The Gift of Reflection

Jan 1, 2019

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As written for Fargo, INC

Happy New Year 2019! 

As we ring in the excitement of this new year, I can’t help but revel in the joys of the holiday season. There were families, friends and feasts.  Laughter, memories and traditions.  But we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that our society has spent the past couple months in serious gift giving-mode and even gift giving-overload!  When used in a meaningful way, gifts show our love and appreciation for others.  I hope that you also found time to give yourself and your business a meaningful gift…

During all that hustle and bustle, the end of the year also brings time for reflection.  Thinking about the past year – the ups and downs, goods and bads, pondering of how things could have been different and acknowledging the things that were good.  There is no better gift to your business than taking time to reflect on the past year.  It doesn’t require the exchange of money, pretty gift wrap or a fancy bow.  But what it offers are lessons and wisdom – of which both are priceless.

As you take time to reflect on the past year, take time to look back at your plans and financials, your results and the things that remain undone.  Then do a deep dive into the key things and small things that made the year what it was.  Here’s a few questions to kick off your thinking:

  1. What went well in 2018? What was the impact of those things?  Do you want to do them again in 2019?  Is there a way to make them even better?
  2. What did not go well last year? Why didn’t it work?  Was it implemented the way that you had planned?  Is it still something that is important to your business this year?  How can you modify or correct the situations for the better this year?
  3. Did you achieve your plan & goals for the year? If so, what key things allowed you to do that?  If not, why?  Are those plans & goals the same for this year?  Or do they need to be adjusted?
  4. What changed during the year in your industry, community, market, etc. that was unexpected? How did you handle it?  What will the impact be for this year?
  5. What did you accomplish that you did not expect would happen during the year?
  6. If you could re-do all of 2018, what would you do differently? Why?
  7. What are the most important lessons that you learned last year? Why are they important?  How will the impact the business going forward?

What you will get as you sit with these thoughts and answers is wisdom.  According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definition of wisdom includes: “1a) ability to discern inner qualities and relationships: INSIGHT, 1b) good sense: JUDGEMENT, 1c) generally accepted belief, 1d) accumulated philosophical or scientific learning:  KNOWLEDGE, and 2) a wise attitude, belief or course of action.” 

So, by the action of reflecting, you will find INSIGHT + JUDGEMENT + KNOWLEDGE which = wisdom.  Then when you use what you have learned, your decisions and actions should become more calculated and solid based on your experiences. 

What would be incredibly interesting would be if you were to document your reflections every year.  Imagine the power of going back and re-reading these thoughts and observations years down the road.  There will be things that you forgot about, but then there will be those lessons that live with you forever and are constantly coming up in new ways.  Capturing these thoughts for future reference will be a valuable tool in understanding how far you have come, serve as a reminder of challenges and rewards of years gone by, and likely provide new motivations or ideas as well.

The final question that I will leave you with, is one to consider reflecting on daily, not just at the end of each year.  There is a poem called “At Days End” originally attributed to John Hall that is a series of thoughtful questions and reflections.  If you have never heard of it, I encourage you to look up and read the entire thing.  It is quite thought provoking.  The very last sentence of this poem reads as follows:

“As you close your eyes in slumber, do you think that you will say, you have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today?” 

...Did you? 

If this isn’t a huge gift to your business and ultimately yourself, then I’m not sure what is. 

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