It’s January, 2022. A new year, new beginnings, a new opportunity to make this the year you become the greatest version of you. You’re ready to kick 2022 into high gear, crush your goals, stay positive, focused, and make this the best year of your life!
Sounds exciting, right? And if you’re honest with yourself, isn’t that what you’ve been thinking? OK, maybe you didn’t scream that in your head, but wasn’t it at least a whisper?
Of course, this can be your best, most successful year yet – personally, professionally and for every aspect of your life in-between. But the real secret to helping ensure your 2022 really is triumphant is: Self-Reflection.
Confucius called self-reflection “the most noble way to learn wisdom”. Steve Jobs famously said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward”.
In other words, to progress – to be an even better version of yourself than you were last year – you have to look backward to move forward. That doesn’t mean dwelling on the past and thinking about the proverbial “coulda, woulda, shoulda”. Rather, look back to gain greater self-awareness; to clarify what really matters and what is important to you – and why; to better understand your actions and motivations. Self-reflection requires that you question your assumptions and your habits and ask whether they are useful in taking you in the direction you want and need to go to succeed. With that knowledge, you are more powerfully equipped to establish and prioritize the right steps you need to take to be and achieve your best.
An Elevated Level of Self-Awareness
Think about the successful people you know, or read about – business and community leaders, athletes, actors… They all do one thing in common. They reflect. They reflect on their actions, questioning what went well and why? What can be improved or changed and why? They maintain an elevated level of open-minded self-awareness. Their answers serve as their compass, setting them in the direction in which to move forward to ensure the greatest likelihood for success.
Spanx founder, Sara Blakely uses journaling as a means of reflection; Ariana Huffington recommends reflection to get in touch with one’s creativity; Ray Dalio, CEO of Bridgewater Capital (among the world’s largest hedge funds), credits reflecting on his own painful experiences to build his company.
One of the women I coach is a former Olympic hopeful, a highly accomplished athlete who is now a well-regarded mentor / trainer and PhD candidate. I once asked her how she had the courage and the confidence to walk away from the Olympics and pursue new goals. Her response? As an athlete, she was trained to reflect on every detail of her performance. She and her coach reviewed the speed at which she approached the high jump; whether she had enough weight on her back leg to sufficiently propel her off the ground; the way she landed. Even when she won, they considered what could be improved upon to achieve an even greater jump height. Then they made revisions. Start running with the left foot, change the training program to improve thigh muscle strength, etc.
But an injury coupled with not making the Olympic high jump team made her reflect in a new way. Did she have the stamina and drive to continue pushing herself to try for what had been a life-long goal? What did she really want? What was important to her? Why?
Her self-awareness and habit of reflecting lead her to consider her core values – and that made all the difference. Once she knew what was important to her and why, she set out to pursue a new set of personal objectives that use her skills and talents, but in a different way. She ultimately discovered that by mentoring young athletes and going for her PhD, her life has the same level of excitement, meaning and sense of fulfillment and she feels like she is achieving success at an even deeper level than before.
Challenge Your Assumptions!
You may be thinking, “That’s great for her, but how does this relate to my having my best year ever?” Fair enough. So, consider this: What if our Olympic hopeful kept going, and didn’t bother to reflect on what was important, if she didn’t make space for herself to clarify what she really wanted, if she didn’t take the time to identify and assess her core values? She would have continued in the same direction – pursuing her Olympic goal. After all, it was what she knew; it was within her comfort zone. But she would never have achieved to the level she coveted. Injury coupled with being four years older for the next Olympics would almost certainly have defeated her.
What if she didn’t think about what she could do differently?
Yet, that’s what so many of us never do. We don’t stop to reflect. We don’t challenge ourselves or our assumptions that might be getting in the way of our success. We don’t question, “Is this really what we want?”; “What could we do differently?” “How can we make (fill in the blank) better?” We just keep going, moving in the same direction and pushing through because that’s what we know – that is our comfort zone.
How many times have you stayed in a job or a relationship that is unfulfilling? How often have you felt like you are on a treadmill that just keeps going without actually getting you anywhere new, different, or exciting?
To really make this year your best yet, to really become the greatest version of yourself, to really feel empowered to be the person you know you are deep inside, start by taking time to self-reflect. There are no right or wrong answers. And if you aren’t sure how or where to start, please see below!
I wish you all the very best for an outstanding 2022!
A guide to self-reflection:
It really doesn’t matter where or when you create space for yourself. You just have to do it. I find it easiest to think while I’m folding laundry, walking my dog, or when I’m stretching just after a workout.
Once you have the “where”, take a step back to review your achievements and learnings in 2021, both personally and professionally. Some questions include:
- What were my top 5 achievements in 2021? Big or small, what am I most proud of?
- What were my top 5 challenges?
- What did I learn? New skills? “Aha” moments? Hopes/fears?
- What do I want to carry forward into the new year?
- What do I want to let go of? Checked or carry-on, leave some baggage behind!
- What gave me the most pleasure in 2021? At work? Personal life? Spiritually? Socially? Why?
This is the moment of truth! Start by asking yourself:
- What are my core values? Are they in alignment with my life right now?
- When am I at my best?
- What motivates and inspires me? Is that a part of my life right now?
- What gets me excited? What am I passionate about? Do I have that passion in my life right now?
- Who do I want and need to be to make 2022 a success (more confident, healthier, more patient…)
- What habits do I need to change? What habits are serving me well?
- What are my limiting beliefs?
- What can I start doing/stop doing to help me be my best?
Consider your answers to the questions above. If you determine something is missing in your life (passion, motivation…), or that something(s) need to change, think what you can do to reset yourself so you are back on course for success.
Some Final Thoughts
This article focused on self-reflection for making this your best year yet. But you don’t need to wait for an annual event to be reflective. I find it useful to reflect on a regular basis to keep myself in check, to make sure I stay the course toward my objectives and to take notice of what is and is not working for me. It is much easier to make small adjustments along the way than it is to reset an entirely new direction. Lastly, you may find journaling a helpful way to keep track of your reflections and your progress. Best of luck!