Look back at 2014 before you look forward

How was your 2014?

I know, I know, we normally ask these types of questions in early January, but this year I wanted to get in early before the business engine room becomes transfixed on 'citius, altius, fortius' for 2015.

It seems every conversation I've had in the corporate world this past week has gone a little like this:

Me: "How's it all going?"

Corporate: "I just can't wait to finish the year and have a break. It's like my mind has totally turned off in the last week and I'm limping to the end of the year."

What I say: "Yeah, it's been a big year and I'm looking forward to a great break, and I'm excited about getting into 2015".

What I'm really thinking: "I feel like I've run into a bus as well."

It's normal for people to feel tired and fatigued in the week leading up to Christmas. And if you've had a few challenges throughout the year at work, or in your personal life, or with relationships, or if people you know have passed away (a friend recently commented "now I'm 45, I seem to be going to a lot more funerals than weddings"), there is a valid reason why you're feeling a bit flat.

Add to that a feeling our innocence has been robbed by the events in Martin Place this week, and it's easy to focus on all of the things that have gone wrong and forget about what has actually gone well.

Looking in the rear view mirror

Let's take some time out to reflect on the wins you've had. Too many times in my coaching and consulting business I see people who are so obsessed about their future goals that they fail to stop, reflect, process and celebrate what they've achieved. I can be as guilty of this as anyone.

I often use the analogy that setting goals in life is a lot like driving a car. The majority of the time needs to be future-focused and looking ahead, but it is also important to periodically check the rear view mirror, to remind ourselves of the achievements we have made and where we have come from.

The benefits of reflecting

Back in 1933, philosopher John Dewey wrote about the importance of reflection and how it bridges the gap between experience and self-awareness.  Dewey observed how serious and careful consideration leads to personal growth.

The majority of research, however, in the area of goal achievement has focused on the process of setting and achieving goals. A relatively new field called 'accomplishment focus' is now illustrating the benefits of reviewing and reflecting on goals that have been achieved.

A 2008 study in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology found students who regularly reviewed their achievements had higher levels of future goal commitment and intrinsic motivation towards achieving future goals (meaning they are setting and achieving goals for the right reasons, not extrinsic reasons like purely to impress other people). Reflecting on past goals and achievements appears to help us set and achieve future goals.

You still with me? If the science isn't doing it for you, sit down and work through the following questions based on what you have achieved in the previous 12 months.

Reflecting on 2014

  • What has worked well in your professional life?
  • What achievements did you have at work? (new products, sales targets, business wins, staff success, other)
  • What did you learn this year?
  • What did you do that was fun, spontaneous and exciting?
  • What lessons did you learn when things didn't go so well?
  • What wins did you have with your finances?
  • What are you happy about in your personal life?
  • What positives have you drawn out of your relationships?
  • What wins have you had with your health and fitness?
  • What did you enjoy doing more of last year?
  • What did you enjoy doing less of last year?

It is way too easy to become obsessed with soaring faster, higher and stronger. We sometimes forget to celebrate successes and achievements along the way.

Slowing down and really thinking about these questions forces you to reflect and take stock of what has happened in the major areas of your life. Whether you are pleasantly surprised or not, this activity provides real feedback on achievements and helps to reassess and plan for the coming 12 months.

Take a moment to look back: what were some of your personal or professional achievements of 2014?

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