2015 is in full-swing, but if you’re already feeling behind — or even caught up in last year — you may need to do some serious self-reflection to make 2015 your best year ever.
Raise your hand if you woke up this Monday morning feeling behind.
Maybe you felt behind professionally, with an inbox full of email or a pending deadline. Or maybe you were on your heels personally, with thank you notes to write or appointments to schedule.
Regardless the cause, your first instinct as the alarm rang was to bolt out of bed and likely GET. TO. WORK.
However, if we do get right to work, that may be the biggest mistake we make all year.
That fact is, if we aspire to make this new year better than the last, it is essential that before we start doing, we first take the time to reflect.
We need to assess the year that was, capture and document the lessons learned and then use that information to guide our actions and how we make decisions moving forward.
If that sounds like a good idea to you, here are a few great questions to guide you in this reflection:
5 questions to ask every year
1. When did I kick-ass?
“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” – Tom Peters
Any reflection of the past year must start with a celebration of when we got it right.
In today’s world, it’s too easy to check a box and quickly set your sights on the next milestone, trophy or accomplishment.
Resist that temptation.
Instead, identify and acknowledge all of your wins this past year. Make a list. Make it long. Enjoy it.
And as you enjoy it, learn from it. The fact is, each of our “kick-ass” moments — and the feeling of pride, satisfaction, joy, peace and/or happiness that it creates — tells us something about ourselves; about who we are and what we value.
Identify and celebrate those times when you felt the way you wanted to feel. When you took action that was in perfect harmony with your values.
The foundation of building a kick-ass new year starts with identifying when you kicked-ass last year and learning from it.
2. When was I most alive?
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
When I was in the hospitality industry there was an oft-quoted rule of thumb: “A customer will share a good experience with three people; a bad experience with 10.”
It’s relatively easy to remember the struggles, the challenges, the adversity we’ve faced (and presumably overcome) than it is to remember the times when we were truly “alive” — energized and excited about the work we were doing and the life we were living.
For whatever reason, pain is often more memorable than joy. It is imperative, though, that we remember those joyous moments. Not only to savor them a bit longer, but to better understand the underlying root cause of our bliss.
What, specifically, were you doing? Who were you with? What other factors made it possible for you to experience this unique and compelling version of yourself?
3. When was I bored?
“The opposite of happiness is not sadness, but boredom.” – Tim Ferriss
Life can’t be one big adrenaline rush — we need periods of rest and recovery — but there is no greater threat to a high-potential life than boredom.
Here’s a great definition of boredom: The absence of growth.
Were you bored at all last year? Did you ever, in either your personal or professional life, find yourself lacking the energy, desire to do what you had to do?
If so, what were you doing? Whom were you with?
What were the underlying causes of those moments… and how will you avoid similar situations this year?
4. Who were my teachers this year? Whom did I teach?
“You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time.” – Jim Rohn
We are, simultaneously, both students and teachers all our life.
As a student this year, from whom did you learn? Who were the individuals that most inspired you — with their energy, their intelligence, their creativity, their kindness?
What books, courses or programs had the greatest impact on the way you think, act or perceive the world?
As a teacher, who did you influence and how? For whom did you make life better this past year? What do others now know because of you? If you had to title a course based on your experience this past year, what would you call it (e.g. “How To Live Well – 101” or “How To Handle Setbacks With Grace – 201”)?
5. What mattered most?
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who spends himself on a worthy cause” – Theodore Roosevelt
What did you learn this year about what matters to you?
About what is — or isn’t — a ‘worthy’ cause?
Of the 525,949 minutes this year, which ones were most important? What were the critical decisions? The key inflection points?
Perhaps it was the moment when you had the tough conversation with a friend, colleague or partner? Maybe it was the moment when you decided to take action to get your personal finances in order? Or maybe it was the moment you first saw your newborn baby smile.
Put another way, when did you say “no” when you should have said “yes?” When did you say “yes” when you should have said “no?” Why?
Looking back, what were the moments that mattered most – and what can you learn about what is most important to you?
Based upon your experience, fill in the blanks (as many times as you can): “Last year I learned that _________ matters more than ________.”
Live, learn and move forward
“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” – George Bernard Shaw
While we may not be able to accurately predict the future we can, at the very least, seek to learn from the past.
Take time, today, to answer the five questions above. To identify and capture the high points, and the low, over the past year and to learn from them. (Click here to tweet this list of questions.)
While there may be nothing more frustrating than repeating our same mistakes, even more tragic is when we fail to identify and celebrate those times when we get it right… so that we can use that data to make our life better, richer and more meaningful going forward.
Ben Sands is an author, executive coach and founder of Regret Free Life – a coaching and consulting company that helps smart men and women make great choices about their career, their money and their path forward. Click here for more free insights, tools and other resources.