|In this New Year lots of us will focus on a bunch of things we want to change, many of them the same things we said the year before. What typically happens is we get discouraged early by our lack of commitment, progress or both and give up until next January. There’s a key step most of us either avoid or breeze through without really exploring. In my growth over the years, it’s been this key that has made all the difference. Read on to discover more.|
|Personal Reflection is the KEY to personal growth!|
|If we don’t stop and take the time necessary to truly reflect we could end up setting goals, making commitments and rearranging priorities around the wrong things. Or worse yet, we could deal with symptoms to our issues but never really deal with THE issue which will lead to greater frustration. So how do you and I learn to reflect well?|
1. Take a block of TIME. You will need to prioritize this, I typically like about 3 hours for this exercise. Leave your device on silent or do not disturb and fight your own temptation to look at it, whatever it is, it can wait! If you write a journal or have any work you’ve done on your personal life over the past year, bring that along with you, it could be an important tool, even if just to bring some encouragement to the process.
2. Start by ENVISIONING. Write a few sentences of how you would like to describe yourself a year from now. What is your character like? Are there any changes to your physical appearance? Are there new relationships developed? Are there books you’ve read this new year or experiences you had. What is your relationship with God like? Write about these things in the past/present tense (as if you’ve already done them or changed what needed to be changed). I found the envision stage provides the necessary motivation to push through the challenges. The more “attractive” this person is to you, the more excited you’ll be to create this new reality.
3. THINK DEEPLY about the things that caused you the most frustration this past year. Often we are hard on ourselves, but there’s a reason when that particular thing happened or came out that you were impacted relationally. Sometimes that thing is something you can change (with God’s help), sometimes it’s your reaction and endurance to those situations that you can change. But typically the things that raised negative emotions for us this past year are things we can learn from and put in place necessary changes.
4. CONSIDER JESUS. Who did God make you to be? What parts of you right now are out of alignment with what God has for you? What attribute of a follower of Jesus do you want to become stronger in or known for? Is there a spiritual discipline you want to grow in? Is there a ministry or group you want to engage with that will stretch you spiritually? Recording all these thoughts will help as we move to the decision part of our reflection.
5. CONSIDER RELATIONSHIPS. Some of this likely already came out in some of your former work, but relationships have such power in our lives that we need to make sure we are examining them fully. It may be that there is someone you need to let in a little deeper this next year and share some of your struggles, pain or dreams with. It may that someone irritates you or the relationship is strained right now, a good examination of your own part in the situations could be fertile ground some good growth on your part. Make sure you are especially examining the relationships that are closest to you, in most cases they can get better, so record your findings from the examination and reflection you do.
6. RECOGNIZE HISTORY. Where were you hoping to be by now? Where are are short from where you wanted to be? What has been an ongoing pattern that is not likely to be changed without some outside help? Where did you grow this past year that is worth celebrating? What would you like to keep doing that you’ve been doing? What new goals might take this to a whole new level?
7. Finally, SET SOME GOALS. Now review the work you’ve done in the previous 6 steps. I would highly recommend you not bring ALL of it forward. You’re likely to not be able to do all that you would hope, so prioritize from your findings what you think will be most beneficial.
What are 2-3 things that you’d really regret if you didn’t make progress on this next year? Once you have those 2-3 things, start setting some goal with a timeline and measurements, ie. By March I will have had 2 conversations with this person, we will have discussed these 2 issues. or By next month I will write on my calendar a plan for doing this critical activity, I will then follow through on my scheduled events. While you may be able to write some results in your goals, In a lot of the things you may not have control over the outcome but you can control your activity, so often even in the relational stuff, I like to set a goal of having the conversations, although I don’t know how the person will respond and therefore can only control my part in that situation. If you make your goals dependent on another person’s response, you’ll often be discouraged or frustrated when things don’t happen in the ways you’d like.
This is not the end-all be-all for reflection and making growth plans, but I’m guessing it’s probably a lot more than most of us have done in the past. I guarantee you it will take you further than you’ve been before!