing I’m glad I did for myself…
  • One thing I’m glad I did for someone else…
  • One difficult conversation I’m glad I had…
  • One difficult conversation I wish I had had…
  • Biggest lessons learned:

LOOKING AHEAD

  • How do I want to feel this year?
  • What do I want to accomplish this year?
  • Who do I want to help this year?
  • Who do I want to see this year?
  • How do I want to spend my time this year?
  • How do I NOT want to spend my time this year?
  • What do I want to learn this year?
  • What will I contribute to my community this year?
  • What’s one thing that – if I’ve done it by Dec 31, 2018, will have made this a great year?

PLANNING

If you’re someone who isn’t content with simply reflecting and you’d like to move to action, check out this brief Ted Talk by Laura Vanderkam (one of my favorites for busy clients) and consider how you might be able to apply her points to move your reflection into action.

Regardless of how you ring it in, I hope your new year is immensely fulfilling! 

Career/Life Tips

Don’t fall into THIS trap when designing your career path…

Image Source: Leah Kelley

While my coaching practice focuses primarily on leaders, I’ve helped a number of seasoned leaders figure out “what’s next” with regard to their careers. In doing this, I’ve observed one common trap that I think most people tend to fall into when planning their futures: they approach it from the wrong direction.

Almost to a person, people tend to think about their next career move based on where they are now and what they’ve done up until now. I understand it; there’s something to be said for leveraging our experience, and we usually think about jobs in terms of what we’re qualified to do.

My biggest tip to these clients: try planning in reverse. Instead of basing your next step on where you are now, dream about where you’d like to be in 10 years – then start building that bridge in reverse, figuring out what skills you’ll need to acquire between now and then to arrive at that destination.

Not with me yet? Imagine you’re on a trip. You don’t have a clear end destination and you’re driving somewhere in Ohio. When asked where you’re going next, you’ll probably look at your gas tank, figure out how tired you are, and then use that radius to determine a few destinations that are feasible. You can continue on traveling this way, but you’ll always have limits imposed on you – and you’ll end up somewhere defined by its proximity to Ohio.

If, conversely, someone asked you to dream big about where you’d like to end up someday, without thinking about the fact that you’re currently in Ohio, you might pick Italy. If you decide that Italy is your end destination, you stop thinking about your current radius and start thinking about other variables – like how you’ll get enough money for a flight, which airport you might want to fly out of, how you’ll learn to speak Italian, etc. It’s an entirely different approach and – let’s be honest – one that is probably a bit more energizing to undertake.

The same is true for your career – or life. If you’re not satisfied with the trajectory you’re currently on, why are you allowing it to define your options? Life is too short to limit your future to the path you chanced upon when you were in your early 20s. Why not dream big and let that guide you?