Today let’s talk about reflecting on the year and why it’s important. A favorite quote that I’ve shared with you before says, “Life is a series of undigested experiences.” That was one of the first things I heard Greg Galluzzo, founding executive director of the Gamaliel Foundation, say when I began training to be a community organizer. Greg’s theory was that most of us walk around, moving through life, not having examined very closely what our experiences can teach us.
New Year’s Resolutions
Loads of people think about what’s happened in the past year when it’s time to make New Year’s Resolutions. Often, we’re filled with regret over the weight we didn’t lose, the exercise we didn’t do, or other missed opportunities. Some people are able to think about the good stuff, too, but in my experience, we tend to go right for the things we perceive to be our failures. New Year’s Resolutions are often the result of thinking about those failures and simply resolving to do better.
But thinking about experiences isn’t the same as reflecting on them. When we reflect, we ask deeper questions. The goal of reflection is to find out what those experiences have to teach us. Good experiences can teach us what we want more of. Success can teach us what worked that we should keep on doing. Grief can teach us what we want to be more conscious to appreciate. Failure can teach us what didn’t work, and shine a light on what else can be tried.
Reflecting on the year is important because we can create space to go deeper than just thinking. We can examine our mindset, our fears that held us back, our triumphs. We can ask “why” and gain insight into our experiences in a way that helps us understand more deeply. Once we understand an experience, we can see the path to what’s next more clearly.
But how do you do it?
That’s for next week. This is a three-part series on reflecting. I hope you’ll stay tuned. For now, I invite you to start a list. Make five columns or sections. Here are the headings:
- Things that went really well
- Things that didn’t go as planned/didn’t go well
- Key relationships
- Goals for next year
- Things to say “no” to
Most importantly, find your own “why” for spending some time on this.
Hint: it should come from within you.