The new year 2019 is here. Many of us are setting goals for 2019. Before you do that, take time to step back. Get a new perspective on 2018 so you can set more authentic and meaningful goals for 2019. Here are the self-reflection questions I am asking myself and sharing with my executive coaching clients.
The 10 Questions
If this year were a movie, what happened?
The idea of this question is to help you get yourself out of your usual perspective (the main character) and watch what happened as an observer. Describe the year as you would if you were sharing the story of a movie. Describe the characters in the movie (including yourself) and what happened from their perspective. You might even engage them in the exercise. It helps you get a meta view and notice things that you hadn’t seen before.
For example, as I wrote this movie narrative, I realized that life has been messy, challenging, and full of change this year. I come away with a greater appreciation for my resilience in dealing with change and challenge than I had before. I also have a better perspective on how important people in my life experienced this year.
What worked well that I’m grateful for?
As I asked this question of a friend, he realized that he hadn’t taken the step back to recognize all that had gone well, what he had created, and how he had grown. When you ask yourself what you feel grateful for, you discover more deeply what matters to you. This helps you set more authentic goals for the coming year. As you do this, take the time to actually savor what you feel grateful for.
What was challenging or disappointing?
This question helps you acknowledge what was hard and be in touch with any emotion associated with it. For example, when I asked an executive coaching client this question, she realized that one of the most challenging aspects of the year was negative feedback from her boss. She’s a top-performer and felt frustrated: “No matter how hard I try, I’m never good enough!” As she said this, tears welled up. She got in touch with her anger and hurt. This resentment she had felt toward her boss had eroded trust in their relationship.
After she processed the emotion, in our next session she was able to get a more balanced perspective: she has development opportunities, she also has strengths that help her be successful, and she had taken her boss’ feedback too personally. She realized that in 2019 she wants to work on growing her confidence in herself. If she had avoided getting in touch with emotion, she would have missed the opportunity for greater insight about herself. As you do this exercise be sure to be compassionate with yourself.
What were my most meaningful moments?
Getting in touch with what is meaningful and re-living the moments that mattered this year helps you bring into greater focus where you want to spend your time and energy in the coming year.
Where did I spend my time and energy?
As you review the year, take a look at where you spent your precious time and energy. Does this reflect what matters to you? Many of us spend our time in distraction. As you look to next year, what do you want to spend more energy on and what less?
Where did I fail? What did I learn?
Acknowledging our failures without letting them define who we are is a great act of courage. It helps us fully accept ourselves as we are, see ourselves more clearly, and be more open to feedback from others. It helps us learn and grow. My friend and colleague Whitney Johnson asks “Did I do my best?”. We often have lots of goals we want to pursue and simply asking ourselves did we do our best helps us acknowledge our failures with compassion.
Looking back overall, how do I rate my happiness on a scale of 1-10?
This is a question that my friend Dorie Clark asks every month. She recommends digging deeper to ask yourself what’s contributing to the rating, and continuing to dig so you understand what habits or choices (often unconscious) may be contributing. For example, when I asked myself this question, I gave myself a seven. As I dug deeper, I realized that I undermine my satisfaction when I over-commit myself, often thinking about what’s next, and don’t take the time to pause and appreciate what’s here. As I set goals for 2019, I am deliberately making a list of projects I will let go of.
As I look to next year, what will be the highest use of my talents?
This is a great question to take stock of your talents and take a step back to notice where they can be most useful. The question invites us to choose where we will spend our energies in the coming year that will serve the purposes that matter to us.
What is an area where I will exercise courage to stretch, grow and learn next year?
This is a great question my friend Kathy Caprino encourages us all to ask. She is passionate about helping us all “find brave”, and set goals that will inspire us to move beyond our comfort zone.
What does success look like to me next year?
As you review meaningful domains in your life (e.g. professional, personal relationships, health & well-being etc.) create a clear vision of what success is in each domain. Prioritize what’s important. And (mostly a reminder to myself), don’t bite off more than you can chew!
Whether you start with one question or attempt all ten, I recommend you take the time to jot down your own answers so 2019 can be a year of greater purpose and fulfillment for you.
A version of this post first appeared in my Forbes leadership blog.