Are you ready to grab onto that next high bar and take a quantum leap in 2011?

This has been a precarious year for many of us. It’s been a bit like the high wire act where the trapeze artist cannot swing from one bar to another without letting go of the old and grabbing the new—with impeccable timing. I’ve seen the same thing with the leaders I’ve coached as they balance the need to move forward while managing the perils of the slowly recovering economy. As the year comes to an end, it’s important to reflect on 2010, learn from it, let it go and get a firm grasp on 2011.

As a leader, in order for you to go where you wish to go, whether personally, professionally or organizationally, you need to know both where you are and who you are. Honest reflection and self-evaluation are great tools to gain clarity on your best path forward. Now is a fitting time to reflect on the year past and where we see ourselves as we transition to a new year.

Engage in discussion with someone you trust and care about, and who cares about you. Journal your reflections. Consider writing your own year-end summary and keep it somewhere handy, so that you’ll be able to check in monthly or quarterly to gauge your progress, then refer to it next year at this time to evaluate and learn from your successes and note where there is still room for improvement.

Allow yourself the luxury of thinking about what you did, how you felt about what you did, the impact of what you did, what you most enjoyed, what you least enjoyed and perhaps most importantly, what you learned. Put yourself “on the balcony” and look at yourself and your experience as objectively as possible.

Consider the following questions to provoke some thought as you enter into this process. Feel free to add your own.

  1. What were my greatest wins and achievements? Write it all down. Once you’ve captured it all, be sure to stop, soak it all in and take time to celebrate!
  2. What did I learn? How do I want to continue to use what I learned? Be specific. Include technical skills, emotional lessons, hard lessons, simple lessons. Look for places where you can apply those lessons in the future.
  3. What might I have done differently and why? What got in my way? This will help inform some of your work in the coming year. Be sure to be honest if it was your own self that got in the way.
  4. What was I able to resolve, complete or release? What is still remaining that needs to be resolved? Consider listing all of the things that you would like to either resolve or let go of. Acknowledge what they’ve brought you and then let them go.
  5. What were the three most personally significant events of 2010? How did these events impact you, and in what way might they shape who you become or actions you may take in 2011?
  6. What do I feel best about? Where did I make the greatest difference? What will carry on in the future as a result of the impact you made in 2010? And how might that shape how you want to focus your energy in 2011?
  7. What was most fun for me in 2010? What was least fun for me in 2010? Creativity, innovation and problem solving happen most naturally when the brain is relaxed and “at play.” How can you create more opportunity for fun and relaxation in 2011?
  8. What significant challenges did I overcome? How did I do it? What do you need to remember about your ability to overcome adversity as you move forward in the coming year?
  9. What about me is different now versus a year ago? Who have you become this year? How have you expanded your capabilities? How do you want to continue growing and leveraging your abilities in 2011?
  10. For what am I most grateful? While it may sound cliché, it’s important to take the time to count and write down your blessings and account for all of the positive things in your life. You will continue to draw upon these things in the coming year!

As a wrap up to this exercise, take some additional time to picture yourself in December 2011. What about your life and your work is different, and what did you do to get there?

You will go much further faster when you share your goals with someone. You’ll be amazed at what can happen when you let go of things no longer serving you and are open to receive whatever is next. Sometimes the only way to get where you want to go is to let go of the old bar while grabbing for the new one. It can be a precarious position, but coaching can help you through it.

The journaling process can be very revealing. If you’ve only done it sporadically in the past, try spending just 5-10 minutes daily. If you’ve never done it, give yourself the simple gift of a journal that will yield huge returns—or even type your thoughts in an electronic version on your computer.

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