End-of-year reflection questions

CIWM’s Professional Development Manager, Claire Poole, explores a way of reflecting on 2020 to help us get what we need out of 2021. This useful exercise can be used at any time, but is more helpful to us than ever as we head out of 2020 and into 2021.

Well, what a year! Definitely a year of change and mixed emotions, with each of us experiencing things differently. You are probably fed up with hearing the new phrases that seem to have been constantly spoken – ‘we are all in the same storm, but we are in different boats’; ