Before we blink we will be swept up into the busyness of a brand new shiny year. Before diving in, take a bit of time to reflect to properly bid adieu to 2014 and say hello to 2015.
Each year, I write up 12 questions as a guided reflection to complete the year past and to get ready to start anew. This year's list features many questions framed within a lens of positivity and appreciation. Our brains are built with a negativity bias which means we tend to focus more ardently on the negative and more easily dismiss the positive stuff.
Our thinking can more naturally default to what went wrong; what was missing; what hurt; what was hard; etc. This has to do with evolutionary forces -- to protect ourselves from threat. Since our positive moments are more "slippery" in memory and more likely to be forgotten so we have to work harder to bring them to the fore.
So in your year-end reflection, don't Grinch yourself out of recalling and celebrating what went well in 2014. Take stock of the good (alongside the challenges) and complete your year with a more balanced perspective and a dose of positivity that can only fuel you towards more good in 2015.
THE YEAR PAST
1) What went well?
A year later, months gone by...it's easy for the good stuff to go unnoticed and lost amidst the brain-hearty 'tough' memories. So rewind that video (of work and life in 2014) and mine for all that did go well. Dip in generously and pull out all the good nuggets small and large. Write them down and look at your list; you may end up being very surprised about what kind of year you had after all.
2) What changed for the better?
Chances are you've changed in some way from a year ago. In what ways did you grow and evolve this past year? What new skills, knowledge, habits and experience did you acquire that made you a better version of yourself from the previous year?
3) What were the gifts of 2014?
Gifts come in all sizes and packages. Often they are disguised or easily lost in the tougher moments of life. Reflect on the stand-out moments, experiences and circumstances of the past year and try to identify the silver lining in each of them. Some will be obvious but the ones buried in your tough moments may take more digging. E.g. if you lost a job or suffered a disappointment, perhaps that event made you stronger or propelled you to take action to remedy your situation. As one door closed is it possible that new doors have or are about to open up for you?
4) What and who are you most grateful for right now?
As I wrote in my Thanksgiving article (The Whys and Ways of Gratitude), gratitude should be a daily practice as it is one of the most fuelling positive emotions and habits one can cultivate to bolster success and well-being. Reflect and write about all that you are grateful for right now as you wind down your year. Consider all facets of your life (health, social, career, family, other). In particular, think about the people in your life that you appreciate and find ways to express thanks to them. Mark your year-end with a big dollop of gratitude and you will see a shinier year both behind and ahead of you.
5) What do you need to let go of or complete now to start anew in 2015?
We need to make space for the new and for the good -- because sometimes the 'old stuff' gets in the way. Take time to let go of or clean out anything that is in the way of you bringing the best of yourself to 2015. Perhaps it's a de-cluttering of your physical space; or letting go of an old resolution or goal that wasn't really very meaningful to you. Old ideas, limiting beliefs, deconstructive mindsets...if they aren't serving you, toss them out!
6) If there was a theme for the past year for you, what would it be?
Wrap up your year by giving it a name (besides its actual number). Complete this phrase "For me personally, 2014 was the year of ___."
THE YEAR AHEAD
7) What change(s) would you like to create for yourself?
Consider both personal and professional contexts. Clarifying and declaring what you want is the first step to creating a vision for your future. Of course, having a plan to follow-up can be most helpful too!
8) If you could celebrate just one 'win' (an accomplishment) at the end of 2015 what would that be?
What would be one tangible evidence of moving forward on something important to you? Make sure it is something that you have some control over. Then reflect on what actions you can take to help make this happen? Consider new habits, commitments, support systems that can be part of your plan.
9) What are your learning goals for 2015?
All too often we create 'having' goals but omit to think about the 'learning' goals. People who continually develop themselves and are open and proactive to learning are more apt to feel engaged, inspired and energized which can help one accomplish more. While learning can be a means to an end (a goal) it can also be satisfying on its own merit. What skills, habits, new learning areas will be part of your personal learning agenda in 2015?
10) How will you boost your positivity habit this year?
Positivity has been proven many times over to increase your potential for success and well-being. The science says we need a daily diet of positive emotions -- even when (actually, especially when!) the going gets tough. What will you do to ensure you bring more positive emotions and moments to your day? Read here for some ideas.
11) What and who will inspire you in the year ahead?
Inspiration is another powerful positive emotion that can spark better thinking, more productivity, happiness and well-being. Plus it just feels so good! Inspiration comes in many forms and we can invite more of it into our lives any time. Inspiration can come from people, events, ideas, or more. Perhaps join up with a networking or learning group; Follow and/or connect with thought-leaders or people that simply 'move' you (read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, tune in to Ted Talks, etc.); Spend more time with nature (or the arts) if that's your source; and more. Be aware of the stuff that inspires you and make a plan to get more of it.
12) What's your 'word' or theme for the year ahead?
Complete this sentence: "As I reflect on my year ahead, this will be the year of ____."
Eileen Chadnick (@Chadnick) is a work-life and leadership coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto. She is the author of Ease, a book offering strategies to manage overwhelm in times of 'crazy busy'. See her at www.facebook.com/bigcheesecoaching
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