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Give yourself the gift of reflection

December 14, 2022

Whilst brushing my teeth the other day, my gaze flicked to the poem Desiderata hanging on our bathroom wall. It has so much wisdom in it but the phrase that jumped out at me this time was “enjoy your achievements as well as your plans”

Now, I’m a forward thinking person; it’s one of the reasons I’m a coach because coaching is all about moving forwards. There are downsides though. 1) You can forget to enjoy the moment. 2) You’re missing the benefits of reflection. 

I have to work consciously at both of these things, and at the tail end of the year I’m especially aware of the need to stop and reflect on my achievements before jumping into next year’s plans.

How are you at ‘slowing down to speed up’? 

‘Steps’, a learning-through-drama company I work with occasionally, call it ‘slowing down to speed up’. How are you at this? Do you pause from time to time to review what you’ve achieved or are you quickly onto the next thing? 

In my experience, people who are goal-oriented, who believe life is about results – and whose identity depends on achieving them – find it particularly hard to take this time out. In their minds, slowing down gets in the way of the action, action, action which is necessary to feel ok. There’s nothing concrete to show for the time invested, and worst of all, it means encountering some of the emotions they typically supress because they get in the way of achieving their goals. 

If this sounds familiar, I’d like to persuade you that building in reflection time on a regular basis will actually help you perform better in the long run. You’ll achieve more and be happier and healthier in the process. 

5 reasons why reflection is good for us 

1. It’s a confidence boost. 

Your brain has a tendency to focus on the things you got wrong to keep you safe from repeating mistakes. Unless you consciously counter this, you end up with a skewed perspective of your capabilities. Actively recalling positives helps you recognise success and keep a balanced view of yourself. 

2. It takes you to a deeper level of acceptance and appreciation. 

Pausing to acknowledge the skills and personal qualities you use in work and life helps you value and love who you are rather than what you achieve. Your self-validation is no longer conditional on performance. Even if things haven’t gone to plan, you’re giving credit to yourself for the way you dealt with that. 

3. It speeds up learning. 

Are you in the cycle of plan-do-plan-do? By introducing an extra step of plan-do-review, you create a pause for learning, for assessing objectively what works best so you can make modifications to what you do next time and get better results.  

4. It’s the launch pad for forward movement. 

If you’re trying to work out where to go next, you can get pointers and learning from reflecting on what you’re good at, what others say about you, what you’ve enjoyed or not enjoyed doing. 

5. It’s motivating. 

If you use a to-do list, you’ll know it’s rare to get to the end of it! If you’re always looking at what’s still to do, it’s easy to get discouraged. You forget just how much you’ve achieved but listing and celebrating this (sometimes called a ta-da list) reminds you how much progress you’ve made.

Give yourself the gift of reflection

It’s tempting to use looking forwards as a way to get through these last weeks of the year, when you’re feeling tired and ready for a festive break. But before you reach for next year’s calendar, I encourage you to take some time out and note down your highlights and learning of 2022. 

My ritual when I conclude the year in this way is to treat myself to a hot chocolate with all the trimmings in a quiet corner of a café. Why not create your own tradition? And to make it as easy as falling off a yule log, download and use my annual review exercise to shape your thinking.

Wishing you a restful and reflective end to the year.

About me

I’m Celia Clark. I’m a career development coach based in the dreaming spires of Oxford. I help you think clearly about your job, in all its ups and downs, so you can be happy and successful in your work.

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