Legos. A childish toy with many colors, sizes, and possibilities for outcomes. You really have two options when it comes to building your Lego creation. You can dump the pieces on the floor, look at the box cover, and try to assemble accordingly. Or, you could use the step by step instructions, and logically and systematically construct your toy.
What if there was another option? And what if this method could be used for something a little more “grown-up”?
I think the New Year poses a great opportunity to assess your personal Lego pieces of life, envision a picture of the end result, and construct according to something a little more interactive and engaging.
Among the detailed lists of resolutions, hopeful wishes of attaining new heights in your professional career, and promises of becoming more disciplined in your personal life, somewhere along the way there is a disconnect between instruction, construction, and final product.
Self-reflection is a thought process of engaging your past experiences and emotions to develop a clear picture of where you’ve been, where you currently stand, and ultimately who you are.
You then take that self-diagnosis to formulate and aspire to something greater down the road.
Adding a little bit of structure to this thought process helps to navigate the inevitable mental road blocks, mitigate the uncertainty and discomfort from the exercise, and ensures a well-developed, actionable plan after final completion.
Here is a simple guide I have come to enjoy when my personal Lego pieces of life are scattered on the floor and ready to be assembled.
1. Analyze your current state:
a. What went really well this past yea?
Everyone has their personal successes, big wins, or events that you’re proud of from the year. You went on an awesome vacation, you were chosen for that project you’ve been chasing, or you earned a high score on your performance review. Whatever it may be, chances are you’ve got a few. You should be proud of them, understand how your attained them, and keep them as motivational building blocks for the next step.
b. What surprised you the most about your year?
Did something totally blindside you this year? Maybe you were moved into a role that was unexpected. Maybe you found a partner and find yourself spending all your discretionary time with them. Maybe you discovered you need more books in your life. These realizations and changes are also important to understand how you react to a situation. We have little effect on what will actually happen tomorrow, but we have 100% control on how we react to them. It is here where we must reflect, gather those gems of knowledge, and keep those at the forefront of our next move as we know the same thing will likely happen this year.
c. What strengths or skills were you able to develop?
Maybe that new role helped you learn you’re actually really good at being detailed, analyzing trends, and delivering a useful report to help your manager look good. Maybe that spontaneous vacation you took facilitated an understanding that some aspects of your life don’t need a day to day agenda. Or maybe, just maybe, you learned you’re energized by presenting in front of a group of executives. These hints of uplifting activities should be noted, understood, and sought after.
d. Where did you fall short?
We aren’t perfect. We’ve all been a little late for that important meeting, failed to meet expectations for a deliverable, or even let down someone you really care about. These events are also worth noting. These situations tend to elicit a negative emotion. Although initially uncomfortable, you can now understand what caused that less than perfect experience and try to ensure they don’t happen again.
2. Ideate what you might look like down the road:
a. What can I realistically accomplish given my resources, skills, and immediate environment?
Personally, I like to think in a 6-12 month timeframe. I create a picture of where I am, what I look like, and what I am doing at those points of time and aggressively chase that aspiration. I’ve learned I never have all the answers, resources, or knowledge needed to attain that picture, but people around me generally do. And, lucky for us, people are genuinely excited to help others. Make a mental picture, capture it, and smile at the opportunities moving forward.
b. What skills are you hoping to develop?
“I really want that certification.” Or, “I can’t wait until I feel confident in my Excel skills.” Or even, “I really need to be more patient and be a better active listener.” All great realizations. All very attainable. And all take time. Whatever skills you’re looking to grow, I like to think of how these skills will help me reach not only the immediate goal, but how they act as stepping stones for my long-term goals. For me, I like to focus on 2-3 skills, simply because having a laundry list of personal growth initiatives can muddy how you prioritize your day to day, and I simply can’t remember that many things at once.
3. Get it out of your head:
a. Use a trusted friend as an unassuming, unconditionally loving soundboard.
That’s why you are friends in the first place! Get some candid, well-respected feedback. Setting the stage for an intentional conversation will lead to a focused and productive outcome that both of you can grow from. It’s amazing how our thoughts are formulated in our head, but the translation into words can sometimes get jammed, crammed, and scrambled.
4. Build a Habit:
a. Smaller actions are less daunting and more easily implemented than larger, disrupting events in your day to day operations.
You won’t lose 10 pounds by Friday, and chances are you probably won’t get promoted after 3 weeks of work (yes, that’s us millennials), and chances are we won’t be the perfect version of that patient, active listening partner you’re hoping to be after a few meditation sessions. But, we’ve got to start somewhere. For me, it’s the pool effect. We’ve all had that experience of standing on the edge of a swimming pool, looking at that giant, wavy blue abyss, and wondering just how cold it’s actually going to be. Maybe you grab your nose, maybe you stick one toe in to test the waters, or maybe your sibling runs behind you and relentlessly shoves you in. Either way, jump! Make that first small step, commit to the move, and be optimistic about the outcome.
This is a simple thought process to guide and inspire some introspection to create a more intentional self-development plan. It’s meant to be stimulating, challenging, and excavating.
I was always a big fan of playing with Legos. Truthfully, I had all the Star Wars sets and would build, break, and rebuild those toys all day up in my room. I believe a healthy combination of using the perfect cover image with a little aided instruction makes for a quality assembly without diminishing my imagination.
Best of luck in assembling your personal Lego pieces of life, and enjoy all the possibilities it may bring.