One of our favorite 2023 additions to the PowerSheets® goal planner is the core truths sprinkled throughout. These core truths—15 guiding phrases to ground your goal setting—summarize our "what-matters-most" approach to achieving more of what matters to you in a life-giving and joyful way.
Because it's one thing to have heard a truth like "any day can be a fresh start" or "naming what matters changes everything" and another to actually remember and believe it—and it's only when we move to this next level that our actions will follow. When life throws us a curveball or goal setting gets discouraging, we need to be reminded of what's true.
Enter: the core truths! As you work through the pages of your PowerSheets, you'll be reminded of what you love about this community and its approach to goal setting with every turn of the page. You'll be reminded of what's true.
Of course, we only had so much room in the PowerSheets—and so this year on the blog, we'll be giving each core truth its moment to shine. One at a time, we'll unpack what each core truth means, how it applies to goal setting, and how you can make the most of it.
Up first: reflection reaps rewards.
What does "reflection reaps rewards" mean?
You know we love a good gardening metaphor around here! :) Just like the regular rhythm of preparing the soil, planting seeds, watering, and pruning that goes into an abundant harvest, a practice of regular reflection will result in a harvest of goodness, too: a honed ability to make better decisions, increased adaptability, emotional intelligence, and more effective strategies to achieve your goals, to start.
A diligent practice of thoughtful reflection requires time and effort, but it will reward you over time with more of what matters.
Why does thoughtful reflection matter in goal setting?
Anywhere there's a desire for improvement and effectiveness, you'll notice reflection is likely close by.
As well as being a business-world staple, thoughtful reflection is a mainstay of many religious practices: for example, the Examen is a daily Christian practice in which believers pray through five steps. They are: becoming aware of God's presence throughout the day, reviewing the day with gratitude, paying attention to emotions experienced throughout the day and what God might be illuminating through them, praying through a particular moment of the day, and looking ahead to tomorrow. Lots of similarities with cultivated reflection, no?
Whether an Examen, a business SWOT analysis, or a military after-action review, all reflection has the goal of learning, and all helpful reflection requires honesty. Reflection asks you to look back on your actions and their consequences from a distance, with as little bias as possible. What worked? What didn't? If needed, what can be done? What can't?
Reflection is particularly powerful in goal setting. When you look back thoughtfully at where you've been and what you've done, you can harness the power of the past to change the future. Instead of feeling regret over decisions and actions you wish you'd handled differently, you can feel empowered to make better decisions in the future. (And at the least, to not make the same mistakes!) By iterating on what's come before, you'll go further, faster, in the pursuit of what matters.
How can I make my reflection more meaningful?
The PowerSheets process prompts you to reflect at specific points throughout your workbook: the Prep Work invites you to look at the year you just lived, and the Month in Review after each month is a chance to examine what worked and what didn't in the last 30 days.
Other signature Cultivate products include pauses for reflection, too: the Season by Season Planner includes reflection at the beginning of each season, month, and week, and at the end of each day.
But with all the thousands of moments that happen in just one week, how do you know what to focus on in your reflection? Two researchers set out to answer that question, and though their study focused on business executives, there's a lot we can glean from it as goal setters.
Ask the right questions.
"Three distinct themes arose through our analysis," they wrote: "surprise, frustration, and failure. Reflections that involved one or more or of these sentiments proved to be the most valuable in helping our leaders learn and grow in their careers." We can assume reflecting on moments of surprise, frustration, and failure might help us grow in our goal setting, too!
- SURPRISE: Many things surprise us, but in the study, leaders were moved by moments that "greatly derailed their expectations." Expectations are a way of attempting to control our circumstances, and can be helpful for managing our own reactions. But "mistakes, lapses in judgments, and wrongful assumptions are worth our reflection."
- FAILURE: Failure can often be traced back to an action, which is both good and bad news. We might have to own up to a mistake, yes, but "mistakes provide raw evidence of what we should not do in the future." What a valuable learning opportunity! But of course, we can't learn if we don't take the time to stop and reflect.
- FRUSTRATION: Frustration occurs when our thoughtful plans are criticized, our plans are foiled by circumstances beyond our control, we bump up against unfairness, we feel unable to match our actions to our desires, and much more. Upon reflection, though, the leaders in the study were able to turn frustration into growth opportunities: that is, "opportunities for improvement, change, innovation, and even to develop other soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and patience."
The authors of the study specifically link frustration to not being able to achieve a goal. But good news: "Pushing through [the] frustration [of not being able to achieve our goals] and finding other ways to cope and move forward results in our growth."
So: a great way to make your reflection more meaningful is to focus on moments of surprise, failure, or frustration. When you do, try to identify the why behind the emotion: what about the event triggered these feelings in you? Were your expectations derailed? Did things not go your way? Did you make a mistake?
Another helpful framing for working through one of these moments of surprise, frustration, or failure: ask yourself:
- What? What happened? Is it a pattern or an isolated event?
- So what? Why does it matter? What does it mean?
- Now what? What will you do next? What is needed to repair the situation, make the most of the circumstances, or get back on track? Is there a mistake you can learn from? Do you need to recalibrate your expectations?
If you'd like to go deeper, be sure to read the article—it's excellent!
Schedule time to reflect.
There's power in consistency—for reflection, and all other good things. Block time in your calendar each week to make sure reflection—on the way you're cultivating what matters and your goal progress—happens on a regular basis.
And because we're talking about expectations, go ahead and set those realistically, too: reflection might sound soft, but it can be painful to look closely at your shortcomings. Be sure to balance it with an equal measure of noticing the good and celebrating your wins. Both are important!
We'd love to hear: how do you incorporate reflection into your life on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments!
P.S. For more about all 15 of Cultivate What Matters' core truths, click here!