Self-reflection is a key part of setting and achieving personal goals. This very important step in your journey to living purposefully will help you recognize what went well in your past and what you can improve upon in your future.
In the previous article about “Taking Action” on your life goals, I listed some questions and tools that you could consider to help you prepare for and draft your own personal action plan.
In this article, I will explain the importance of reflecting on your progress as you pursue your goals. We often think that once we set a goal and achieve it, we are done. This could be further from the truth. I want to challenge you now to think beyond just setting and achieving a goal.
It is an empowering experience for all of us when we reach our goals. Think about the pride and accomplishment someone feels when they lose the weight, quit smoking, save enough money to take their dream vacation, go back to school, find a career they really enjoy or discover a new hobby. It is the journey of achieving these goals that makes them worthwhile. Why? Because you take away more than just an achievement. Believe it or not, you are also taking away new experiences, new feelings, new thoughts and new skills. These are called “lessons learned” and they are sometimes as, if not more, important than achieving the goal itself.
It is in these lessons that we grow as human beings. We become better people, better parents, better friends, better mentors, better leaders, better coaches, better spouses, better for ourselves. These lessons are also uniquely ours. We earned them and we own them. Nobody can take that away from you and now that you’re on the journey of pursuing and achieving your goals, these lessons will serve to bring you more strength, confidence, skill, understanding and pride as you push yourself to go further. Life itself is a process of growing and learning each and every day. I want to help you find ways to slow down and reflect on what you’ve accomplished and how you can improve even more the next time.
In the very first article of this series, you undertook an exercise in self-reflection. You may have felt at ease or uncomfortable doing this exercise but in the end you did it. That’s the first step. Now that you’ve found it within yourself to get started, you’re well on your way to continued and perhaps even deeper self-reflection.
Consider this one of the most important steps in self-improvement.
You can’t improve until you have an understanding of what went well and what can be improved upon the next time. To do self-reflection, you can use any of the tools or ideas found in this series of articles, or find another way that works best for you. My suggestion as you try this for the first time, is to use the same notebook or software you’ve been using all along throughout these articles. The same one you used to reflect on your passions and set your goals. That way, your ideas and thoughts are together.
To get started, I recommend you wait until you’ve completed the step in the previous article where you’ve made your action plan and have begun to pursue one or more of your goals. This means you’re already in the “do” phase of a goal and not still in the “plan” phase. You need to get started on a goal in order to reflect on what went well, what challenges you’ve faced and what can be improved upon next time. So if you’re already on your way to achieving one or more of your goals, you are ready to reflect on your progress.
Choose one of the goals you have started. Next, think about or write down some answers to the following:
- List three things that you feel have gone well
- List three things that you feel were the most challenging and could be improved upon
- List three things you will do to make those improvements (what will you do by when?)
From these lists, you are able to critically examine how you’ve progressed with your goals. I would recommend, because this is a self-reflection, to first do this exercise on your own using your own experiences. If you wish to consult friends, family or others who may have helped you along the way, that’s your choice. In some instances, feedback can be helpful, especially if those people have acted as mentors for you. In other words, if they have some prior knowledge and experience with helping you achieve this goal, their feedback may be very valuable. But that’s your decision to make whether you wish to consult with them.
Turning Reflection Into Action
Once you feel that you have given yourself an opportunity to stop and reflect, you’re now ready to keep going. Item #3 above is your way to take those improvements and put them into action. If your goal, for example, is to cut out refined sugars from your diet, now’s the time when you can reflect on where you’ve done well, where you feel you slipped, and what you’re going to do to make it better next time. Maybe you found yourself craving cookies and cakes that your family baked but you were able to curb those cravings with healthier choices. This is something you may want to list as “going well”. If you skipped breakfast one day and got so hungry that you ate a few donuts in the office that same morning, you may list that as something you could improve upon. As for taking action on this improvement, you could set a goal for yourself to make sure you don’t skip breakfast, therefore you won’t be hungry and tempted to eat sweets.
All in all, it’s important to remember that you are on a journey.
You will make mistakes and that is perfectly OK and normal. Don’t beat yourself up for that. If you chose to buy a pair of shoes instead of putting money away in your savings account for your down payment, use this time to reflect on that. Why did you make that decision? What alternatives did you have? Was it necessary? Did it negatively affect your goal in the end? What will you do differently next time? How did you learn from that?
Summary & Next Steps
Just remember, as long as you are committing yourself to your goals, giving yourself realistic timelines, finding a way to stay organized and using self-reflection as a way to review your progress, you are making a positive change in your life. Some people find that self-reflection is a great motivating factor for them. Others may need feedback from those who they know and trust will provide valuable, constructive advice. Whichever you choose, I urge you not to skip this very important step. Once you try it, you’ll see how much of a difference self-reflection can make in your life.
As I wrap up this series of articles on finding your passion, setting goals, taking action and reflecting, I want to thank you for visiting, reading and hopefully participating in some of these exercises. I hope that you will be inspired, gain confidence and become motivated to begin making positive changes in your own life.
This blog, in fact, was a goal of my own. In pursuing this goal and many others, I’ve used these steps and tools along the way and have found them very useful. I hope you do too.
Together, I believe we can do better. Better for ourselves, our relationships, our health, our children and our planet.
Get in Touch
I would love to hear from you. I hope to use your feedback as part of my own reflection on the progress of this blog. I would love to know what you think, if and how you are using these tools, what you think of the stories I have shared about how others are pursuing their goals and welcome any suggestions you have. I hope you will visit often, follow these stories on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or subscribe via RSS feed or email. I hope to add a few new stories each month about everyday people who are living their goals.
Thank you and best of luck to you as you set goals, take action and live purposefully.