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Reflections Before Resolutions in the New Year

By Karen Spencer December 18, 2022 Mindset

It will soon be that time on our calendars when making our New Year’s resolutions come front and center. And I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love it!

My family will tell you I become obnoxiously giddy this time of year. I’m like a sprinter at the starting gate, digging my toes in and ready for the ball to drop at Times Square.

Just thinking about my upcoming goals and resolutions gets me charged up and inspired.

Around mid-December I begin to feel drops of inspiration and new ideas beading up on my forehead. Call me crazy, but I get psyched!

I mean, really? Who doesn’t love being given another chance for a new beginning? And who doesn’t want to think about positive change in their lives?

So, how about you? Have you already carved out your plans for 2023? Have you gotten your goals written down in indelible ink; and ready to scotch tape them up on your refrigerator?

Or have you, like about 60% of the population, given up this age-old practice of setting resolutions? By the way, did you know that it’s been 4000 years since the Babylonians first started the tradition as a celebration and a festival?

Perhaps you don’t care how old the tradition is, and you don’t give a hoot about celebrating; especially celebrating setting goals! Well, my friend, you are not alone.

Although the stats vary somewhat, the bottom line is that of those 40% of us that do plan ahead with specific and clear intentions less than 10 percent achieve them. That’s depressing!

So, Why Is It That So Many of Us That Set Goals Fail?

But what if I told you, you could beef up your chances of being more successful in 2023? What if you learned there is current research to show you a better way to accelerate your progress and accomplish your goals? Would you give it a try?

One of our challenges of not being successful with our goals, is that we are often too quick to come up with them. We spew out our new resolutions without taking time to learn from our old ones.

How many times have we resolved to join a gym and get fit, try that new diet and start saving money? And how many times did we fail to accomplish each of those goals?

I fear that in our anxiousness to get up and out with our positive improvement plans we are ignoring a crucial first step. That step is the process of reflection.

The Process of Reflection

There has been a deluge of recent research on the importance and power of focusing on reflection in our lives.

One study published in 2014 by Harvard University shows that when employees practiced reflection at the end of their working day, after 10 days the workers performed 23% better.

Just think how our lives would improve if we did 23% better!

“Reflection is not only valuable,” conclude the researchers, “but it is a critical component of positive change in our lives.”

And frankly, we have known about the positive impact of reflection for many years. In fact, over 2000 years ago, Confucius, Chinese teacher and philosopher, when asked about his advice on becoming wise, said, “First we become wise by reflection.”

And, in the early 1930s, John Dewey, a renowned education reformer and psychologist, studied the importance of reflection. “We do not learn from experience,” he wrote, “we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Here is an interesting summary of Dewey’s key concepts about reflection:

  • Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection.
  • Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive.
  • Reflection builds one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal.

Did that last bullet point sink in? If we want to get better at achieving a goal we first need to reflect!

So, if we’re serious about making intentional plans for the upcoming year, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves this question:

“Have I taken adequate time and given careful consideration to reflection in 2022?

Do you want to try harder, do better, get more done, set new goals, and strive for more success? Then may I propose that we take the advice and the wisdom from many that have gone before us and do some serious thoughtful reflection on our past experiences?

I mean really reflect. Not like a two-minute stroll through memory lane but ‘a get down and dirty’, brutally honest assessment and self-reflection.

This time of year is a perfect opportunity to dig deep, look back, and examine the past year in order to learn from our experiences and perhaps not repeat our mistakes. We can explore our thoughts and feelings looking for insights to help us on our precious meaningful journey forward.

So, for me, that means that although I get super excited in anticipating another chance for a new beginning – and as much as I want to race ahead in order to get a start on my goals for the new year – I must first pause. I must take time to reflect.

So, what do you say… are you in?

And here’s a tip: I am much more successful with this process of reflection if I give it some structure.

In case that is true for you, I have included the list of questions I use that you might find helpful.

Let’s Have a Conversation

What are your greatest lessons from 2022? And what new actions will you take as a result of your reflections?

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It’s very customary to undertake this kind of appraisal in your work life and therefore just as important to do it in your personal life. It doesn’t have to be as cliche as lose weight/stop drinking just an analysis of areas of life that may (or may not) need improvement. That ‘looking forward, looking back’ can inform the next year and identify areas maybe for personal growth and self development, but also highlighting things you enjoy and which add meaning to your life.


I agree with your points, Sasha. I have found my reflections to often remind me of the areas in my life that give me joy and energize me. And a reminder to do more of them!


The Author

Karen is a retired college professor, a Certified Health Coach, a Brain Health Coach, a writer, a speaker and a teacher. Her mission is to educate, inspire and influence women 55 and older to step up, dream big and become healthier, happier, and more fulfilled.

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