New Year is the time when many resolutions are made. It is usually a list of things that one deeply desires to accomplish, but hasn’t been able to do so in the past. It is not unusual to have physical, financial and work-life balance goals. The gyms for sure make most money out of this annual ritual.
I personally believe that having some new year resolutions are good. They give a focus and help shape us in ways that we desire. However, one of my learnings this year has been that we jump into making resolutions without performing an important activity, of “reflection”. By “reflection” I mean, observing the past, understanding the patterns and forming an opinion that emerges out of a mindful process. It sounds philosophical and complicated as we are not taught how to do this in our academic or professional lives.
Doing a “debrief” after an event or a “retrospect” after a project completion is something that most of us learnt to do while working. But the focus of these is usually to understand what went well and what didn’t. The intent in these exercises is to ensure the things that failed are fixed the next time around. Reflection though is much deeper than this. The intent of reflection is to be aware of the total experience and how it has shaped our life. I learnt this from the process of doing a reflection after every meeting we facilitate at nu-i. I believe the same can be applied to our year-end reflection too. Here I present a method to help us reflect and practice it mindfully.
1. Look at the past as a whole:
The starting point of “reflection” is to look at the whole of the past. This could be the year, the project, the event etc depending on what you are reflecting on. The key here is to be non-judgmental about the good or bad things, and to merely list down the key incidents. This helps refresh the whole memory rather than be coloured by one good or bad incident. Recall happenings, places, people, events, movies, foods, smells, sounds, animals, books, flowers, birds, world events, news etc., that you experienced through the year. Having all the data helps the mind to process the next things better. The human mind is incredible at remembering only some things, pushing oneself to go beyond these helps understand some small ones that had larger impact.
2. Identify the emotions:
Next step is to look at the past through the lens of the emotions they evoked. What felt joyful, what made one proud, what were some frustrating or deeply saddening ones, what were some scary experiences and what were some enjoyable moments. When was the mood high or low. When one felt energized and top of the world. Acknowledging the emotions that the actions evoked, helps one get a deeper insight into oneself. It helps one identify the small actions that had the deepest emotional impact.
While this is true for an individual, it is also true about the team. When you seek to understand the emotions the team went through during the course of an event or a project, it helps you gain insights into the team’s working. It also helps the team come together at a deeper level.
3. Harvest the learnings:
Looking back at the learnings one had, the wisdom gained, the new knowledge acquired, the efforts taken etc., are key to helping one articulate the resolution. The lessons learnt could be from good and bad experiences. These shape us. Also identify mind shifts, where and when there was a shift in thinking. When did one have a breakthrough in thinking. What has changed and why. In our project retrospect and event debriefs we focus mostly on what went well and didn’t go well. Then we jump to what we must do differently next time. Identifying how one has changed, where the thinking has shifted, is an essential part of growing; both as individuals and teams we need to acknowledge how we are evolving.
4. Act for the future:
Once you have looked at the past in its entirety, without being coloured by one or two incidents, it becomes effective to decide the focus for the future. These could go into four buckets. In the first one, think of all the things that went well or had the most positive impact and hence you want to do more of those. In the second, add things that went poorly or the habits that you built over the time that you want to do less of. Then there are things that you may want to stop entirely, the ones that go into the third bucket- poor habits, practices and interactions that you want to rid of yourself. The fourth has all the new things- what you want to learn, habits you want to inculcate, people you want to meet, experiences you want to have etc.
I have in the past jumped to resolutions. This year, I intend to do some quiet reflection, look at the whole before choosing what I want to do next. I am going to pause and be mindful of what I want to be and want to have. I want to paint the better version of myself that I want for next year. I have realized that it is only when we look at the past with detachment that we are ready for our future with clarity.