Reflection Propels Your Growth
Each month in 2023, I featured one of my top-ten “Things I Wish I’d Known” when I first started as a manager and leader years ago. This article is my tenth: Reflection Propels Your Growth.
You can’t really know where you’re going until you fully understand where you’ve been.
Nothing energizes me like focusing forward — planning for the future. But I have also learned to cherish reflecting on the recent past.
That’s why, in today’s blog, I’m going to share how you can use reflection as a valuable learning practice. And I’ll also recap the blog articles in this year’s theme, “Things I Wish I’d Known.”
You’ll find the full list of my top-ten “Things I Wish I’d Known” at the end of this article.
I always look forward to closing out each year with my ritual of reflection. It’s one of the best ways I prepare myself to be better, and do better, in the coming year.
This wasn’t always the case. While I’d always taken time to reflect on my personal life, I didn’t have the same habit of reflecting on my professional life early in my career. I just couldn’t wait to dive into a new year. So many opportunities! So many goals!
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way…”— Margaret J. Wheatley
For me, reflection is deliberate. A quiet time. In my mind, I review the “wins” and challenges of the past year — both personal and professional.
I think about the goals I achieved (or missed). The lessons I learned. The wisdom I gained. The progress I made.
Get Your Copy:
My free worksheet features this month’s theme, “Reflection Propels Your Growth.”
Armed with new insights and renewed motivation, I’m ready to focus on the coming year. I have a better sense of the goals I’ll set — as well as the steps and strategies to help me.
Now, what about you?
How you choose to reflect (and when) is entirely up to you. Find ways to make the practice of reflection both enjoyable and meaningful.
If you’re not sure where to start, use the Power Challenges below as a guide.
Power Challenge 1: First, Schedule Time to Reflect
Be intentional. Ever run into a former coworker, and one of you says, “Let’s get together soon!” But days and weeks pass … and neither of you reaches out to make plans. It’s not that you don’t want to! You’re busy. They’re busy. The get-together falls by the wayside.
Vague or loose plans, however well-intentioned, rarely happen.
That’s why it’s so important to schedule a block of time on your calendar for reflection, and honor it! Whether you’d like to reflect heading into the new year, or at any time during the year, here are a few tips:
Commit to a specific date and time.
When are you at your best? Choose a day and time most conducive to contemplation. For example, when are you most refreshed and able to relax? The week’s beginning or end? The weekend? Early in the day, midday or evening?
Don’t short-change yourself by squeezing your block of time into a hectic day of meetings or a busy weekend already full of your kids’ sports practices.
This is time for you. Give yourself the bandwidth to make the most of it.
Mark your calendar now with a specific date and time for reflection.
Are you in the habit of putting others first? If so, it can be hard to prioritize what might seem like a luxury. Especially if you feel pulled in a hundred different directions (not uncommon this time of year!).
Resist the temptation to postpone or cancel “your date” as other things crop up. Flex your self-care muscle and keep this important time for yourself.
Set up the experience.
Find or create a reflective space, free of distractions and interruptions. Turn on some relaxing music, light a candle or grab your favorite coffee drink. (Heck, why not all three?)
Put yourself in a headspace that allows you to be fully present and engaged. Perhaps do some breathing exercises or light exercise to help you get focused.
Turn off your phone and email notifications. Better yet, leave your phone in another room!
Keep in mind every thought in your reflection doesn’t have to be “purposeful.” Enjoy the experience!
Don’t diminish the value of “passive productivity.” You’re not navel-gazing! When you reflect with intention, you position yourself for personal and professional growth.
As a leader, you hold the vision for your team, division or company. Reflecting allows you to shape, refine and adjust its big-picture mission or strategic plans.
Power Challenge 2: Second, Reflect!
Are you wondering what kinds of things to recall — or pay attention to? Allow your mind to consider both the tangible (such as exceeding a sales goal or running your first half-marathon) and the intangible (such as your increased confidence or a time when things didn’t happen as planned).
Here are a few prompts to get your wheels turning:
1. What are you most proud of achieving over the past year?
Don’t be modest. Name as many accomplishments as come to mind! Write them down. They can be big, such as earning a professional certification or sticking with a new healthy eating plan. Or smaller — yet meaningful for you — such as helping welcome a new coworker or mastering a complicated song on your guitar.
- Why are you proud of each accomplishment? (And is there a theme?)
- What did you learn about yourself (or your team, division or company) in the process of striving for your goal? Note your learning can be an accomplishment on its own. Perhaps you’re stronger than you thought? More creative or resilient? Celebrate that, too!
- What worked well? What specific strategies or tools were particularly helpful?
2. What could’ve gone better this past year?
Are there a few things you’d rather put in the “let’s-pretend-that-never-happened” file? Gosh, no one enjoys embarrassment!
But failure — whether actual or simply perceived — is part of being human. You won’t innovate or grow without a few hiccups along the way.
You also won’t move forward by burying your head in the sand and pretending nothing happened. What does help is processing and learning from the experience.
- What decisions or actions could have been made or taken differently?
- How well did you (or your team, division or company) bounce back from making mistakes?
- What wisdom or knowledge did you gain from these experiences?
Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over challenges, mistakes or failures. Instead, use them as springboards for future growth.
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford
Just remember to keep your reflections in balance. Sure, it’s a lot more fun to recall what went well during the year than what did not! Or, if you’re feeling down on yourself, you might focus too much on the negative. As in all things, try to find a healthy balance.
Things I Wish I’d Known: A Recap
“The expert in anything was once a beginner.” – Helen Hayes
No one launches into leadership having all the answers. I know I didn’t!
It wasn’t long before I began to learn many valuable leadership lessons — some through trial by fire. I remember often thinking, “I wish I’d known this sooner!”
This year, I chose to share some of these experiences in the hopes they’ll help guide your own leadership growth.
Here are the top-ten Things I Wish I’d Known:
As a leader or manager, you hold the keys to creating a positive, motivating work environment — or not! Your first step? Set the right tone.
Ditch your self-imposed pressure to know it all. Recognize what to let go, so you can focus on the big picture. Then trust your staff to do the things you’ve hired them to do.
Do you like to play it safe, craving comfort over risk? I did. Until I learned how taking the right risks opens the door to opportunity and growth. Risk doesn’t have to be a four-letter word.
Is there a difference between managing and leading? Absolutely — as I learned the hard way in my business. Learn how shifting from managing to leading can help YOU make a greater impact.
Life and work are like a seesaw: constant ups and downs! Are you crashing hard at the top and bottom? Don’t expect to achieve perfect, long-lasting balance. Instead, aim for “balance in motion.”
When you’re a leader, the buck stops with you. Learn how to make important, sometimes-difficult decisions with greater ease and confidence.
As a leader, do you know your financial numbers — and how to use them to ensure your business thrives? Even if financials aren’t your sweet spot, don’t ignore this crucial part of your role.
Clear communication sets the stage for accountability. Before you say “yes” too quickly, know what’s being asked. Be intentional, keep your word and take responsibility when you can’t deliver.
When life is busy and the world feels heavy, “giving back” might not be top of mind. But no gesture is ever too small, whether you’re giving as an individual or a company.
#10 Reflection Propels Your Growth
Each year, set a date with time and space to reflect on the past months. Celebrate successes and learn from failures. Let your reflections guide your planning for the new year.
Need a speaker for a business event or training?
Carla inspires leaders and team members — and provides real-world tips to become the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.