Sharpening the axe (with free download)
Are you a reflector?
A planner or a goal setter perhaps? Do you love that new year drive to create goals and challenges for the year ahead?
Or does the thought of setting goals feel like a massive constraint? Unnecessary? Overly optimistic, maybe?
While I’d usually say I’m a big reflector, this year I’ve experienced quite a bit of resistance to sitting down and considering in depth how 2021 has been. The year to me has felt a bit foggy overall with an associated heaviness and lethargy. There’s been a disproportionate amount of mundane and not an awful lot of excitement or things to look forward to in the longer term. While I acknowledge I am lucky in so many ways and many people have had much more difficult and painful things to manage, still I found myself not wanting to re-live the fogginess and I certainly didn’t want to set goals for a new year to find that they too were thwarted (again) by things well and truly outside of my control. I felt a bit despondent, uninspired and demotivated.
While out for a long walk in the Peak District, I found myself sharing my feelings with a friend who had already started to think ahead and set goals for 2022. She had nothing onerous or massively awe inspiring on her list, rather small(ish), attainable, creative goals. It was the inspiration I needed (thank you, Carla!) and a snap out of my despondency. I decided to carve out some space to reflect and the next day, although I did faff about at the start, settled down into my shed with a cuppa, a notebook and a few coloured pens! Once I’d got going with a few questions to give myself some structure and containment, I was in full flow.
I find it difficult to plan without first reflecting and then assessing the ‘state of the union’, so that’s where I started, with questions like:
What are my favourite memories from 2021?
What did 2021 teach me about myself?
What was a good use of resources – time, energy, emotion and money well spent?
Who showed up for me and how can I nurture those relationships?
I realised that 2021 had offered up some amazing experiences (most of them face-to-face rather than online, I notice), some professional highs (thank you, coaching alumni!), some new and nourishing relationships and a sense of achievement and moments of joy, a recognition and positivity I certainly wouldn’t have unearthed had I not committed to the reflection.
I moved on to think about how things are right now, in terms of my relationships, health, work, development, creativity, finances etc. and from there, was able to consider the desired shape of the future I’d like to create in 2022:
What limiting beliefs am I holding onto which I will choose to release?
How will I take good care of myself in 2022?
Where will I choose to focus my energy this year?
I found the process really useful and was reminded of the Abraham Lincoln quotation about the importance of sharpening your axe (“If I had 6 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first 4 sharpening the axe”) I’d chopped down a lot of trees in 2021, indiscriminately sometimes, and I hadn’t created time to sharpen my axe. It was tiring and at times unfocused and unsatisfying.
Taking an afternoon to reflect and plan has given me plenty to look forward to in the new year. I feel excited about the possibilities and the opportunities and a bit more prepared for what might hinder my progress and development. I notice the optimism rising, the energy bubbling away and a pull to get started. I think my axe is a little bit sharper.