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GA15 The Power of Reflection

By Melanie Ethridge on Dec 29, 2016

As a driven, type-A business woman, I didnt take many opportunities to pause and reflect early on in my career. After driving myself too hard for too long and dealing with the health consequences of that, I met a very successful business person who taught me the value of being intentional about slowing down every now and then so that I would be able to speed up in my business.

This was how the practice of reflection began for me. And as with all things, it has been a growth process. Back then, I saw it as nothing more than a means to push progress harder, further, and faster than before. But as I continued the practice, over time I began to see the real value of pausing to reflect. I realized that action is where progress occurs, but reflection is where true growth takes place. Reflection is where life is taken off autopilot. It is where a solid foundation is laid for designing and intentionally living your life. It is about creating space to see what youre doing that moves you forward toward your goals and dreams and what you are doing that you can let go of.

The month of December naturally lends itself to reflection as we close out a year and get ready to head into a new one. So, I invite you to take a moment to pause with me right now as I walk you through my reflection process.

Preparing for Reflection

For starters, be prepared to write down your thoughts. Whether you do this digitally or with good olfashioned paper and pen, its important to physically express your reflections in words (and maybe even doodles) outside of your head. Whereas most of my life exists in my digital notes in Evernote, reflection is one practice I like to keep a journal for. In fact, I recommend you get a journal that is specifically for your year-end reflections. This makes it easy to flip back at the end of each year and remind yourself of what youve experienced, the high (and low) points of the previous years, and how far youve come on your growth journey. A simple one like this will do the trick, or if you are looking for something a little more high-tech, this is the journal and pen that I use so that I can hand-write my reflections and still access them in the digital world.

Other items to have on hand include your calendar from the previous year (digital or otherwise). This will be a reference for you so you can quickly see what happened and when. Also have your 2016 goals on hand. If you did not physically write down your goals in 2016 (dont worry if you didnt – were here to help you get them written down for 2017), jot down any goals that you remember setting for yourself during the year.

Get as comfortable as possible during your reflection time. Find a space that you feel good in and put on your favorite comfy clothes. Grab your favorite beverage and a couple of snacks to indulge in as you reminisce. The better you feel as you dive in, the easier your thoughts will flow.

I want to encourage you to be honest with your reflections. Fight the tendency to sugar-coat or exaggerate. Take a look, as objectively as possible, at what specifically happened during your year, and then add your thoughts and feelings about the reflection.

The final thought before we dive in is that I encourage you to eliminate any distractions. Reflection truly is an important part of the growth process for living an empowered and fulfilling life. Set aside time for this (at least an hour, though more if you desire) when you wont be interrupted by your family or company. Silence your phone, and if youll be using it to flip back through your calendar, put it in airplane mode so you wont be interrupted by any messages or calls.

The Practice of Reflection

Alright, lets dive in and get specific and practical. Here are five guidelines for constructing a rewarding and effective reflection practice.

1. Title your reflection

This seems like a given, but its a step you dont want to miss. Start your reflection by writing the date that you are making the reflection. For me, this usually takes place between December 30th of the given year and January 1st of the new year. I always give my annual reflection a title. This can be as simple as, “A Reflection of 2016,” or it can be something that is creatively and uniquely yours.

Underneath the title, I write a very general reflection of the year. This is just a few sentences that cover my overall feel of the year. It may look a little something like this:

“I cant believe 2016 is already over! This year absolutely flew by. It was a great year, though very challenging at times. We experienced so many changes so quickly, that I felt like I was in constant motion from one thing to the next. In big news, I accomplished one of my life-long dreams of owning a horse property this year ….”

2. General overview

The next thing I do is literally look at the year in review. I go month by month making note of anything that happened that I want to mention. This is where having your calendar nearby comes in handy. Flip back through and see what you did this year that youd like to remember. Each monthly entry can be as long or as short as youd like for it to be. For example,

“In January, I celebrated my 34th birthday at Stock & Barrel with a bunch of my friends .…

In February, we launched the new healthy lifestyle program in our business at the same time we were moving to the farm ….”

and so on. Its always amazing to me as I go through this practice how much of my year Ive forgotten. This helps solidify important memories – and the learning and growth that took place due to them.

