We’re officially at the time of year where everyone is actively thinking about the new year, resolutions, and goals. As I reflected on my blog post about this very topic last year, I still feel much the same way – I’m not ready to plan for next year yet.
2020 has brought with it some seriously turbulent times. I won’t rehash what we’ve all experienced, for the good and the bad, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t take stock of where this pandemic has left me and what I’ve learned throughout this process. So, rather than rush to bid 2020 goodbye, I want to pause and reflect.
At a recent networking event, I was the speaker, and I asked the group to share what emotion came up for them when I said the word “self-reflection.” Words like anxiety, overachiever, self-critical, and important came up. As we dug in, it became clear that for many, reflection, and self-reflection in particular, often reveals how we don’t measure up. But when I think of self-reflection, I see it a little differently.
To me, self-reflection is the ability to pay attention to your own thoughts and emotions, to look at your motivations, decisions, and behaviors and see if they have served you and are in alignment with who you are and what you want to represent. It’s about assessing the patterns and activities in your daily life in order to see how your actions and habits contribute to your overall wellbeing, success, and happiness. It gives us insight into how we can grow and develop, meet our goals and objectives in a powerful way. Monet, the great Impressionist painter said, “It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So, we must dig and delve unceasingly.” While this could be self-critical, it doesn’t have to be.
If self-reflection leaves you with a case of hives, I want to offer four reasons to look back to move forward and a simple exercise that will shift that reflection into a positive.
- It shortens our learning curve. As entrepreneurs, we are constantly being pushed to grow and develop. When you pause, take a look at all that’s transpired in a day, week, month, or year, you realize just how far you’ve come and how much all the information you’ve gained can be put to good use, either leading you away from a less than desirable decision or toward a good one with confidence. We can look for clues based on our previous actions and help guide our decision-making, so we achieve the results we really want faster.
- We gain lessons learned. Back in my corporate days, we always strove for true lessons learned… vs. lessons repeated or relearned. We are constantly making mistakes – big and small – and they can be, with some introspection, our greatest teacher. They enable us to face the future with more confidence, awareness, and perspective. After making numerous costly mistakes, taking some time to reflect on what went wrong, I can say with certainty I won’t be repeating them again.
- Looking back gives us perspective. Like all things, entrepreneurship operates in cycles, when we look back we can see trends and patterns in a way that we can’t see in the day to day. We can use that information to shape and inform our decision making. In the midst of the daily grind, there’s real power in “looking up and out” to gain perspective and awareness.
- We get to celebrate. I have a strong bias for action. I like to check the box on my goals and move forward. But reflecting allows me to acknowledge and celebrate the wins, no matter the size. It reinforces that I’m making a difference, even when it doesn’t always feel like it, and it’s a reminder that we can, in fact, do hard things. It makes it easier when we’re faced with the next big, seemingly impossible task, to know and be reminded that we can totally do this hard thing, too.
With all that in mind, I want to take you back to my sorority days, both as a collegian and an alumna. As the president of my chapter and the leader of multiple advisory boards, we routinely engaged in a reflection exercise called Rose-Thorn-Bud. It’s a special way of taking stock of the good things, the rough patches, and the opportunities still to come, making the whole process of reflecting seem a little less critical. In doing this exercise, I was able to get clear perspective and then make a plan for the future. I’ve recreated this exercise for you, and you can grab it here.
As you reflect on all that 2020 has given us and all the things we’ve created, the wins and losses, spend some time working through the exercise above, and I promise you’ll be amazed at what you learn… and the opportunities that remain!