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Reflection

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- The end of the year marks a threshold and invites a pause for reflection. It’s a great time to take stock of the year behind and look ahead.

Each December, I write and reflect on four questions for this very purpose.

Whether you are in a leadership role, an aspiring leader, or just want to be your best in work and life, the habit of reflection can build self-awareness, efficacy and resilience. If done correctly, it can help you establish and achieve more meaningful goals.

As we’ve already entered the New Year, I encourage you take the take the time with these questions over several sittings. Let your thoughts percolate and stay with the questions over the next few weeks.

First, what went well in 2018? This question is a keeper. Twelve months have gone by – Most likely too fast. How did it go? Acknowledge all that worked well: The goals you achieved and the events and circumstances you feel good about. Your first take on this will likely not capture enough of the good. Your brain is built to default to remembering more of the negative. The positives –albeit nice in the moment – tend to be more fleeting in memory. So be intentional in remembering more of the good. This will fuel you and likely surprise you. Perhaps enough to make your year better than you first thought.

Second, who needs to be acknowledged? After acknowledging what went well, think about the people who played a part. Let them know. Consider all the contexts in your life (personal, professional, volunteer, etc.). Expressing gratitude will not only make the receiver feel good, it will make you joyful as well. It's a great gift.

Third, how did you grow this past year? If you are having trouble answering this question then you aren't creating enough stretch goals for yourself. Leaders, at any level, must continually learn, evolve and grow. By the end of the year, you should be a better version of yourself in some way. Maybe smarter, more informed or more skilled in some areas? Stagnation is not a good thing for personal and professional well-being.

Fourth, what’s not working? Wait a minute! What happened to all that positivity from those earlier questions? This question is as important, but make sure you reflect without judgment. Resist the whine-fest and instead just take an honest look to acknowledge what isn't working any more. Perhaps a situation that was fine or great for a long while isn't now. Times and conditions change – have you changed too? What are you putting up with? What are you settling for? Where are you playing too small? Where are your values being compromised? This is a tough question, but if you are honest with yourself, this could reveal insights leading to more meaningful goal-setting for the year ahead.

Since 2018 is already passed our rear-view mirror, what thresholds do you want to attack? What kind of leader, peer, friend and partner do you want to be?

Now it's time to think about your goals, intentions and possibilities for 2019. Write your goals down and make them specific and concrete. Perhaps, something in this reflection has spurred you to a new goal that's now ready to be declared.

What will be your 2019’s reflection notes capture?