Tip: If the notes in your calendar aren’t very thorough and/or you’re having difficulty reconstructing this past year, plan in advance to take better notes in the coming year so that your 2017 reflection is a bit easier. One way of doing that is to do a short reflection period at the end of each month.

3. The “Notables

In this section, I take a moment to list the notable things that happened during the year. I use the following three categories:

a). Events

This can include any notable event that took place, from attending growth seminars to special occurrences. I do these in list form. For example,

“Attended Brendon Burchards High Performance Academy
Jackson started First Grade
Moved to the farm
etc …”

b). Accomplishments

This is a place to remember anything you feel proud of accomplishing, from the large to the small. Again, I do these in a list form. For example,

“Achieved Million Dollar Club with our Direct Sales Business
Hit goal of walking more than 310,000 steps in a month 9 times
etc …”

c). New People

Relationships are key to a fulfilling life. This is where I write down any “notable” new people I met during the previous year with a quick blurb about how I met them. For example,

“Tammy Marshall – I met Tammy at a business event shortly after moving to the area, and she helped connect me with all sorts of people and business groups so that I could get connected to the business community here.

Sophie Langworthy – I finally got to meet Sophie at a family gathering. She is engaged to marry Lane next year.

etc …” 

One of my favorite things to do is look back at my reflections from past years to see when I met certain people. Its always fun to see how many of them are still a part of my life.

4. The Specifics

In this part, I take a look specifically at the key areas of my life. This can be one of the more challenging parts of the reflection practice as it is important to take an honest look at how you are showing up in the most significant parts of your life. This is not a space for over-gloating or beating yourself up; rather, its a space to take a true assessment so you can actively redirect and design your life. This empowers you to truly live in alignment with your most important goals and values. Have your goals from the previous year handy as you move through this part so you can take a look at the goals you set for yourself and see where you are in relation to those goals.

Tip: If you haven’t yet taken time to intentionally determine your true values and map out a design for your life, I’ll be walking you through my favorite format for doing this in our January issues of Growth Advance Magazine.

With each category in this section, I start with a general summary of how I feel about my current state in the given area. From there, I move to looking at any specific goals that I set for myself for the year and where I stand in relation to those goals. Finally, I ask myself the following questions:

What am I most proud of in this area?

What am I most thankful for?

What did I do that worked well?

What didnt work so well?

What is one thing I want to leave behind?

What is one thing I want to carry forward?

For example, let me show you how I do this with one of the categories on my personal tracking list, Personal Growth.

Personal Growth:

Overall, I am proud of how I did in personal and business skill growth this year. I was hit or miss in my goal of 30+ minutes of personal growth daily, missing a day or two each week, though I did try to make up for the time I missed. I do prefer the daily consistency over attempting to ‘make-up time.

I set a goal to read one personal growth book per month, and I accomplished that goal. The books I read this year included: Disciplined Entrepreneurship, Living Forward, Invisible Selling Machine, Real Leadership, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, The Conquer Kit, People Over Profit, It Starts With Food, The School of Greatness, The Game of Work, Predictably Irrational, and Conscious Capitalism.

I set a goal to complete or attend two personal or skill development programs or events. I hit this goal by attending Brendon Burchards “High Performance Academy” and completing Brian Tracys “Six-Figure Speaker” program. It was my second time at HPA, and it was fun to be able to mark my growth over the previous time I attended.

I am most proud of hitting my goals for books and programs. I gained so many skills and insights from each book and program. With all that was going on in my life, there were days that it was difficult for me to get my reading finished, so Im especially proud of reading the 12 books I had committed to.

I am most thankful for finding the book Living Forward at just the right time. With all of the changes in my life, I felt like some of the things that are most important to me were falling through the cracks. My husband and I each read the book and then took an entire day to plan and design our lives together.

