How to learn from 2020 – reflect, draw insights and set your intentions for 2021
It’s been a hell of a year and many will want to forget 2020 completely, but before you do, I’d encourage you to learn from 2020 first.
Whilst Covid and its knock-on effects may have upset any plans you had for 2020 or, even worse, been traumatic for you, there’s value in treating it as a learning exercise. Otherwise, there’s a risk that 2020 will define you and the next few years by accident, delaying your recovery from what has undoubtedly been a hard year.
Your resilience may have taken a battering and perhaps you’re verging on burnout (see last month’s blog about that) but undertaking a reflective learning exercise will enable you to salvage something from the year. That’s critical when looking ahead and setting our intentions or goals for the new year.
We have some ‘new normals’ and some ‘never normals’ to grapple with in 2021, so if we learn from 2020, it enables us to build a resilient plan for the future.
How to learn from 2020
Try a reflective learning exercise to gain insights and look ahead. I’m going to explain how to use one and ask you some simple questions to get the ball rolling. There’s a tool to download at the bottom.
There are several well written up models for reflective learning; Kolb published his experiential learning theory in 1984 and inspired Gibbs to publish his reflective cycle in 1988, one of the most widely used models for drawing insights from lived experience.
The purpose of reflecting, especially from a coaching point of view, is less for therapy and more to generate insights and evidence that enable you to set a better intention or goal for the next year. And I don’t mean just setting a new year’s resolution because there is scant evidence supporting the success of new year’s resolutions.
No, I mean a proper goal. A dream with a date on it. Something that speaks to your core values, that you’re passionate about, that challenges you and enables you to make a difference in your life. Practicing reflective learning can help you find that better version of yourself that you’re looking for.
December is often a good time to do this kind of thinking because it’s a natural end point, although with Covid, we don’t know that. Change has been relentless in response to the virus, so we must pause and reflect to understand what is or isn’t working and how we can keep moving forward. Not just to survive, but to thrive.
On top of that, Christmas is often at time to reconnect with friends and family. The emotional connection with these people is a natural link to our core values and leads to a natural pause and re-evaluation. The opportunity for those post-Christmas lunch or Boxing Day walks which normally provide a vital connection back to nature may be missing this year, depending upon which Tier of Covid restrictions you’re living under, but it’s still vital the we find a way connect as humans and support our social need.
The phone, or Zoom might be our only option this year, but if you can get outside with friends, there’s a growing bank of evidence on the wellbeing benefits of maintaining a strong connection with nature. Check out articles on eco-psychology for further information on this.
We might need to be creative about how we spend time with friends and family, so consider how a reflective session with them to learn from 2020 could be a powerful tool to maintain connection.
A Reflective Learning Cycle
Based upon the six steps of Gibbs reflective cycle I’ve included some of the coaching questions I might use, were we working together.
Firstly, find a quiet space and allow your mind to find that reflective zone. Try these ideas to find that headspace:
- Grab a cuppa, turn your phone off and put some chilled tunes on,
- Wrap up warm, sit under a tree or somewhere with a view. Let your gaze go long – like a thousand-yard stare – and cast your mind back over the year,
- Use a notebook, or large sheet of paper – scribble and doodle as you need to help loosen those thoughts,
- May be even go for a walk with a close friend or relative and ask each other the questions below.
Ask a question – what can I learn from 2020?
- What did I do in 2020?
- How did Covid affect me, my work, friends or family?
- What were the significant events and experiences of the year?
Describe the experience
- What happened?
- What was the outcome?
- What did I do, when and where did it happen?
- Who was present?
- What did I want to happen instead?
Explore the thoughts and feelings associated with the experiences
- What was I feeling when it happened?
- What about before and afterwards?
- What do I think other people felt about what happened?
- What do they think now?
Evaluate the experiences
- What went well?
- What could have gone better?
- What was good and bad about the experience?
- What makes you say that?
Analyse what happened
- Why did the situation turn out like it did?
- What insights can I draw from the experience?
- What sense can I make of the situation?
- What can I do now, or knowledge can I apply to learn from the situation?
Summarise the reflective learning from 2020
- What did I learn from the situation?
- How could this experience have turned out better/even better?
- What skills do I need to handle experiences like this better?
Action Plan – set the intention for 2021
- Covid isn’t over yet, so if the changes happened again or keep happening, what would I do differently next time?
- How do I develop the skills needed for future events?
- How will I make sure I act differently next time?
- How does this shape my plans for 2021 – my intentions, my goals and my life.
And there it is – Gibbs reflective cycle. It’s a powerful tool, generating insights, locking in learning and providing evidence of experience. It takes a little discipline to do it frequently, but once you know how to use it, this reflective cycle can work in any scenario at work, at home or at play.
Crucially, it also provides a great starting point for setting future goals. Your action plan needs a timeline, some specific actions and a commitment to making the changes you’ve identified whilst reflecting. That’s the jumping off point for working with a coach, just in case you hadn’t spotted that coming!
If you need help reflecting and learning for 2020 then please get in touch. You don’t have to do it alone and sometimes working with a coach is a great way to get some external perspective, find clarity or develop a resilient plan for the future.
If you’d like to work on solving a challenge in your life, making a difference, or even just to stop making the same mistake again and again, please give me a call or use this link to book a FREE 30 minute coaching exploration.
Download the reflective cycle tool here.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year – 2021 will be what we make of it and that’s my point – Covid will pass and what we learned from 2020 can be a driver for our future.