A new year has arrived. And while I, like you, enjoy a good resolution or two (keep an eye out for our blog on goal setting coming up) we tend to skip one core idea: looking back.
A familiar Old-English proverb says, “You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” While cliché, its truth remains. I'd add that you can only actually know where you’ve been when you know how to ask the right questions. And knowing where you’ve been is only helpful if you know what to do with the information you garner.
This week let's do something different instead of jumping right into goal setting and resolution listing. Let’s designate one hour to reflect, ask the right questions, and stand courageous and proud in the face of honest answers.
We've even created a worksheet for you if you'd like to tangibly write these down!
“What is my proudest moment from 2016?”
What was the first thing that came to mind when you read that question? That’s probably your answer. But, don’t stop there. Maybe you have a series of proud moments or best accomplishments. Without shame, write them down!
Thoughtful Follow Up: Was your proudest moment(s) one that you would have expected? Is it in line with what you see as your strengths? Or are you so proud of it because it showed significant growth in a weaker area of your business?
“What was my biggest regret of 2016?”
The knee-jerk reaction for some of us, myself included, when asking that question, is to tighten my jaw and say, “I have no regrets!” And, while that may be true, if we are honest we all have areas that we need to improve. And if we are brave enough to answer this question honestly, we will find the ability to shine a light on a rough spot that, by this time next year, may be a thing of pride and accomplishment.
Many of our proudest moments start with moments of regret or perceived failure. Regret is okay when you know where to take it. I propose that you grab the regret by the snarling nasty snout, stare it square in the eye and say, “Not this year.” And, of course, write it down.
Thoughtful Follow Up: What did you learn from your regret? Is there a weakness in your character, processes, or decision making? What safeguards can you take to protect yourself and your clients this year?
“What new skills did I learn?”
Maybe you studied something tangible for your career, such as how to set up automatic billing and time-tracking systems. Or perhaps it was something a little less tangible, but just as important, like learning how to stay chill with your most difficult clients. Whatever the lesson(s) write them down and take a moment to savor the accomplishment.
Thoughtful Follow Up: In case you were wondering, you can (and you must always) learn new things. What new skills would you like to add to your repertoire this year? Think outside the career box too! Your new skill may be yoga, knitting, or stand-up paddle boarding. New skills in your personal life always make you better in your business life.
“Who or what held me back this year?”
We all know them. The people and the things who seem innocent enough on the surface but after a time you learn they are toxic to your well-being and your business. As the question notes, it may be a person or a thing, but the truth is only you will know. And, if it’s a person, they may have no idea they are causing such issues.
If a person, consider discussing it with them professionally and thoughtfully. If they don’t respond well, then leave them to learn their lessons and cut the ties where you can. If it’s a thing, consider why it is so detrimental. Does it sap your time? Does it live up to the expectations you had at first? Does it need to be trashed or just handled differently?
Thoughtful Follow Up: With these answers, make a plan for how you will tackle the toxic relationship or distracting or inefficient thing. Consider it the way you do a closet purge. Toss it in the keep pile, the rework pile, or the toss pile.
“Who or what was most helpful this year?”
The answer to this question will be the person who gives you a jolt of energy and inspiration. The friend or colleague who provides you with a heavy dose of joy. Or the thing that gives you peace of mind and the ability to tackle work with more ease.
If it's a person, make sure you tell them what they mean to you. It will not only bring them a moment of happiness, but it will cause you to feel good too. If it is a process, a tool, or a resource, make sure you will have it at your disposal for another year.
Thoughtful Follow Up: Why was the person or thing most helpful this year? Was the person just a go-to for a good conversation and a laugh? Or were they always offering you moments of creative thinking? Look forward to ways you can integrate them more, if possible, into your work and personal life. Why was the thing most helpful this year? If it was because it streamlined an otherwise complicated process, then look at other areas of your work or life that can use the same streamlining thought process and consider ways to integrate the same vision.
The answers to these questions aren’t the foundation of your new year. You are. Your successes and growth make up your foundation. The answers to these issues are like the frame, providing structure and a future vision designed on who you are, where you’ve been and what the following year can be.
This is where we start and isn’t that why we love New Years? A new year is the opportunity to build or completely re-envision. A new year is a blank page, a morning dawn, a fresh start. But it is also the opportunity to look back with honesty and clarity. Knowing where you want to go starts with knowing who you are right now.