What went well last year?

Hopefully after your first task of picking your theme tune for the year, you’ll be in the mood for another pleasant activity. Today’s job requires up to an hour of your time.

To prepare you’ll need paper and pens, a computer, or phone. You might also need last year’s diary and access to social media. You’ll definitely need sustenance. I suggest some leftover holiday chocolates, mince pies and a cup of tea, but it’s up to you. You may want to play some relaxing or uplifting music while you work.

Once you’re ready it’s time to think back over the past twelve months and make a list of all the things you are most proud of.

What milestones did you hit that made you happy? Did you persist at something even though it seemed too difficult at the start? How about quitting a task that just wasn’t working? All of this counts.

Other things you may consider are times when you helped another person with their work or their worries. When you planned something even if it didn’t come to fruition. Where you attempted something for the first time, or where you achieved something you previously believed was beyond you.

You may want to look back across all of the last year, noting specific events or achievements by month. Or you may prefer to focus on key areas – for example your written work; further study; mentoring, volunteering or activism and note what you achieved there.

If other people gave you compliments or noted something you got done then add this to your list as well.  You get to decide what goes on your list, so don’t just focus on ‘big wins’.

As you start you may remember other things, or over the coming weeks remember stuff you’d not included. It’s fine to keep updating your list (and remember if any of this belongs on your CV to update that accordingly, noting a lot of this isn’t CV relevant but is important to you and makes you feel good to acknowledge).

Ways to take this forward in the coming year
– Create a list or folder you save on your computer or phone to look back on when you feel in need of a pick me up (and to ensure you don’t forget key things you need in order to promote yourself)
– Write a card or post-it note when you’ve done something you’re happy about and stick it where you can see it
– Make yourself a certificate (like the one at the top of this post) you can fill in and give yourself
– Make a collage or cartoon of your key achievements
– Find images online that represent your best bits of the year and keep them in a folder, or add to Instagram or Pinterest
– Feel free to show off and share with others over on Facebook or on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #ResearcherRenew – tell us what you did that gave you most joy!
– Share your list with friends, particularly people that really ‘get’ you. Enjoy your milestones together. Or if it’s tricky to write nice things for yourself, write nice things to each other recalling the things you’ve managed in the past year.

If you found this task difficult
It may be because you’re assuming you can only participate if you’re putting super big stuff down. It’s fine to note anything you did that is worth celebrating. It doesn’t have to only be based on something you’ve written or that comes with funding, or that your organisation deems important. In fact the more things you can add that aren’t ‘official successes’ the better. The reason for doing this task is to note just how much we do and how often we fail to give ourselves credit.

If you’re already working within disadvantage due to race, disability, low income, chronic mental or physical illness, sexuality or gender then note this as your starting point. If these barriers may have had an impact on your life and work in the past year you may understandably want to focus on what you didn’t achieve or how you were obstructed or hurt. It is okay to be rightfully angry about this, and later in this month we’ll focus more on your rights and wellbeing. For today if you can acknowledge these hardships while also noting you’re facing more obstacles than your peers and still getting stuff done, that may build your confidence.

For the coming year
There may have been things you did in over the past twelve months you’ve forgotten about, or perhaps didn’t note at the time. I’d recommend keeping a diary or ‘happiness jar’ throughout this year so next January you can look back at all the good things you did.

A happiness jar involves writing on scraps of paper good things that you enjoyed or achieved across the year. It’s important not to restrict yourself to limited things like getting a paper published or applying for funding. But to broaden out to things like ‘enjoying the audience clapping after I gave my first conference paper’ or ‘helping a colleague finally understand something they’ve struggled with’. You might want to use different colour pens and decorate each piece of paper you put in the jar. At the end of the year take them out, spread them on the table and take photos celebrating you.

All that, however, is for another day. For today take stock, and take pride in yourself.

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