What worked well for me this year was reading 10+ pages each night before going to bed. This used to not work so well for me, but with having to drive the boys to school certain mornings, it became too challenging to get the reading done in the morning.

One thing that did not work at all for me was listening to the audio version of books while running. I tuned completely out and missed the bulk of the content (and my runs felt twice as long).

One thing I want to leave behind is paper notes from personal development. I have improved hugely in keeping most of my notes either in a journal / notebook or digitally, but I still took a lot of notes on random pieces of paper this year which end up just making a big mess in my office.

One thing I want to carry forward is reading 10+ pages before bed. This has really worked well for me since becoming a parent and allows me to fill my mind with growth topics before going to sleep.

And thats how its done. I then take the same framework and apply it to the remaining categories (listed below), starting with business. Some of the categories have much longer entries than others. For example, I set several more goals in business (revenue / income, reach, product releases, team / employee goals, etc) than I do in relationships, so the specific goal reflection aspect generally takes more time and space to complete. So, now its back over to you. After entering your Personal Growth Reflection, continue your reflection with the following framework:

Business

How do I feel about my business this year?
How did I do for each of the goals that I set for my business this year?

What am I most proud of in my business this year?
What am I most thankful for?
What did I do that worked well?
What did I try that didnt work so well?
Is there anything Id like to leave behind in 2016?
Is there anything Id like to carry forward into 2017?

Health & Self-Care

How do I feel about my health and self-care this year?
How did I do for each of the goals that I set for my health this year?
What am I most proud of with my health this year?
What am I most thankful for?
What did I do that worked well?
What did I try that didnt work so well?
Is there anything Id like to leave behind in 2016?
Is there anything Id like to carry forward into 2017?

Relationships

How do I feel about my relationships this year?
How did I do for each of the goals that I set for my relationships this year?
What am I most proud of in my relationships this year?
What am I most thankful for?
What did I do that worked well?
What did I try that didnt work so well?
Is there anything Id like to leave behind in 2016?
Is there anything Id like to carry forward into 2017?

Spirituality

How do I feel about my spirituality this year?
How did I do for each of the goals that I set for my spirituality this year?
What am I most proud of with my spirituality this year?
What am I most thankful for?
What did I do that worked well?
What did I try that didnt work so well?
Is there anything Id like to leave behind in 2016?
Is there anything Id like to carry forward into 2017?

Adventure

How do I feel about the fun and adventure I had this year?
How did I do for each of the goals that I set for fun and adventure this year?
What am I most proud of in the area of fun and adventure this year?
What am I most thankful for?
What did I do that worked well?
What did I try that didnt work so well?
Is there anything Id like to leave behind in 2016?
Is there anything Id like to carry forward into 2017?

Impact

How do I feel about the impact I made in the world this year?
How did I do for each of the positive-impact goals I set for this year?
What am I most proud of with my impact this year?
What am I most thankful for?
What did I do that worked well?
What did I try that didnt work so well?
Is there anything Id like to leave behind in 2016?
Is there anything Id like to carry forward into 2017?

Other

I wrap up with the “Other” category where I include any other goals Ive set for myself or anything at all that doesnt fit in one of my standard categories. You can use the same framework questions as above, or you can just write a general reflection

5. Gratitude Statement

The final part of my reflection practice is centered on gratitude. It is where I give thanks for what I learned and experienced. Its where I express gratitude for the things and people that flowed into — and sometimes out of — my life. It is the space where I reflect on the fact that life truly is a gift and Im grateful to be living it. I personally write this as a thank-you note to God, and you can do the same, or structure it however youd like. You can make this section as long or as short as youd like, but just dont skip it. Ive found that the more space I give for gratitude, the more positive I feel about moving forward, no matter how the previous year went for me.  

A Strong Finish

Congratulations. You have now completed your 2016 year-end Reflection. Take time to celebrate and give thanks for what this year held for you. And then, when youre ready, use this reflection as a launching point as you design your goals and aspirations for 2017. 

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