Ask pretty much anyone you know (friends, family, work colleagues) and most of them want to make a change somewhere in their life. It could be a personal change (I want to get fit and lose weight), or it could be a career change (I want to change my job or I want to start my own business), and the chances are, you are no different - there is something about your life that you would like to do differently.
But how do you discover what needs to be changed ?
Clear your mind …
Reflection works best when your mind is as clear as possible. Find a time to work on these questions when you know you wont be disturbed, perhaps first thing in the morning, before the challenges of the day have begun. Set a timer on your phone for between 2 and 5 minutes, and then close your eyes, relax your body, and concentrate on nothing but your breathing. Just two minutes of simple meditation can clear your head of distractions and help you focus on the job in hand.
Write it down
Writing down your reflections not only helps you to define them more clearly, it creates a record that you can refer back to - you might want to add more colour and detail to what you have written, as your subconscious carries on reflecting in the days after you write down you initial thoughts. You can use a beautifully bound notebook, or you can use scraps of paper from the pile of spoiled pages next to your printer - it really doesn’t matter - what matters is the process of writing down your thoughts.
Clarity, Clarity, Clarity
Be specific in what you are writing down - it will help you to get to a much greater level of understanding of what you want to change or achieve in the future. “I hate my job” might get across the raw emotion, but “the long-hours and constant pressure at work mean that I haven’t spent enough quality time with my family over the last year, and even when I am with them, I am distracted and distant” will help you focus on what you really need to change.
Please Sir, I want some more
This exercise is as much about positive reflections as negative ones. When you really give yourself time to think, you will remember all the things that went well, and that you would like to do more of. Write down all of the things that stirred positive feelings over the past year - successful projects at work, the way you handled a particularly difficult situation, the long bike ride in the summer, the great book you read. Be specific - why did you enjoy the project ? Was it the challenge of something outside of your comfort zone ? Was it the way you worked as a team ? Was it the recognition you received from your peers ?
Look backwards to look forward
Don’t dwell on the past - it is gone and you cannot change it, so don’t waste energy and emotion trying. However, examining situations in the past that didn’t go well can be useful if you are clear with yourself that they are a learning experience or a clue as to what you can do differently next time. Again, be specific - why didn’t that work project go well ? Was it the lack of challenge ? Was it the people that you were working with ? Did you believe in what it was trying to achieve ? Did you think there was a better way to achieve the end goal, but didn’t speak up and just went with the flow ?
Inspiration from others
As you look back over the past year, look for people who did something that really inspired or impressed you, or who did something that you would like love to do, and write that something down. Don’t try to work out how they did it, because you can’t - you don’t have all of the information - but do write down what it was that specifically inspired you. If you were impressed by someone at work who ran a 10k race and raised £500 for charity, reflect on what it was that that really impressed you about it - was it the way they went from couch potato to runner, or was it the fact that they did something for a charity that will really make a difference to peoples lives ?
What's your passion ?
I have saved this question until last because this is the one that can be the most difficult. Many people lose sight of their passions over the years, compressed under the weight of their job or business, or put to one side whilst focussing on the needs of their family. However, to set goals and make positive changes that last, you stand a greater chance of success if you can somehow tie those goals into your passion. The good news is that the passion can be small, or not even what other people would call a passion - it is just something that you fundamentally believe in or enjoy doing that you can use to help you to reach your goals.
This is another question that may need you to look into the past to answer, but don’t dwell on how or why you lost the passion - simply look back for the things that you did more of because you loved to do them, or the things that you argued with your friends about long into the night. If you still need help to identify your passions, then I find this quote from Marianne Cantwell quite useful :-
“Stop looking outside yourself for who you think you should be, and instead look at the clues of who you are when you just can’t help it. The former is the way to years of feeling not good enough (and feeling lost in the process). The latter is the seed that will thrive when you own it, and create the right environment”.
Have fun !