It’s mid-January. If you are anything like me, you gave up on New Year’s resolutions a few years ago. I prefer to hit the gym about two days before swimsuit season when it seems absolutely necessary. I’m also highly aware that on the first day of the year I have no idea what challenges are coming my way. So this year I collected my fanciest pens and cracked open a well-worn notebook to do some reflective work in lieu of setting resolutions—and it’s not too late for you.

2017 brought many challenges, including the launch of my small business, a career change, moving twice, and a myriad of everyday crises that simply come with being human. Feeling proud for simply making it through 2017 in one piece I decided to start out the new year by taking a deep breath. I discovered that taking this time for reflection was exactly what I needed, and now a practice feels essential in order to use my past experiences as a platform for growth in the upcoming year.

John Dewy, a renowned American psychologist, said that we do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.

If what he said is true, then just getting out there and taking risks in my career isn’t enough. I need time to process.

I started the process by thinking about my mistakes, victories, challenges, the mundane, and came up with a list of lessons I learned. Once I identified where I’d grown I felt proud of how I’d stretched myself and will confidently test these ideas in 2018. Even this week I was discussing an issue with a colleague when I heard myself sharing with him something I’d discovered from my reflection and how it was dictating a present decision. Making these discoveries is exciting! Outlining where I’d been and how these experiences changed my thinking is my new way to ensure growth in the year to come. As students and professionals, we strive to attain a growth mindset and see its value in advancing our careers, yet we often struggle in articulating our milestones. Here are some of the tools I used to ignite my reflective practice, and I encourage you to take the time to reflect on your own and be amazed at what you accomplished.

Toolbox:

  • What caused me the most anger, anxiety, shame this year and what can I learn about myself from these experiences?
  • How did the people around me influence my thoughts and behavior? What did I learn from them, positive or negative?
  • What were my highs and lows for the year? Are there specific words that can represent what I’ve experienced this year?
  • What routines or patterns did I practice this year and how did these patterns influence my year as a whole?
  • What were my investments like this year? When reflecting on who received my time, money, and attention in 2017 would I make these same investments again?
  • Where can I apply some of the lessons I learned this year to see growth in my career?