20 Dec The gifts of reflection
Towards the end of the year, a little reflection is customary. It may be very cursory, along the lines of: ‘I’ll be glad to see the back of 2022!’ But we can give ourselves useful gifts if we spend a little time pondering what’s been and what’s to come. Here are some prompts I offered in a webinar I gave earlier this month.
What are the gifts you always have with you?
Like the keyring that’s always in your pocket or bag, there are two gifts that are always with you: your strengths and your values. Your strengths are the things you do well and enjoy doing well. You might be a details person, the life and soul of the party, an adventurer, or an explainer. They’re a gift because using them makes everything seem a little easier, more enjoyable and more likely to go well. Your values are your guiding principles, like justice, integrity and fairness. They can’t be bought, sold or taken away from you. They bring the gifts of boundaries, clearer decisions and becoming the kind of person you would like to be.
What gifts did you receive in 2022?
Towards the end of a thinking session, I often ask clients ‘What did you learn, or re-learn, about yourself today?’. Sometimes it’s the most useful question of all, crystallising out observations that deepen commitment and carry thinking forward. So, what did you learn about yourself last year? How did you accomplish all that you did? How did you work with and through challenges and disappointments? And which people and resources helped you through?
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver
There will be many gifts to gather, large and small, obvious and subtle, with a little reflection on the closing year.
What gifts would you like to leave behind?
To make space for the new, it’s a good idea to have a clear-out. We can give ourselves the gift of clarity by passing on, recycling, throwing away or deleting clutter from our workspace, work bag, inbox and so on. There are other things we can let go of as well. Like bad habits which may have accumulated during the year – maybe working late, skipping self-care, or avoiding honest conversations? And perhaps letting go of old stories that no longer serve us, like thinking we’re not good enough, not ready or not the kind of person who does that kind of role.
What gifts would you like from next year?
Set yourself up for future gifts by completing the sentence: ‘2023 will be a great year if…’. When you think about your response, consider not only what you hope you’ll have done during the year, but also what sort of person you’ll have become. How do you want to be in ’23? Sometimes it helps to explore a ‘Wheel of Life’. (Imagine a circle divided into eight segments labelled things like Health, Career, Family, Fun & Recreation – Google will bring you many examples!). Try scoring where things stand now, then consider how you’d like them to be, and decide where you’d like to begin. And don’t forget the gifts of less – what could you simplify or stop?
What are the gifts that keep on giving?
Two final gifts to suggest. They may not be particularly glamourous, but they are vital – like the notebook you’ll end up using throughout the year or the socks that are a decent colour and actually fit. The first is the gift of good habits. If you’ve considered the questions above, there are probably some candidates for fresh habits already in your mind. If you can commit, those small steps each day will add up to a big shift over the year. There’s plenty of advice around about habits: my tips are simply to frame habits positively (what you want, rather than what you’re avoiding), start ludicrously small (to build the habit rather than set yourself up to fail), and don’t skip two days in a row.
The second gift is your community. Study after study shows how valuable our social connections are to our wellbeing and growth. There are almost certainly more people than you realise who care about you and who you can turn to if you need them – supporters, encouragers, inspirers, coaches, mentors and so on. If you want to grow your community, a great place to start is by considering who else you could help – giving the gift of your time or expertise bring their own gifts in return.
I hope you’ll find some quieter time over the festive season to add the gifts of reflection to those you may receive from family and friends. If you’d like some additional thinking time in the new year, please get in touch. Happy holidays!
(Picture credit: Amy Shamblen, Unsplash)