Get ahead between years by reflection – a practical guide

As the year is coming to an end it is a good opportunity to take some time to reflect. In this article you will find inspiration on how to use your reflection time well.

Before starting to reflect set aside some undistracted time. Spend this time with a long walk or in a peaceful place in the house or your favourite cafè. Helpful can be to take a piece of paper and a pen. If you choose walking, make sure that you have a time afterwards to take notes of your thoughts.

Very often when we want to get into moments of reflection, our mind is still spinning. Thousand thoughts of to dos are coming up. In order to calm that storm in your head write all important to dos on a piece of paper – in order to solve it later. Tell your brain that it has been taken care of and it won’t be forgotten. But for now, you want to concentrate on the reflection. Start inhaling and exhaling slowly. Use your full lung capacity to fill yourself with fresh air – and let go of all worries while exhaling.

Depending on how experienced you are with reflection times, this process of letting go of unnecessary thoughts can take a while. Walk through it. The results coming from a good reflection session are amazing.

When you are ready, walk through the questions of the three sections. At best, you already take notes while you are thinking. It reduces your thought speed leading to deeper understanding and new insights. For sure you can also just think about them without writing. You don’t need to take all questions. Rather take one and really think and reflect.

The Past

  • What happened the last year?
  • What were your highlights?
  • What/Whom did you lose?
  • What/whom did you win?
  • What memory do you want to keep?
  • What are you thankful for?
  • What will you leave in the past?

The Present

  • How are you feeling?
  • Is anything hurting?
  • Whom in your environment do you love?
  • Are you happy?

The Future

  • How do you want to be feeling?
  • What are the problems you want to solve?
  • Who do you want to have with you?
  • What are your life goals?
  • What makes you happy and satisfied?

Usually you will gain clarity during the answering of these questions. If you hit any topic that cannot be ‘solved’ by this one reflection, write down all questions and feelings that are running through your mind. Sometimes topics get started by a reflection but need more time to be cleared. Don’t push the topic away. Rather hold it in your mind and wait for clarity to come. Some stuff needs time.

If you want to intensify this reflection, take a coach. With a coach you will start with one of those questions and then go deeper. A good coach will stretch you by asking thought-provoking questions and providing observations. You will get new insights and gain clarity on what to do next.

Give and it will be given to you – the Paradox of Gratitude

Surprisingly a thankful heart benefits the thankful person the most. Although people will be smiling and happy when you express your gratitude towards them, you will be feeling this warm and comfy emotion of happiness, too. It is you who feels the joy and calmness resulting from a heart of gratitude.

I am always astonished of these paradoxes of life. Though I am giving, I don’t lose anything. Even more – I am winning. Winning friends, good relationships and a heart that is at peace.

Give, and it will be given to you.

Jesus [Luke 6, 38a | The Bible]

This principle can even be found in the bible. It seems to be one of these deep truths in life that it true for everyone regardless of age, culture and gender. The effect of expressing gratitude is deeply rooted within us. When we are truly thankful, it is us profiting the most from that state of heart.

As we are heading into the christmas season, it is a good moment to pause and reflect on what you are thankful for. Interestingly the effect of gratitude is only working, when thankfulness is expressed unconditionally. It’s when thanks is given freely, without expecting anything in return, that the true power of happiness and inner peace is released.

Having that in mind: Whom do you want to say “thank you”? Which people in your life – family, friends, colleagues, clients – need to hear that you are thankful for their support, help, work or just being there?

Get practical and write a WhatsApp or christmas card. You will be surprised how happy people will be hearing an honest ‘thank you’.

If you have thanked people in your life, reflect for what you are thankful for in your life. Say thanks to the universe, God or whoever you attribute your blessings to. Health, a home, your job and your family are only partially in your hands and when you see blessing in your life, it’s a good moment to be thankful.

Merry Christmas.

A pinch of energy

Use your finest memory to regain strength during the day and relax even under pressure. Get mentally strong to conquer your toughest days.

