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How to Do a Personal Mid-Year Review

How to Do a Personal Mid-Year Review

Mid-year reviews are a common feature in workplaces around the world. Useful for evaluating and reflecting upon what’s happened over the last six months, and what they want to happen over the next six months, mid-year reviews give companies the chance to make adjustments to their actions that will keep them in line with their business goals.

In this post, we’re going to look at how you can take this concept and apply it to your personal life. Doing a personal mid-year review can help us stay conscious of our life balance. It also helps keep us on track with any personal goals or projects we want to focus on between now and the end of the year.

Looking Back

1. Make a list of everything that you feel proud of over the past six months.

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Start by thinking about your experience of the last six months. Notice that this step doesn’t just involve results or things you’ve achieved, but focuses on how you feel about what you’ve done over the last half-year.

The things that you feel proud of can be of any nature or significance. Feeling proud of bringing in a big project for your company might sit on this list, alongside feeling proud of the fact that you’ve made it to the gym at least twice per week, or feeling proud of the fact that you’ve paid all your bills on time since the beginning of the year.

2. Make a list of any new goals or challenges you’ve taken on over the past six months, as well as how much progress you’ve made on each.

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Many of us start the year with New Year’s Resolutions. You might find that these goals have changed over the past six months, or that the parameters have shifted. If a particular goal isn’t serving you and your long-term plans anymore (note: this is not the same as finding something challenging), this is a great time to make adjustments where necessary.

As well as looking at your goals individually, take a look at your personal life as a whole: are you feeling over-committed right now? Would you like to have more variety in your personal life?

Asking yourself questions like this now can help prevent you feeling overwhelmed or like you haven’t made the most of your year in six months’ time.

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Looking Ahead

3. Identify two areas of your life you would like to focus on over the next six months.

Our lives can be broadly divided up into the following areas: family, leisure/fun, career, finance, relationships, health and fitness, physical environment, and personal development.

Go through each area and think about how satisfied you feel with this aspect of your life right now (it can be helpful to think about your satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10).

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Once you’ve identified the two areas of your life you most want to focus on (usually these will be the two areas with the lowest satisfaction scores, but not always), write down three things you can do to bring your score in these areas closer to a 10/10.

4. Pick a word or phrase that will sum up your next six months.

This step might sound a little mystical, but it’s another way of helping you stay grounded between now and the end of the year.

Having a word or phrase that encapsulates how you’d like to experience your next six months helps remind you of the goals and intentions you’re setting now. As you might have experienced with goals you set at the beginning of the year, we can start off with the best intentions to honour those goals, only to have commitments and distractions throw us off course. Having a word or phrase that sums up how we want to experience the next six months helps keep us aligned with our original intentions and reduces the chance that we’ll get to the end of the year and regret how we spent our time.

Do you have any tips for a successful mid-year personal review? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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