Dr Peggy Marshall

Happy Xmas To You

One of my favorite December songs is “Happy Xmas” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  The lyrics start with  

“So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun”.

Every year when I hear this song, I begin to think about what “I have done” and whether I accomplished the most important things in terms of what I set out to do.  There is not a better time for reflection then at the end of something and the beginning of something new.  I know most of you are thinking-“Is she crazy-doesn’t she realize how busy my schedule is?”  I certainly do as my schedule is also full.  However, if we don’t set aside time for reflection we move into 2012 without a solid evaluation of what’s working in our lives and what is not.  As a result we could be destined to repeat 2012 in the same manner that we moved through 2011.

Reflection is an important component of how adults learn.  We learn from not only from our experiences but also from the interpretations and reinterpretations of those experiences.  When we pause and reflect upon circumstances and then apply a different framework to our circumstances we can create new ways of acting and thinking.  Using the process of reflection and introspection on an on-going basis leads to increased levels of awareness, insight, and self-acceptance.  Often these times for reflection can result in epiphanies from which we can chose new thoughts and behaviors.

One exercise I use with clients is to build a timeline of accomplishments.  While you can explore a timeline of your entire life but for this exercise let’s just build out 2011.  Take a sheet of paper (8 X 11.5); turn it on its side and then draw a line down the middle.  Above the line write out all of your accomplishments, successful activities and deeds-both big and small.  Sometimes we don’t want to include the little things on the list, but I encourage you to count them as they might be full of surprises for you.  In my own life, I met an amazing group of women who have become friends.  I didn’t plan on that happening but it did.  And that accomplishment is changing my life in many ways. Where did you spend time that resulted in something good happening for you?  Below the line write down what you wanted to or thought you might accomplish but didn’t. When you evaluate what you didn’t accomplish, be gentle with yourself.

Next review the following questions and pick a couple to focus on. 

Are there any patterns in your accomplishments, i.e., mostly work or at home?
How do you feel about what was accomplished?
How do you feel about what was not accomplished?
Was there a time during the year that you were uncomfortable?  What made you uncomfortable? Why were you uncomfortable?
What did the people you encountered teach you about yourself, about the world?
How did you celebrate your successes?  How did you react to those opportunities which were not successful?
Did any experiences change you?
Were there any barriers that prevented you from changing?
Did anything cause you to challenge yourself about, your ideals, your philosophies, your concept of life or the way you live?
When did you feel most alive? When did you feel the most passion?
What were you fears?  Did any fears hold you back from success?
What are two fears or worries you have that somehow keep you from being the person you hope to become?
What were the best and worst parts of 2011?  What made them that way?
Was there a day or event that you would like to do-over?
Summarize the most important things you will take with you from this year’s experiences.

For next year begin to think about:
What do you really want to learn or do?
What will success look like?
What do you need to start doing, stop doing or continue doing to ensure success?

Now that you have chosen your list of questions, spend some time in reflection before you answer.  Write down your responses and then set them aside.  Return to your timeline as you have time.  This process will allow for you go much deeper as you reflect on achievements and events in 2011.  If you set aside just an hour a week from now until January 1st, you will have a sizeable amount of information from which to build 2012 goals for yourself which we discuss in the January blog.

 You also might want to consider sharing your timeline with family or friends.  It will give you an opportunity to celebrate your successes and will most likely surprise them because we often take for granted those things we accomplish!

 Have a Wonderful Holiday Season!
To Your Success!