English chitchat mixes with french laughter while the chinese lady next to me is writing text messages in her beautiful font. I am in the middle of Germany and yet surrounded by the world. This is a moment I cherish – being just another art piece in this international patchwork. I am smiling when I think back at that moment – and instantly I am relaxing. Suddenly, life seems brighter and better.

Having these moments of relaxation during the day is important. It strengthens your resilience and energy level during the day. And it is that energy, that you need to be at your best. Being inwardly strong so you can cope with failure easier, smile at the client even under pressure and handle challenging tasks smoothly.

The technique that is used in the first paragraph is called “visualization” or sometimes referred to as “inner balcony”. You use this technique by recalling your favourite places, situations and people. While thinking of that very moment, your brain experiences the same emotions (or lets say: dopamine-rush) as you experienced when you were in that moment. Your brain doesn’t care whether it is actual happening or if you run through a memory – it will react. And you will get the relaxation, happiness and stress-detachment you need.

What is your favourite memory to indulge in?

The cycle of success

Add more components of what you love doing in your workday and your job will become easier. With you feeling lighter and more joyful, your clients and colleagues will be touched, too. This is how you start a positive cycle of success…

“For my job I like getting up in the morning”, my friend smiles. Four years ago he quit his studies. Low motivation and missing focus led to bad grades and slowly to the conviction that he was on the wrong path. Still, giving up on a lifestyle that is socially accepted and getting on a perceived lower track isn’t easy on the ego. Today he is happy with his daily tasks. Consequently, his joy and power transfers on his clients and colleagues, leading to success in business which nourishes the positive feelings towards the job. “When you love what you do, success is inevitable”, he says with a broad smile.

When you love what you do, success is inevitable

Experience

Is your cycle of “I love my job and my job loves me” working?

What is happening for you when reading this question? Do you even believe that there is a job constellation for you in which you would actually love working? Or are your already there?

Independent from which angle you are looking at the cycle-question let me give you a few questions to reflect on. Take some time to think about each one and take notes of what is running through your mind. These moments of reflection are healthy to become aware of your status quo. Sometimes life rushes by and without noticing a year passed and you didn’t live intentionally and with purpose. But it is in your hands to add components of what you truly love to your workday and thereby keeping the cycle of success spinning.

What did you like doing when you were a child? – Reflect and write down what comes to your mind. This questions assumes that you have been doing things as a child that felt natural and joyful to you. Maybe you won’t do exactly the same things today – but you might find tasks that use the same skill that you have trained as a kid.

With what kind of people do you like spending your time? – The answer to this question might also be: no people at all. That’s totally fine, too. The important thing is that you know what you like and find as many moments in your day that reflect your preference.

How do you recharge? – The idea of this question is simple: if you recharge while doing the work you get paid for, you will not leave your workplace exhausted but rather thrilled and excited. If you could add a few components of the aspects of how you recharge, you will have more power during the day and feel much happier at work.

How do you express thankfulness and love? – Usually human beings get happy when they can show their thankfulness to others. Therefore it is an easy exercise to increase your happiness during the day. You choose whether you need to give a gift, speak words of affirmation or clap someone on the shoulder. If you know yourself, you can activate these resources in you anytime.

Start your cycle of success

No matter how well your cycle of success is already working, you can keep it up and running by investing in yourself. Your personal well-being during the day and your mindset towards workplace situations are keys to your personal success. Start by integrating short components of your favourite situations and expand the timeframe to your energizing moments whenever possible. Soon you will see how your positivity and power will affect your colleagues and clients positively.

3… 2… 1… Reboot.

Every device needs to reboot every once in a while in order to install all updates and run smoothly afterwards. Same is true for human beings. Whatever your days are filled with – there need to be times when the routine stops and your body, soul and mind can reboot.

But how does an update for you look like?

Body – Often a change of location will support detaching from the daily hustle. Bringing your body physically to a different place will automatically give you new things to see, different smells to encounter and new sounds to hear. Whether that is the noise of a vibrant city, the calmness of the mountains or the fresh air in a park nearby – your senses will work with something new. Same is true for sporting activities – especially those where you have to learn something new. Get yourself out there!

