The first week of the new year always focuses on a fresh start, setting new goals, and making changes. This year, though, after the hustle and the bustle of the holidays, we aren’t setting goals quite yet. Instead, we’re going to pause. (Yes, pause).

Slowing down seems counterproductive and counterintuitive. We are the masters of multitasking and instant gratification. A recent survey shows that 75% of Americans use their smart phones while in the bathroom.

Really? We can’t even take a break to go to the bathroom?

We’re going to take a break right now to pause, reflect and refocus. We often try to change something in the New Year, but let’s focus on what went well, what we achieved, and what we want to duplicate for 2019. Before we move into planning ahead for the new year, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2018.


Why Reflection Matters

Reflection comes from the latin word, reflectere, meaning to bend back, turn back or turn around. Habits for Wellbeing defines reflect as “taking time out to review a situation or activity.”

This means that reflecting is an intentional activity of slowing down, pausing, and looking back on a specific period.

“I consciously set aside time for self-reflection. This is different than time I take for prayer or meditation,” wrote author and entrepreneur, Kevin Dum in Inc. Magazine. “This time is specifically focused on questions about my goals, my behavior, and my general state of mind.”

By reflecting we gain perspective, learn from our mistakes, value our victories, and focus on what matters most to us. And, reflection is important not just for our personal lives, but our professional lives too.

HRZONE said that reflection is important in the workplace because, “The process of reflection helps us make sense of our day-to-day experiences, it can help us to move forward, to come to decisions, to create a course of action, to challenge ourselves to switch off autopilot and our habitual ways of doing and thinking.”


Are we too busy to reflect?

We don’t spend much time sitting on our front porches contemplating our lives, or mulling over our decisions while leisurely sipping on coffee. Advances in technology have created an endless stream of efficiency, productivity and constant connection.

We are instantly and always connected to work, social media, news, etc. via the internet. We rarely take a true pause. (Except when we sleep, and even then, our sleep quality can be diminished by lack of time, stress, anxiety, etc.). As author and literary critic Harold Bloom wrote, “Information is endlessly available to us: where shall wisdom be found?”

It’s easy for all of us to be constantly busy, going from one activity to the next, and one year to the next—without reflecting. In fact, some see busyness as a status symbol.

A study on busyness from the Columbia Business School, Georgetown University and Harvard Business School found that the association between busyness and importance isn’t necessarily universal. It’s largely perpetuated by Americans.


The Benefits of Reflection

Most of us are familiar with the famous quote spoken by Socrates, written by Plato, “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.”  The philosophy behind this is that knowing ourselves and understanding ourselves, gives life meaning.

Thrive Global describes the many benefits of reflection including:

  1. It helps you learn from your mistakes
  2. It gives you ideas
  3. It helps you help others
  4. It makes you happier
  5. It gives you perspective
  6. It helps you understand others


How To Reflect On 2018

You can write these questions down and answer them, or you can answer them aloud. Begin reflecting on 2018 by asking yourself:

  • What am I most proud of from 2018?
  • What were the biggest lessons I learned?
  • What was the most difficult part of 2018 for me?
  • How have I overcome adversity?
  • What am I most thankful for?
  • Who impacted my life the most in 2018?
  • What new skills did I learn?
  • What good habits did I start in 2018?
  • What do I want to continue doing in 2019?
  • How have I grown and changed in the last year for the better?


New Year, New Goals

You’ve probably heard of “SMART” goals before. It’s a buzz word and an incredible tool for making your goals come to fruition. It stands for ensuring whatever goals you set are: Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely.

Creating a SMART goal helps you focus your goals and decide what you really want to achieve—we highly recommend using it! We’ve also created our own SMART acronym for 2019 and our New Year’s goal. Ready?

SEE the good in others and yourself

MAKE your health and happiness a priority

ACT out in kindness toward yourself and others

REFLECT often on your decisions and your life

TAKE time to enjoy your life

This year, don’t just go from one activity to the next or one goal to the next, make sure you take time to reflect—and reflect regularly. Spend just 10 minutes each week reflecting on all that happened. It will help you process everything you’ve experienced.

As John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist and educator put it, “We do not learn from experience but from reflecting on experience.”

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