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As Maria famously sang in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with a…b…c… When you sing you begin with do…re…mi.” Leadership is not really that different. Maria might have sang, “When you lead you, you begin with me…me…me.” For us at the Veterinary Leadership Institute, leading well is all about self-awareness, so this first day of reflection (and all the rest of them, actually) will start at the very beginning- learning how to better understand yourself.

Since it is the start of a new year, many of us are thinking about our new year’s resolutions and all the things we are hoping to accomplish in 2020. Perhaps you want to implement new habits that will lead to better physical health, like eating more vegies or exercising regularly. Or, maybe you are thinking about changing jobs or starting a new hobby. It’s possible that you haven’t even thought about a single new year’s resolution (that’s ok, too). We wonder, though, if the start of the year might be a great time to dig a little deeper than just traditional new year goal setting. After all, that’s how we roll at the Veterinary Leadership Institute. We love to get below the surface of our busy lives in order to give ourselves the opportunity to do the hard work that will help us thrive. (Hint: remember our holiday story– “It begins with reflection and a community of friends. It’s an incredible skill set that transforms and transcends.”)

It is easy to write down some goals so we can check the new year self-improvement box and get on with our busy vet med life. However, if we want to know ourselves better so we can lead well in the new year, we have to take at least a few minutes to step off the treadmill and think about who we are and what we bring to the table. In order to practice that skill of reflection, let’s consider 2019 and what went well so we can use that knowledge to help us be successful in 2020.

-Find a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts and one of these handy worksheets.

-Spend at least 5 minutes thinking about the past year and recall as many positive situations you were a part of as possible. Write them down. Give yourself the freedom to write down anything that causes you to feel positively, no matter how big or small. Depending on how the year has gone, you might have lots of things to write down or not so many so be kind to yourself as you think about the positive.

-Choose one of the scenarios you have written down and write it in the bubble and then answer the following questions about that scenario…

  1. What strengths do I notice in myself as a result of this situation?
  2. What role did I play in allowing this situation to come to pass?
  3. What role did others play in allowing this situation to come to pass?
  4. What was challenging about this situation and how did I overcome those challenges?
  5. Identify the thoughts and actions that led to this positive situation.
  6. Identify the thoughts and actions that made arriving at a positive outcome more difficult.

-Write a summary sentence or two about what you learned about yourself in remembering this positive situation and how you can use that knowledge to help you be successful in any new year’s resolutions you have for 2020.

The research tells us that one of the best ways for us to improve on future performance is to reflect on and better understand how we handled situations in the past so we can continue the things that helped us and modify or eliminate the behaviors that were detrimental to our success. The exercise you just completed was a way for you to begin to develop the skill of doing just that- great job!! The more you practice this skill set, the easier it becomes, but it starts with you understanding you. Take what you just learned about yourself and apply it to your goals and dreams for 2020. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow as we give you another opportunity to reflect and learn.

Betsy Charles

Betsy loves being a veterinary radiologist and trying to make the world a better place. When not reading films, teaching veterinary students, or when she takes a break from trying to make a positive difference for the profession, she enjoys having meaningful and authentic conversation with all who cross her path, developing young entrepreneurs as they pursue their passions, riding her horse Lenny, reading, and hiking with her red heeler, Sadie.

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