Updated: Dec 10, 2021
The winter season always puts me in a reflective spirit. I suppose it's because the year is coming to a close and I'm able to assess my year in review. Instead of reminiscing on the goals I did not accomplish or what went wrong, I choose to celebrate all of my wins, regardless of size. To illustrate, I would like to discuss a scene of my all time favorite TV show "A Different World." A Different World depicts the campus life of black students at the fictional Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Hillman College. In the episode officially titled, "Ex-Communication or Fiancé What?", more affectionately known as the "Relax, Relate, Release" episode, Whitley Gilbert, begins seeing a therapist.
While in therapy Whitley attempts to process the relationship of her ex-sweetheart Julian Day, and current courtship with Dwayne Wayne. As Whitley reflects on both relationships, she says, “It doesn’t bother me in the least that my ex-boyfriend is marrying a perfect woman and they are going off to live a perfectly lovely life and I’m hopelessly in love with a boy who can’t tell the difference between a salad fork and a pitchfork". Here's a brief back story to Whitley's character, her initial goal of enrolling into college is to find a husband and live in Paris happily ever after. There are many flaws to Whitley's goal, the fact that it is not SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound). Additionally, the statement Whitley's makes during therapy implies she is inadequate, not enough to be with Julian. Whitley assumes Julian and his fashion model fiancé will live a perfect life together. Whitley's relationship goal stresses her to the point where she overlooks the kindness and generosity of Dwayne and almost misses the opportunity to date him. Even more, Whitley is so boughed down with why she and Julian did not work out she can't even see a potential "win" in Dwayne.
This type of negative reflection exhibited by Whitley is harmful because it prevented her from opening up to the possibilities of her future because she was wallowing in despair. She was solely focused on the negative aspects of not being engaged to Julian which left her feeling defeated. She was stuck and incapable of moving forward prior to receiving her marching orders from her therapist (played by icon Debbie Allen) to "relax, relate, release." An individual who reflects in this manner will likely result in not wanting to set future goals, let alone obtain them.
Conversely, reflection can be a powerful tool to heal past trauma and hurt. It's important to be aware of the thoughts you think and words you say to yourself especially if you did not obtain your goal(s) as expected. Instead of telling yourself, "I'm a failure because I didn't launch my business, this year" consider telling yourself, "While I didn't launch my business this year, I came to the conclusion that I had a lot on my plate and it was difficult for me to stay focused." The latter statement indicates that the goal was not met in totality while acknowledging obstacles that prevented you from meeting your goal. Reframing your reflection in a more positive manner allows you to continue to work towards your goal and feel a sense of accomplishment. Before you start compiling your New Year's resolutions take a moment to reflect on your goals, ensure they are SMART and celebrate the small wins along the way.