Your Career: Reflection and Goal Setting for the New Year

By Kristen Harris

“Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
                          ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Do you know where you’re going? It’s important to figure that out, because you’re going to end up somewhere. Let’s make sure it’s actually where you want to be.

The holidays are a great time for goal setting and personal reflection. It’s true! In-between the food, friends, family and celebrations, the end of the year is a perfect time for self-reflection about your career, what you’ve accomplished, where you are now, and where you want to be.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Take Advantage of Downtime. While it can be busy with parties and events, the holidays are also a quiet time of the year in many businesses. We often have a few extra days or hours off during the holidays. Be selfish and treat yourself to a little time just for you.

  2. Give Yourself Space. Go somewhere you enjoy that is relaxing, maybe even inspiring. Getting out of your normal day-to-day locations can help open up your mind. Try a coffee shop, a park or natural space, the library, a cabin in the woods… anywhere you can enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted time.

  3. No Preconceived Notions. Don’t come with expectations of what you’ll do or accomplish. Bring a blank notebook, settle in with your favorite beverage, and just let the thoughts flow.

  4. Reflect on the Past. Take some time to think and make notes about the past, primarily this year. What went well? What did you accomplish? What are you proud of? What didn’t go so well? What were your biggest challenges? People tend to go straight to the negatives, the things we need to “fix”, so be sure to spend time on positives as well.

  5. Think About the Future. Where do you want to be in a year? Three years? Five or Ten? What do you love doing? If you could improve one thing, what would it be? Do you have a big crazy idea or dream? Write it down! Make notes about things you want to accomplish, and potential challenges you want to overcome.

  6. Capture Your Ideas. Having your goals visible can be a powerful motivator and reminder throughout the year. Create a visual “dream board” with photos, write a story about where you see yourself, put everything in an app on your phone, or use any other format that works for you. Put this in a place where you’ll see it and reflect on it often. (You may not complete this step in your short “think time” session, but commit to finishing it before the end of the year.)

  7. Make a Plan. Look at the goals and dreams you’ve captured. What would it take to accomplish just one of them? Sketch out a brief plan, listing the basic steps, resources, support, and time required. Doing this for a few goals can help you see which ones could be accomplished more easily or quickly.

  8. Take the First Step. Pick one or two goals to focus on, and define the first step. Then commit to it. Put a meeting on your calendar, schedule time, buy a book, register for a class, contact someone… whatever that first step is, take it.

  9. Tell Others. Enlist support from friends, family, co-workers, or anyone that you trust to believe in you and your ideas. Share what you captured, and how they can help you. There may be something specific you need, or maybe you just want someone to check in with you every so often. Offer to help them with one of their goals in return.

  10. Check In. Throughout the year, check in with yourself. How are you progressing on your goals? Is it time to create another plan or figure out some next steps? Wherever you captured your ideas and dreams, make sure it’s visible and you see them often. (I have a “dream board” hanging right by my desk so I see it all day, every day. It reminds me to keep taking small steps to get closer to one of my goals.)

The stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmahanakwanzika can be busy and filled with demands from others. If you wait until after the holidays to start thinking about next year, you’ll be joining the herds of people all focused on completely changing their life in January.

Beat the rush. Take a little time for yourself now and plan for the coming year.