December encompasses one of my favorite times of the year: the period between when Thanksgiving ends and New Years Eve. Despite cold, rainy weather blowing in, people seem to be brimming with joy. Whether it's the Holiday decorations, Bath & Body Works $9.99 three-wick candle sales, or the fact that life just slows down at the end of year, it's always a wonderful time to be alive.
For me, it's also a time of reflection. Each year I dedicate time to reflect on the previous 12 months and I believe it's the single most important thing I do at the end of the year for my personal growth. My hope is that after reading this you begin or improve a habit of reflection in the month of December.
Next week I'll provide you a guide on how to conduct what I refer to as an Annual Review. Before we get into the how, we'll start with why it's so important.
I haven't shared this story often, especially not to a broad audience, but I believe it's important to demonstrate the power of reflection. Last summer, right after my wedding, I had my first panic attack. I was in my hotel room in Palmer, Alaska, facilitating a leadership conference. It was 1am and bright as daylight outside. My WHOOP band told me my resting heart-rate was sitting around 145bpm. I was hyperventilating and truly did not understand what was occurring with my body. I couldn't sleep and everyone I knew to call was already asleep because of the time change.
I made it home a few days later and continued on with my life, trying to forget what had happened. At this point, I didn't have the knowledge to label what had occurred as a panic attack. Several months go by and the anxiety and panic continues. December comes around, and although I don't feel like doing it, I conduct my annual review. In it, I describe what happened in Alaska, still unable to label it. When I finish, as I do every year, I send it to a group of mentors and friends I trust. Thankfully, one wrote me back and said, "Jason, you were having panic attacks." Now that I had a label, I had a plan to help myself. My mental health began improving immediately.
Without my habit of reflection, who knows what state of health I'd be in. I'm so thankful for the mentors that instilled the importance of reflection in me at a young age. Beyond my own experiences, we also know that research proves the benefits of reflection. The body of work tells us that reflection:
-Increases skill proficiency
-Reveals areas needing growth
-Orients us towards desirable goals
-Improves our relationships
-Helps us take responsibility for our actions
-Improves our self-esteem
In a world trying to sell you a quick fix and convince you that the answer to your problem lies in posting more, buying more, or consuming more... Consider that the answer my lie in the experiences you've already had. It may simply require a little reflection.
Schedule 1 hour of time on your calendar to reflect this December.
What about self-reflection are you avoiding?
“Reflect upon your present blessings -- of which every man has many -- not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings