As we approach the end of what has been a very difficult year it can be tempting to not want to reflect on what has passed but to look forward to 2021 in the hope that things will be very different.

However, there is great power in looking back. Only by looking back, and seeing what happened and learning from our experiences, are we able to move forward taking with us the lessons we have learned. So that we can be better, achieve more, increase our self- growth, and improve our performance at work.

At a time when there have been so many hardships it can also be a great practice for our mental health. Thinking about the things that we are grateful for, and recognising the things that we have achieved, help to build a positive self-image, and increase our sense of well-being.

The information that we learn from what we have done will make our choices going forwards more informed. We will have learnt much by what we have experienced in the COVID-19 era; a stronger sense of resilience, adapting in the face of adversity and realising the importance of being connected to others to name a few.

None of us have a crystal ball that tells us what next year will bring. You can be sure that it will involve change and the need to adapt, as even when we get back to some ‘normality’, it will be a different normal than what we have known in the past.

The end of the year provides a natural pause, where we can look back and see what we have achieved and how we have achieved it. It is this information that we should carry forward into our planning and strategy for the forthcoming year, building our plans on good foundations, and always learning from the highs and lows we have experienced along the way.


So, if you are up for the challenge of looking back and looking forward, the guided reflection exercise below is a good place to start.

First, find a quiet place to think and reflect on the first set of questions. Think deep and think wide!

Then, using the insights you have gained about yourself, explore what that means for you and how you can apply that to be successful in 2021.


1. Looking back at 2020

  • What am I grateful for?
  • What were my top 3-4 achievements?
  • What were my main challenges?
  • What have I learnt about myself this year?


2. Looking forward to 2021

  • What did I learn from 2020 that I can apply in 2021?
  • What will my top 3-4 priorities be?
  • What must I do differently to achieve them?
  • What support might I need from others to help me to be successful


The benefit of looking back is that foresight does not exist without hindsight, but are we truly leveraging what we have learnt from the past?  The practice of looking back to look forward affords us an opportunity to gain a better understanding of connections between the past and present and to use that knowledge to plan for success in the future.