Looking Back to Move Forward

Review: A Time for Reflection and Self-Improvement

On Your Mark, Get Set, Review!

Does this sound familiar? It’s February already and as we reflect on the progress of our goal-setting to date, we find ourselves taking stock of year-long activity, what worked well, what didn’t, and what could have been done better. We get a bit anxious about the year ahead, excitement builds with new beginnings in mind, and we might even make a few promises that, with the best of intentions, we struggle to keep later. To avoid the rat race, let’s adopt a few good habits and hold ourselves accountable to make them stick so we can see some positive results.

Reflect on the goals you set last year. How did you do? Did you set realistic objectives to help you evolve? Human beings need to mature physically, but it’s equally important to grow in other ways. Looking after our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development can help us become more fulfilled individuals and lead to higher levels of confidence, competence, and even new professional opportunities. As you look ahead to the new year, think of taking a course to improve your skills, learning a new language, or starting a new hobby. Whatever you do, reflection means being introspective about your journey. Going forward, start documenting your progress through journaling, it will help you reflect upon your successes and failures, as well as provide an opportunity to learn and grow.

Evaluate your development early on and on a regular basis by setting well-defined milestones. As you document your progress, you’ll find it easier to see where you struggled, where you excelled and where there is room for improvement. Identify a trusted mentor who can provide clear and transparent feedback, and make a point of listening and following their guidance so that you can course-correct when you get off track.

Validate your new habits and experiences. As you continue the journey of reflecting, evaluating and applying feedback, you’ll get better at knowing what works. There are many ways to benefit from informal learning opportunities like taking a new course on Lynda.com, listening to a TED talk or learning from a talented YouTuber who has done it before you. Don’t be afraid of connecting with these experts, you’ll find that networking and building your learning community is vital to validating what works in the industry outside of your own environment and can help you bring trusted innovation to your workplace.

Inspire others by igniting a spark for knowledge by setting aside dedicated learning time on a weekly basis, both at work and in your private life. Once you start down this path of ongoing introspection, you’ll discover your desire to grow and acquire new skills and perspectives. Recently, I read an article that underscores the importance of setting aside at least 5 hours a week, no matter how busy we get, even the busiest personalities have found the time to appreciate this hidden treasure. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. As you learn something new, challenge yourself on adapting it to improve your current processes, welcome the change it heralds as an opportunity to find creative ways to do old things. And that takes us to our next vital step.

Educate others by sharing your knowledge. There is little value to learning something new and hoarding it to ourselves. Too many of us fear sharing our proprietary ideas lest others take credit. Rather, we should seize the opportunity to identify our own niche of expertise, the unique ideas that could bring value to others, and help usher in change and progress. As an old Arabic saying puts it, “knowledge not shared with others is like a rock in a closed fist, you don’t know if it is a diamond or coal until you disclose it to others.” As you learn something new, think of writing a brief article or recording a YouTube video to communicate your ideas and the value-add to your prospective audience. Sharing the knowledge will not only help you validate what you learned, but will also provide you with a wider network of feedback. And if you can’t create your own medium of sharing, curate some content, the objective is to identify and communicate new learning opportunities to your community.

Finally, widen your scope and area of influence. As you learn through reflecting on your own experiences, evaluating your progress, and validating your new knowledge, you start to influence others and inspire them to share your enthusiasm for continuous learning. Together, you start identifying the values that build this culture of ongoing improvement, growth and innovation. In turn, you’ll find that you have become a more confident and competent member of a qualified and skilled team in a market that is quickly identifying knowledge as “the new money…similar to money, knowledge often serves as a medium of exchange and store of value.”

Gearing Up for 2019

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Ali ibn Abi Taleb

Use the following strategy to set yourself up for success in the new year:

  1. Create a table of five columns.
  2. In the first column, make a list of the goals that you identified at the start of 2017. If you did not identify any goals, make a list of the major activities that you were involved in.
  3. In the second column, rank the goals/activity by order of importance based on what you knew at the start of 2017.
  4. In the third column, reassess the ranking based on what you now know. Did your priorities shift? If so, can you identify the reason?
  5. In the fourth column, note your sense of accomplishment, what the goal/activity helped you achieve? Here, list areas of improvement.
  6. Finally, in the fifth column, set your 2018 goals by further building on your 2017 accomplishments.

As you set these goals using the SMART Goals approach, try to think of the M in terms of your own motivation and what will keep you on track and pumped to achieve your objectives. And remember, success is a journey, not a destination.

2017 Goal/ActivityRanking at start 2017Ranking at end of 2018Assessment2018 Goal
Set 1 hour aside for training every week24Couldn’t fit it in every week, but I learned better time management skillsSchedule the time in my calendar, document my progress, share what I learned


Get Set, Get SMART, Go!

Now that you understand how you can more effectively review your progress, you are ready to look forward to a new year. Embracing and adapting new knowledge will help you find more creative ways to grow, and when you can set goals that are specific and trackable, you can motivate yourself to achieve them more realistically. Finally, visualize what your goals look like when achieved by seeing the big picture from the summit. You will be able to actualize your objectives with more enthusiasm and apply them to make a difference not only in your life, but in the lives other others as well.

Finally, some of us might be contemplating learning a new skill today and going back to school. Whether you are an experienced learner or a new student, this can be daunting. Our partner at GroomandStyle.com have put together an essential guide based on feedback from over 50+ professional career counselors and successful business owners who were asked to share some ideas on how college grads can most effectively set life goals that will help them succeed in their careers and personal lives. You can find this gem with indispensable tips right here.

Transitioning from College to Career: A Guide for New Grads/

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