Why You Should Do a Mid-Year Review

5 min read
Source: Mathilda Khoo/Unsplash

Hand holding crystal ball with a reflection of the skyline and trees.

Source: Mathilda Khoo/Unsplash

This past week, our team engaged in some mid-year reflection and planning for the spring. It’s a great opportunity to take stock, acknowledge what worked and what did not, identify gaps and growth opportunities, and set our course for when we return after the winter break.

The end of the year can prompt many of us toward moments of personal reflection, as well. The move from one calendar year to the next has the feeling of turning the page, starting with a clean slate, and encouraging those New Year’s resolutions or new intentions. It’s an opportunity to recommit, perhaps, to the previous year’s goals, with the benefit of new knowledge. That said, with the busyness of the end of the year and the holidays, it’s easy to push off these personal moments of reflection to just get things done.

If you’re like me, your life is full of lists at the moment: work to-do lists, shopping lists, holiday card lists, and more. We have the potential to miss the big moments of reflection in our need to just power through. But in doing so, we miss critical learning opportunities which can prevent productive forward movement. A personal mid-year review is a great way to take stock, acknowledge successes, and create realistic intentions for what comes next.

Why Reflect?

The act of reflection is one of those vague, hard-to-quantify, “you know it when you see it” terms. While we might agree that it’s good practice, understanding why, exactly, is a bit harder to pin down. Faller, Lundgren, and Marsick (2020) provide a broad overview of the various conceptual perspectives on reflection and an in-depth summary of the literature, concluding that “Reflection supports meaning-making and sense-making, and as such helps guide action toward goals”; however, its utility “appears to change based on its context, measures, and expected outcomes.” In other words, does reflection matter? It depends.

The act of reflection in terms of engaging with critical inquiry is linked to educational theory and John Dewey in the early 1900s. As Rodgers (2002) notes, Dewey is cited so frequently in this context that “reflection has suffered from a loss of meaning. In becoming everything to everybody, it has lost its ability to be seen” (p. 843). In hopes of making it more visible, Rodgers details the four essential criteria that underpin Dewey’s conceptualization of reflection (p. 845):

  1. Reflection is a meaning-making process that moves a learner from one experience into the next with a deeper understanding of its relationships with and connections to other experiences and ideas.
  2. Reflection is a systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking, with its roots in scientific inquiry.
  3. Reflection needs to happen in community, in interaction with others.
  4. Reflection requires attitudes that value the personal and intellectual growth of oneself and of others.

More recently, David A. Kolb incorporated reflection in his experiential learning theory and model, and scholars in cultural humility theories have built it into their models as well (Fisher-Borne et al., 2015; Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998). Each of these theories, models, and practices directly tie the act of reflection to deeper learning and connection.

Perhaps the best argument for why we should practice reflection is that we can. Looking back on what has happened in the past and connecting it to what is to come is part of what makes us uniquely human. We aren’t robots, locked in the present. We reflect because we are hardwired for learning, growth, and making sense of the world in which we live and using that knowledge to greater purpose in the future. To miss that opportunity is to ignore a key part of our humanity.

5 Questions to Ask for Your Personal Mid-Year Review

The key to any reflective exercise is objective honesty. It’s only in recognizing your failures, shortcomings, and gaps, as well as your successes and strengths, that you can take steps towards doing things better or differently, the next time. Just like you wouldn’t look at the past year at work and give yourself a pass for not meeting expectations, don’t do it for yourself, personally, either. It doesn’t mean being hard on yourself. It means being as objective and honest as possible, so that you can move forward with intention.

So, during the busyness of this season, when it feels like everything is a task to get done, give yourself the gift of some deep reflection time. It may be some of the most important work you do.

Ask yourself:

  • What did I learn about myself, my strengths, and my interests this year?
  • Where did I fall short, either personally or professionally? Where are my gaps?
  • As I think about the upcoming year, what do I want to learn?
  • As I think about the upcoming year, what do I want to accomplish or achieve?
  • As I think about the upcoming year, what will I need (resources, connections, knowledge, abilities) to successfully work towards achieving those intentions?

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