Reflection is good for the soul. Personal reflection is even better if you act on it.
You may not be an “end of the year – take a two-day retreat in the mountains” kind of person. I’m not either. I can think through and process these questions in the time it would have taken me to drive there and back. Hey, I’m all for those who love a mountain retreat, but I’m not wired to be in that much silence for that long. I’d end up trying to make friends with a bear or something.
If quiet reflection is not motivating for you, try it verbally with your spouse or a close friend. The key is to make it enjoyable, not a chore.
Regardless of your wiring, personality or how much time you have for this, investing quality think time to process 2018 will position you for a substantially better 2019.
There are three keys to getting the most out of this process:
Be honest with yourself. If you are courageous, ask a close and trusted friend to “test” your reflections. But, short of that, being authentic with yourself is essential. Don’t beat yourself up, but tell yourself the truth.
The best disposition for this reflection is gratitude. If you begin by writing a quick list about all that you are thankful for specifically in 2018, the process will be more encouraging and productive.
Do something. That’s the bottom line. Change. How do you want to be different? Live differently? Live better? You get to choose. My advice is not to make a list too long. That can be overwhelming. If you do make a long list, then prioritize it and start with a short list of the most important things first.
Ask yourself 10 personal questions:
1) Did you make a new friend?
Simple enough, right? Not always. Your life is busy, it’s full and it’s difficult to find time to do all that you are currently responsible for. Where would you find time for a new friend? Yet one of the most valuable, enjoyable, growth-oriented and life-giving things is found in meeting new people and making new friends.
2) Did you spend less than you made?
I hope you did not endure a financial hardship this year that made this one impossible. If so, I pray 2019 is a fresh new start for you. Otherwise, we know the merit of this question and the wisdom of spending less than you make. The 10-10-80 method is still a great plan. Save 10 percent, give 10 percent and live on 80 percent.
3) Did you pray in a way that your heart is full?
This might be a tough question. But to start, I don’t mean it quantitatively. It’s not about how much you prayed (though that can matter), but the results of your prayers. Did you pray in a way that you saw God move? Did your prayers draw you closer to God’s heart? Did you sense the power of the Holy Spirit at work?
4) Did you take good care of your body?
Don’t stop reading now. I know this one may feel extra personal, but it’s just for you to consider. As someone who ate homemade chocolate chip cookies every night for some 30 years, I have my struggles here! But it’s possible to eat smart and exercise regularly. Don’t pick a hardcore fad. Start simple. Celebrate your success (not with a cookie). And keep going. If you are beginning, even a brisk walk 3-5 times a week can be life changing.
5) Did you learn something new and specific about leadership?
It’s possible to lead for an entire year, work hard, read books and listen to podcasts and not learn or practice something new as a leader. So, naming what you learned and in what specific way you are a better leader is vitally important.
6) Did you love your family in a way they feel it?
It doesn’t matter if you are a thinking or feeling based person (Myers-Briggs test) or if you are an introvert or extrovert, loving people in a way they receive it and feel it matters. I think the simple love language guide that Gary Chapman wrote years ago is still a great tool. The five are:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
Do you know which one matches those you love the most?
7) Did you forgive someone who hurt you?
As a pastor, I’m very aware of the hurts that people carry. I hear the stories and understand how hard it can be to forgive. And leaders are by no means exempt from this kind of pain. Nonetheless, the burden from lack of forgiveness is greater than the burden to find the grace to forgive genuinely. You may not be able to forgive fully in an instant, but you can start the process by acknowledging intent and desire to forgive. If your heart is genuine, God will help you get there.
8) Did you finish that one big project?
This is one of the questions that I don’t have the response I would like. I had several big projects around the house I wanted to complete this year but did not finish them. I didn’t even start a couple of them! I’m going after 2-3 in 2019 with a commitment to completion. How about you?
9) Did you focus on positive and forward-moving thoughts?
One of the most healthy and productive disciplines is staying focused on positive, pure and productive thoughts. It’s not as easy as it may seem. From difficult times, in general, to the fact that the enemy wants to cloud your mind with negative, self-defeating and sinful thoughts, it takes disciplined focus to remain consistently positive.
10) Did you hear God speak clearly to you?
We touched on this in question no. 5, but where that one focused on prayer, this one centers on you hearing the voice of God. What was the most impacting thing you heard God say to you in 2018? What is the last thing you heard God say to you this year? How did it change you? Listening is core to this practice, followed by joyful obedience.
I hope these practical and personal questions help you have a fantastic 2019!