‘Tis the season to take a personal inventory

Take the time to reflect on where you have been so you know where you want to go.

Over the course of my career, as well as in my role as a Michigan State University Extension educator, I have had the opportunity to assist colleagues, staff, boards, committees, friends and others in key skill areas related to leadership, management and collaborative network building. It is from these experiences that I take these action items to help you take your own personal inventory.

It’s December, and with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to forget to reflect on your personal and professional networks, accomplishments, challenges, opportunities and collaborations from the past year, and set a plan for the upcoming one.

Planning is an ongoing process, but you need to take the time to reflect on the journey you have taken so your future journey is as successful as possible.


One important activity that should be undertaken is to take stock in your professional network. This should be ongoing, but at a minimum, you can use holiday season is a great opportunity to reach out to your colleagues, friends and connections…..especially those you may not have communicated with in quite some time.

In the article “Maintain a strong professional network” I wrote about the importance of doing so. By taking stock as the year ends, you will have a much better opportunity to be successful at this activity.


Try to identify and list your major accomplishments from the past year. It may be difficult at first, but as you remember the things you have accomplished, it may be staggering to think of how much you did over the past 12 months. It is too easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day minutia and not give ourselves credit for the things we have done. Now is a great time to do so, take a little pride and share what you were able to accomplish. Great ways to share would be to integrate into your annual resume or CV update, put on your favorite social media page or simply just allow the success to speak for itself.


Just like our accomplishments, list the challenges that presented themselves this year. What did you do to move past them? Are they still an issue? Will they be an issue in the upcoming year that you can start planning now to find alternatives or solutions?


Were there opportunities that you passed up or missed over the past year? If so, why? Will they present themselves again? If so, when? Do you have a plan to seize those opportunities next time around? If not, why?


Did you make new connections to collaborate with this past year? Are these ongoing, and if so, what is next? Are there potential collaborations you can become involved with in the new year? Now is a great time to set up a strategy to successfully build new collaborations while continuing to strengthen your current ones.

At the end of the day, it is all about the plan. Sure, all great plans are obsolete the minute they are put into action; however, they should really be considered as more of a road map. It helps get us to our destination, but there are bound to be detours and changes along the way. However, by at least having the map, one can better guide their decision making, find alternative routes and still end up at the correct destination, even if by way of a different path.

Remember, as Winston Churchill once said… “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”

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