There are some years where I sit down on January 1st, notebook and pen in hand, and spend a good couple of hours reflecting on my previous rotation around the sun. I note the highlights and disappointments, acknowledge my successes and shortcomings, and use all of it to inform my vision for the coming year. I emerge feeling grounded in what’s happened, and clear on what I want to happen next. Usually there’s coffee, so this activity is paired with a sense of immense satisfaction and caffeine-induced euphoria once I’m done.
This was not one of those years.
Frankly, I can’t even remember what I did on New Years Day, or in the weeks thereafter. All the usual suspects are to blame: work, family, friends, dating, the state of the world. I have a brand new niece who’s captured my attention, naturally. My consulting gigs are shifting, so I’ve been gearing up for changes in how I spend time and earn money. I could tell you about each and every distraction I’ve encountered in the last month or so, but I’m bored just thinking about it. Suffice to say, I haven’t spent much time looking back on 2017.
But, now’s as good a time as any to pause, breathe, and take stock.
Usually when I do this kind of reflection, I have a series of guiding questions to help me really think about what’s happened. The questions vary from year to year; I’ve collected them from various writers and business owners, and I add and subtract prompts based on what resonates in the moment. This year is no different, except! I’m going to share them with you. Not just the questions, but my honest answers. Let’s do this!
Andrea, from the Creative Dream Incubator, brings us our first three questions:
What did you do in 2017 that you’re proud of?
I’m proud of leaving my part-time teaching job to pursue Alight full-time. I’m proud that I found a therapist I love, and started going to therapy regularly again. I’m proud of completing my coaching certification! I’m proud of the consulting partnerships I formed, and of the work we did together (especially an ongoing anti-racism project I’m involved in).
What are you most grateful for about 2017?
I’m grateful for the time I got to spend with my family, specifically with my younger sister and my nephew. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on my stuff in therapy. And honestly, part of me is grateful that 2017 is over – I had a tough time stomaching all that happened (and continues to happen) politically, both domestically and abroad.
How did your dreams grow in 2017?
Quitting my part-time job was a big step in the direction of growing my running-my-own-business dream, as was becoming a certified professional coach. The consulting partnerships were part of that growth, too. I got clearer on what I offer my clients, though I feel like that’s a constant process of iteration. I clocked almost 100 hours of one-on-one coaching, which is progress toward advanced certification; more important to me is the experience I gained, and the impact I made on the people I worked with.
Mark Silver of Heart of Business, shares the next prompt I’ll use:
The second step is to identify the results you saw.
What you did, and the results you saw are two different things. Often our actions only have a limited impact on the results. Don’t get me wrong, action is very important, and yet don’t confuse what you have control over versus what you don’t.
Hmm, results. Well, at the busiest point of my last year, I had four ongoing consulting partnerships. I didn’t have as many coaching clients, since I was putting most of my energy towards consulting. That’s going to change this year. I also offered a handful of different trainings based on expertise from my previous career working with young people; I enjoyed being able to share what I’ve learned with those who are newer to the field. I spent a lot of time working alone, which I didn’t like, though I did experiment with different co-working strategies. I haven’t landed on one I love, but it’s important enough to me, as a die-hard extrovert, to find something that works so I don’t lose my goddamn mind. I continued doing formal anti-racist work with white people, in the context of a consulting engagement, some one-on-one coaching, and facilitating a workshop. I want to do more of this in the coming year, too.
Julie Wolk, a coach who helps people understand how the principles of the natural world can inform their businesses, provides a clarifying prompt:
Write down at least three things that didn’t go so well last year in your business. They might have been things that didn’t go as planned, stuff you wish you’d done, or downright disasters. They may also be habits, patterns, or ongoing challenges.
Next to each item above, write down what you learned from this challenge.
- A consulting engagement ended abruptly.
- What I learned: Make sure I’m crystal clear on where the money’s coming from, and that that information is written into my contract.
- I didn’t get invited to apply for the Soros Equality Fellowship.
- What I learned: Writing a letter of inquiry helped me clarify the change I want to make, and the methods I want to use to make that change.
- I struggled to maintain regular work hours for myself.
- What I learned: Though I say I don’t like structure, I really need it. I’ve been holding stronger boundaries around my time in the last few weeks, and I’ve felt noticeably relieved, not to mention more focused and productive.
Jennifer Hofmann, who writes a weekly political action list for Americans of Conscience, offers two questions to help me look forward:
What emotion(s) are you feeling in this moment?
I’m actually feeling really proud of all I accomplished last year. I spent a good chunk of time reviewing my calendar (because pretty much everything I did is documented there), and I was surprised to see how many things I did in 2017 (coaching, consulting, training, leading retreats, writing curriculum, facilitating workshops, etc.). This makes me want to take stock of my accomplishments more regularly (maybe monthly?).
What is your sincerest hope for the new year?
I hope for even more clarity this year: clarity on what I’m offering potential clients, clarity on how to best spend my time, and clarity on the boundaries between my work life and non-work life. I hope to make a significant impact on dismantling systems of oppression (namely, racism) with my white clients, both in one-on-one coaching and consulting settings.
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My next sincerest wish is that these reflection questions were helpful to you! How did you reflect on 2017? What questions to do you ask, to understand where you’ve been and where you’re going?