Soul – Let’s call it “emotions” for simplification. Take some time and check on your emotions. What are you feeling when you are in your daily routine? Do you like what you are feeling? Do you want to continue to feel that way? Take some time to think about these questions and become honest with yourself. Even if you don’t like the “emotion-stuff” – as a human being it is part of who you are. Emotions are an indicator whether you are in a healthy state and whether you need change.

Mind – Everyone knows the moments when thoughts are just running through your mind and you can hardly find peace. The open to dos on the list, that upcoming meeting and the next deal ahead – they all require attention. Your mind is constantly powering. During a reboot find yourself some time to stop that rollercoaster in your head.

Here is an inspiration on how to do that: Start by writing down the most important things that you don’t want to forget. That helps you to get at ease to relax. Those things will not be forgotten – they are safe on a piece of paper. Then start in a meditation session. There are tons of apps out there to help you.

At first it might feel weird to actively go into reboot – especially for soul and mind. But by training relaxation and meditation you will soon feel how much pressure is lifting off – and how much more effective you will be when returning into your daily life.

How to effectively recharge

Give your body, soul and mind a break from the daily hustle in order to get new power and creative ideas for your life. Find in this article some inspiration on how to effectively recharge.

The warmth of the heated towel is wrapping me softly and I gently sink into the relaxation chair. I slowly breathe out. My eyes wander to the snow-covered mountains behind the glass front. The sun is just touching the tip of the granite giant before it settles for the night. My recharge weekend starts.

When was the last time you took time for yourself? Time solely dedicated for rewinding your body, soul and mind. Time unplugged from your daily rush and from your online presence lets your mind and soul settle. Overflow of information can be processed and while doing “nothing” your brain gets the chance to recharge for new creativity.

Let’s dive into some thoughts what could help you to relax.

Change places

As long as you are in your usual environment your brain works on autopilot and you don’t discover new things. You even stay on track what to eat or what to do at what time. When you change your place, your brain is forced to find new ways. You are in explore-mode. And automatically you will “forget” to think about your problems and stress factors.

Work out

Use your time off to move your body. Especially when you are in a job that rather requires thinking than moving, use your time well for some activity. Doing your favourite sport helps your brain relax. Or you find yourself a new activity that challenges you mentally in a different way as you learn new movements.

Let go

If you come from a time of great stress, take some time for your soul to calm down as well, e.g. by journaling or meditation. You probably know that spinning of your mind that continues although you are in the middle of paradise. In that case your soul and mind need some help.

Suggestion No. 1 if your mind is stuck on open to-dos: Take a piece of paper and write down all to-dos that are still bothering you and that you will solve after your return. Put that piece of paper away and tell your brain to relax. It has been taken care of; now it is a decision to lean back.

Suggestion No. 2 if you have trouble with people: Take a piece of paper and start to write a letter – to that person, to a friend, to the universe or to God. Whatever suits you. Write down all complaints, unfairness and bad situations. Let your soul be honest and write as graphic as necessary. Maybe you have to forgive or ask for forgiveness. Write everything down. For sure that letter will never be sent. Nevertheless, just by writing you will feel on how the pressure lifts. (Destroy the letter after finishing.)

Mindfully Relax

Allow yourself some hours – or days – of relaxation. Forbit yourself to work or think about problems. Just be. Look at a sunset, a mountain, the ocean … whatever relaxes you. Give your soul and mind time to unwind. Maybe do a mindfulness exercise by precisely answering the following questions: What objects do you see? What colours do you see? What sounds do you hear? How does the air taste? How would you describe the smell around you? Answering those questions draws your attention to the present. And in the present your body, soul and mind are in the same space. Your thoughts do not wander and you will feel alive.

