10 Questions to Help You Reflect on 2015

Spend some time reflecting and building your resilience with these questions

Posted Dec 28, 2015

Was 2015 fantastic, a flop, or somewhere in between?  The past few weeks were filled with year-end business travel, a short vacation, and holiday preparation.  I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to a quiet New Year’s.  Year-end is a natural time to reflect, focusing on what went well and what could be improved, both at home and at work. 

The questions below resonated with me on some level, and I designed them to both promote self-reflection and resilience.  As a result, you can use your answers to inform your 2016 goals and build your resilience for all of the challenges coming your way in the New Year!

Here are 10 questions to help you evaluate your 2015:

When did you have fun? 

There are many health benefits associated with positive emotions.  They help boost immune function, help people with heart disease recover more quickly, result in fewer illnesses and less depression in those who have experienced both minor stressors and traumas, and activate healthier coping strategies.

What good risks did you take and how were you outside of your comfort zone? 

Owning a business means that I’m regularly outside of my comfort zone.  This has resulted in both a great deal of meaning and a great deal of stress.  One of my biggest lessons from 2015 is that meaning and stress are linked.  My favorite definition of stress comes from health psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal:  Stress is “what happens when something you care about is at stake.”

What gave you the most meaning?

Good leaders regularly ask this of their constituents and model a culture of meaning.  Meaningful work is cultivated when these conditions are present:

** You feel respected and valued for their contributions

** You are given autonomy to execute duties

** You are given a clear understanding of how your organization functions

** You are given all of the information and resources you need to do your job

** You understand how your unique talents and abilities help you work well

With some subtle changes in wording, you can apply these attributes to your family as well.

How did you handle the tough times? 

Post-traumatic growth is the positive personal changes that result from your struggle to deal with highly challenging life events.  People tend to notice growth in one or more of these areas after a traumatic event:  renewed appreciation for life; recognizing new paths for your life; enhanced personal strength; improved relationships with others; and spiritual growth.

How did you become more authentic? 

My favorite definition of authenticity is from Dr. Brene Brown:  “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”  She quotes E.E. Cummings, who wrote: “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”

What healthy habits did you put into place?

This is about more than just exercising and eating right.  Did you become more grateful?  Did you forgive the people who needed forgiving (including yourself)?  Are you coping with life’s stressors in a better way or are you still eating a bag of chocolate chip cookies every night?

Who were your sources of support?

I implemented the Facebook “unfollow” this year and it helped me weed out many of my low-quality relationships.  You know you’re in a high-quality relationship when these four traits are present:  respectful engagement, task enabling, trust, and play (see “fun” above). 

When were you too hard on yourself?

Self-compassion is a hard skill to learn, and one that I will try to get better at.  These core beliefs and questions about our ability and worthiness can make self-compassion impossible:

** I have to be perfect
** What will people think of me?
** I’m not good enough
** Who am I to think I can accomplish that?

How were you more mindful?

This was a conscious area of focus for me in 2015.  I got better, but I have more work to do.  One of my favorite mindfulness skills from my work with soldiers is deliberate breathing.  Practice either of these forms of deliberate breathing for five minutes each day so that it becomes second nature when you’re under stress:

OPTION 1:  Inhale for a count of 5, hold for a count of 6, exhale for a count of 7.

OPTION 2:  Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4. 

Play around with the amount of time you inhale, hold, and exhale so that it works for you.

What did you learn about yourself?

Think about what you learned in all of your roles – as a parent, a friend, a leader at work, and as a spouse/significant other.

You don’t have to answer all of these questions in order to start 2016 in an impactful way.  Pick a couple that you really want to focus on and start there.  I’d love to hear from you – which questions are you going to focus on and why?

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