2020 goal-setting part 2: How are you, really?

Yesterday we took a good look at who we are, reflecting on the values, passions and missions that define how we greet challenges and opportunities day after day. Today we’re taking a look at where you are. What’s happening in your life – and your heart – on this day? Ask yourself three key questions:

  • How are you, really?
  • What do you have to celebrate from the last decade?
  • What lessons did you learn from the past decade?

1. How are you, really?

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I get a little fed-up with answering the obligatory “good,” “fine” or “great” with a wave while passing a neighbor in the hallway or greeting a colleague at the water cooler.

Admittedly it would be pretty awkward to answer in full honesty, “Well I’m a bit unsure about my future at the moment… it feels like my stomach is in knots and I’m generally dissatisfied with the way my life is going today – how are you?” Lots to unpack there. But you owe it to yourself to answer this question honestly every once in a while. It’s a powerful way to make room for newness in your heart and prepare for a new chapter.

The first time someone asked me this question, I just about burst into tears on the spot.

So ask this question without any judgment and hear what God might be speaking to you. Don’t be afraid of the darkness. I personally find that some of my most meaningful moments were when I faced shame, fear, sorrow, frustration or jealousy head-on and just allowed that feeling to unfold and transform me- in God’s own time. Tulip bulbs are nourished in the cold, dark soil. Advent itself reminds us that darkness and uncertainty allow light to shine even more brightly.

You can’t know where you’re going if you’re not sure where you are.

Set a timer for 3 minutes and open your journal. You may even find it powerful to ask yourself this question in prayer or facing a mirror.

2. What do you have to celebrate from the last decade?

Part of preparing for 2020 and beyond means looking back at where we’ve been. The brain’s cognitive bias toward negativity means that we’re unconsciously drawn to reflect on negative experiences from our pasts. Let’s not let that cognitive bias keep us from recognizing all of your milestones, growth and the things of which you’re the proudest.

Celebrating success is crucial for building momentum and motivation for the year ahead. As a bonus, you’ll get a hit of dopamine, the neurotransmitter in your brain’s reward pathway, strengthening your internal motivation for upcoming goals.

Recognizing and celebrating past successes also pulls back the curtain on your current values and priorities. This year one of my key academic milestones – writing my undergraduate thesis – did not stand out as one of my most meaningful accomplishments from the past decade. The Lieve of 2019 has moved on to other foci and priorities. I’m excited to hear what you’re celebrating from the past decade and how your priorities may have shifted!

I bet you’re getting the hang of this – it’s time to set your timer for 3 minutes, open your journal and brain-dump a list of things you’re celebrating from the past decade. Why the short timer? Don’t overthink these exercises. Done is better than perfect.

Reflecting on highlights from the past decade was a revealing exercise that surfaced some shifting priorities for the year ahead.

3. What lessons did you learn from the past decade?

Do you know the saying, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”? Yes, that applies to your life as well! Take a few minute to celebrate the hard-won, valuable lessons you’ve learned from the past decade. What worked well – and what didn’t work as well as you had hoped?

Remembering key lessons from the past decade is a great way to see the value of where you’ve been before discerning where you’re going next.

So for the last time, set your timer for 3 minutes and bust out your journal!

**Bonus question**

If you are rocking this journal time, here’s a fourth question to consider: For whom are you grateful? As Mr. Rogers would say,

Take a moment to remember the people who loved you into being.

I’m willing to bet that a lot of friendship and love has blossomed in your life over the past decade.

As always, let me know how this reflection is going in the blog comments. Was it challenging or fun? Either way, celebrate that you’re investing time to start the new year with grounded authenticity.

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