The goal is to fully get into the present. Let go of the past for a while and don’t think about the future. Just stay in the present. It is the place where you fully recharge and get new power for the upcoming tasks. It calms your brain and by erasing all negative thoughts and stress, you are set into a state of new creativity. In one of the next articles I will share some ideas on how to use that state of mind and the creativity within to create a new vision for the time ahead. But for now: stay present and relax.

Happy Birthday, isn’t it?

If you take care that every year of your life is enjoyable you will have lived an enjoyable life in the end.

Birthday. Whether you like celebrating yours or not – most likely you will not forget the date when you turn a year older. Independent from all the rituals that you are following – or trying to ignore – the very date of your birth is present in your mind. And even if you are not much into celebrating your aging, every time you need to fill in your birth date in any form, you are reminded of the progress of time.

The days around the birthday are a good timeframe to pause your life and invest a few minutes into reflection.

Reflection of the past with all of your accomplishments, successes, losses and failures.

A sharp look at the here and now.

And an inspiring envisioning of the years ahead with so much potential for your dreams and hopes to come true.

Let’s have a look at these three perspectives and get some practical tips on how to actually invest in yourself during this time.

Reflection on the past

Let’s assume you are doing this on an annual basis, then you reflect only back on the last year. If you are at a major milestone of your life like 20th, 30th, 40th etc. birthday it might be worthwhile to take a longer timespan into account.

Take some paper and a pen, find yourself a cosy place and sit down. Calm down for a few moments and enjoy the very fact that you now invest in one of the most important people in your life – yourself.

You are the starting point

Start by drawing a person in the middle of the paper or by writing your name in the midst. You are the starting point – and from there the mind-map-style starts. Now start to write areas of your current life situation around you – you might want to circle them if you are a more creative person.

Here are some ideas: family, friends, job, sports, health, career, relationships, emotional well-being, social work, hobby

Take at least 4 areas of your life that you want to reflect on. And be bold. Take also those areas where you like to be more fulfilled or more successful.

How are you doing?

If you have defined your areas you want to focus on, write to each area what you liked during the last year. Where have you been successful? What did you achieve? What made this area of your life special in the last year?

If you are unfamiliar with writing stuff about your life on a piece of paper, you might want to start by taking a few notes and the further you get start writing sentences. Add to each event or bullet why it is on your list and how you currently feel about it.

When you are done with positive things, start to write down also the bad experiences. What didn’t work out? Whom did you lose in your life? Where did you fail? Be honest to yourself and admit how you are feeling.

Side note for business people: Emotions are valuable indicators where you are currently at - and if you need change. Admit when you are feeling sad, frustrated, angry, disappointed. Although it is uncommon in the business context to talk about feelings, it is a real asset when you check on your emotional well-being every once in a while. If you are happy on the inside, it is most likely that you will display the happiness on the outside and be even better in your business tasks at hand. Unluckily this is true vice versa. 

One year on a piece of paper

Now look at your mind map. How do you feel?

Since this is a practical guide and not an entertainment text, I just take the freedom to ask you again: How do you feel when you see your past year?

What would you like to take with you into the next year?

What served you until today but now needs to leave? Say goodbye to these habits / situations / emotions. It’s just the right time.

Here and Now

Take a moment to be proud of yourself! You just revisited the last year, showed gratitude for your successes, looked at some unpleasant moments, said goodbye to a few things. For your soul it’s like the clearance of the basement. It isn’t the most entertaining thing to do but it creates room in your mind for new things. Well done!

I can see you smile. That’s good.

Let’s dive into your future.

Envisioning the future

A new year lies before you. How do you want to use it?

Check on the categories of your mindmap again. Which category should stay and which one(s) leave? Is there any other area that you want to add?

When you are done with setting the scene, write to each area what you would like to achieve. Which area should be your focus on? Where do you need growth? What area do you enjoy most?

I like to encourage you to get a little crazy and visionary in this moment – reality will settle in soon enough. Write down all the things you like to be doing. What makes your heart leap?

Remember, you are the game changer of your everyday life. Take your annual pause to reflect the past year and adjust your priorities to make sure that the upcoming year will be enjoyable.