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Reflect and Renew

by Rochelle Melander

It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. –Marianne Williamson

At the end of a year or when we finish a big project, it can be helpful to look at what we’ve accomplished (or avoided). It helps us make decisions about how we want to move forward.

For the past several years, I’ve been setting quarterly goals. That takes the pressure off the New Year. The following quest will help you evaluate the last quarter, six months, or year—whatever period of time makes sense to you—and set goals for your tomorrow. Reflect on your life, renew your focus, and commit to practices that will help you achieve your goals.

The Quest

Plan at least an afternoon away from your regular work and home responsibilities to reflect on your life. If possible, take a weekend. Choose a place where you are away from your day-to-day life (and won’t be interrupted)—a coffee shop, library, park, restaurant, art museum, hotel, or spa. If you have time for a longer retreat, a drive or train ride can help you to see your life from a new perspective. Make arrangements that enable you to be away from your phone, email, and social media for the duration of your reflection time.

Gather Tools

You’ll need a few tools to help you review and record your life and envision new possibilities. You might consider taking your calendar (online or paper), a record of your work and projects for the period you are reviewing, a journal or empty notebook, a variety of pens and markers, and inspirational books and music.

Evaluate and Reflect

The following questions will help you get a big picture view of your life and evaluate it in relation to your goals.

Review goals. Write down or review the goals you set for this past year (or this quarter) and the plans that you made to accomplish them. These questions might help:

  • What were your New Year’s goals for your primary purpose—your writing career, art making, or other creative project?
  • What projects did you hope to finish by the end of the year?
  • What other tasks related to your primary purpose did you plan to take on (e.g., workshops, reading, research, mentoring, and so forth)?
  • What sort of a plan did you set up to help you meet your goal?

Review life. Compare your goals with your daily schedule and projects. Use these questions to reflect:

  • How have you been spending your time?
  • Do your daily actions match up with your goals?
  • What work have you produced so far this year?
  • Are there any energy drains or unexpected commitments that have taken up your time?

Reevaluate. For some of you, your actions will match the goals you set. Congrats! Some of you will need to reevaluate your goals and how you spend your time so that you can get back on track. Ask yourself:

  • What am I doing that’s working?
  • What am I doing that’s not working?
  • Do I need to change my goals?
  • What do I need to do differently to meet my goals?
  • How will I put this plan into action?
  • How will I know if I’m achieving my goals?

Finally, consider this:

  • What kinds of creative work do I want to do less of?
  • What kinds of creative work do I want to do more of?

Choose New Practices

To benefit from this kind of reflection, we need to let go of our old habits and invest in new practices. That can be tough. Most of us are pretty attached to our daily routine, and it often takes courage and a big kick in the pants to change. Now that you’ve been to the balcony, you know what you need to do. So do it!

For the Win

You will have some immediate answers to these questions. Write them down and honor them. But you may also want to sit with the questions for a bit until the right answer shows up. Take your time—and let your imagination play with the questions. Here’s what Maisie Dobbs says about questions:

The power in a question is not in the answer, it’s in the way the imagination gets busy when the questions is at work. —Jacqueline Winspear, In this Grave Hour

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