6 Sept 2019

Career Development

Why August is my time for reflection and goal setting

Written by Dennis Stanley

For me, there’s something about August that feels like a beginning and an end at the same time. A hiatus before my next chapter. You see, I slow down over the summer holidays and make sure I take some time for myself. During this downtime I reflect on the last 12 months, I dream and plan for the future. It feels like time spent in a chrysalis, from which I emerge rejuvenated and ready to strive towards my goals.

Here I want to share why it’s so important to allow yourself this time – and why I think the summer is the best time to do it.

Why is it important to allow time for reflection?

Taking the time to sit and think can feel indulgent and self-serving when you’re not used to it. Our society doesn’t seem to encourage anything other than being busy, busy, busy. Yet, there are two main problems with this.

First of all, if you relentlessly push forward you risk exhausting yourself. You may have seen in the news recently that the World Health Organisation, for the first time, included burnout in their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon. It’s on the rise, but it is something we can all avoid by looking after ourselves more and increasing our self-awareness.

Taking your foot off the pedal for a while – and allowing yourself to relax – helps you to reduce your stress levels and replenish your energy. So, you can come out the other side revived and motivated.

Secondly, without regularly appraising “where you are” and “what you’ve done” you risk ploughing on without realising you’re going in a direction that doesn’t fulfil or make you happy. It’s hard to see where you are going when you have your head down.

By examining your life and taking stock of your achievements (and the not so good things!), you can alter the path you are on and ensure that you’re heading to where you want to be.

There are some helpful questions in this article that you can use to start the reflection process if you’ve not done it before.

Why is it important to set goals?

After all that retrospective thinking, it makes sense that you then start out purposefully towards where you want your life to be. Setting actual goals is key to fuelling this ambition and keeping you on track. They help to keep you focused on the end result that you want to achieve – and give you something to measure your achievements against next summer.

Also, research has shown that having a purpose helps to increase your resilience, so you can bounce back quickly when you are faced with challenges or things go wrong.

Why I do this in the summer

I know many people use the beginning of the calendar year to set their goals, but there are a number of reasons I choose not to do this.

We all know how crazy Christmas and New Year can be, so finding the time to really reflect and dream around this period just doesn’t work for me. The process of reflecting can’t be rushed and requires “head space” for it to be effective. I think we’re all a bit out of touch with our day-to-day lives after the festive period, so the goals you set may not be realistic or represent what you really want. Neither of which will help you achieve them, leaving you feeling deflated and demotivated.

How many of you have set New Year’s resolutions, only for them to fall by the wayside before January is through?

Plus, I tend to go on holiday during August which gives me the perfect environment to relax and ponder, without the stresses of work hanging over me.

Ultimately this has to work for you, so summer may not be the best time. It’s worth thinking about timing when you do it for yourself, and not just following a calendar as many people seem to.

Can I get any help to do this?

While the thought processes are a very personal thing, it can help to have someone working alongside you to help you define your ideas and support you with maintaining your pace when you return. Although friends and family may seem like the natural option to turn to, they often find it hard to be objective and can end up, unintentionally, derailing you from your goals.

A performance coach uses their expert knowledge to guide and support you, focusing on your goals and individual way of working. This will give you the best chance of achieving whatever it is you want to achieve.