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What Are You Reflecting On?

By John C. Maxwell | December 3, 2019
What Are You Reflecting On?

What will you remember about 2019?

As the last days of this year trickle by and your thoughts turn towards presents and parties and preparations for 2020, I wonder what your memories of this year will be.

What will spring to mind when you think back over the year’s-worth of days you’ve lived?

I ask because this is a reflective time for me, but also because it’s a reflective time for many people. We look back before we look ahead because reflection is the process that turns experience into insight. I’ve taught that principle for years, but I want to offer a qualifier for your consideration:

What you reflect on determines what you will learn.

I always guide my reflection process by my calendar; I look back on appointments I’ve kept, meetings I’ve held, talks I’ve given, and other time commitments I’ve made to help me invest my time wisely in the year that’s to come. It’s a process that works well for me, and I’ve recommended it to many over the years.

But if I were to only reflect on my calendar, then the only lessons I would learn would be about priorities and scheduling. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s also so much more that should be learned.

My calendar is only the starting point for me—I look beyond just where and how I spent my time, and I call to mind the people and purpose for which that time was spent. I focus on the real faces and causes that invited me to add value to them, and I reflect on whether I succeeded in that mission.

I’m not afraid to say that I’m not always as successful as I’d like to be, and I glean from those moments ways that I can continue to grow and improve. But I look at the successes too.

There’s just as much to learn from when we win, but people don’t often look there while reflecting. We tend to think that the only way we’ll really learn is by examining what didn’t work. My friend, nothing could be further from the truth.

We have as much—if not more—to learn from our successes, if we’ll spend the time looking at them.

One of my favorite stories about this idea comes from the John Maxwell Team. A few years ago, we’d just completed a Certification event in Orlando, and everyone raved about the quality and the excellence they experienced during our time together.

Mark Cole, my CEO, came across Paul Martinelli, President of the John Maxwell Team, and congratulated him on a job well done. Mark commented how by all measures it was the best event we’d ever done, and congratulated Paul on his hard work.

That’s when Paul showed him the list: 37 things that could make the next event better. He’d taken the time to reflect on each success while the event was happening and took notes on future improvements!

So what will you remember about 2019? Will it be only what went wrong—or will you also spend time thinking about what went right?

When it comes time to reflect, make sure you’re looking back in a way that will help you move forward. Spend time reflecting on your wins and losses because each hold their own lessons that can help you grow.

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