Updated: Jan 4, 2021
"Life is divided into three terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future". ― William Wordsworth
At the beginning of a new year, most of us tend to put all our attention to the future, thinking about what could lie ahead~ what we want to accomplish, while we neglect to take the time to reflect on what we experienced over the past year.
After all, each new day presents an opportunity for change, to become a new person on a new road destined for success. However, mindful self-reflection also helps us take ownership of our past, appreciate the present, and look forward to the future.
As you eagerly move forward into the new year, I invite you to pause and reflect on the last 12 months through the lens of acceptance, not rationalize away the need for change but changing through the place of self-compassion and non-judgment... Take the time to examine your mistakes and all the things you tried that didn't work, and most importantly, ponder on the things that worked, and carry on the knowledge gained onward. While you're at it, try committing to making this year different by creating new habits that nourish and promote your goals in a direction you hope and desire. Keep that in mind, as you consider these tips and strategies for self-reflection as a tool for personal growth.
1. Take a few days to review the last year. What did you learn, both positive and negative? What mistakes did you make? What were your biggest wins?
Do you see a pattern to any of your mistakes? Can you see that many of your challenges are caused by committing the same mistakes year after year? Take the best and the worst from your past and use that information to enhance your life. Try to think back over the past year with a positive spirit. It is also essential to remember that “Failures” are simply experiments with outcomes we did not expect.
2. Find alternatives to your least effective actions. Maybe you procrastinate too much or consistently show up to work late. What are the changes you want to make in the coming year? Affirming self-talk is important as a general practice, but even more so during times of adversity and hardship. Greet your inner critic with compassion. You’re only human, and, understandably, you may have fallen short. The best you can do at this point is to pick yourself up and try again.
3. Identify those behaviors that support your success. Perhaps you made your spouse feel loved and lost 25 pounds. Those are behaviors that you might want to repeat.
4. Create new habits. Choose habits that will counteract your less-effective behaviors and ensure your positive actions occur more frequently. Here are a few examples:
Procrastination: Take immediate action when you know something needs to be done. Remind yourself of the pain procrastination has caused in the past and imagine how amazing it will feel to complete the task.
Late to work: Place your alarm on the other side of the room, so you’re forced to get out of bed. Choose your clothes the night before. Commit to leaving the house in plenty of time.
Spouse: Spend 15 minutes each day doing something nice for your spouse. Remind yourself of what you love about them.
Lost 15 lbs: Continue making healthy food choices and working out three times a week.
5. Monitor yourself. Keeping track of your progress is ultimately the best way to measure your growth. As you work on each goal, write down every step you complete, no matter how small. This will help you visualize the progress you’re making as it happens. Avoid beating yourself up over short-term setbacks. Instead, take into account your time, resources, and current circumstances create a new action plan. Remind yourself that goals are flexible and the time, circumstances, and motivation behind them continuously shift.
6. Celebrate your successes. When you apply what you’ve learned from last year, you can expect some great things to happen. Appreciate them and be proud of yourself. Recognizing and celebrating success reinforces the meaning behind all that hard work, which boosts self-esteem and motivates you to take the next step towards achieving the next goal.
When you hold yourself accountable, you gain the power to change your future. Instead of “Did I do my best?” .you can say, “I will do better next time.” Instead of “Could I have done better?” you will say, “I will do my best to make the best decision.” This kind of self-assurance helps change how you think about things and set commitments you won’t abandon by February. By doing so, you open yourself up to all that is possible in 2021 and beyond!
Netsanet Tegegn, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist in Virginia Beach who provides individualized counseling services for those who wish to create long-lasting and positive changes in their lives...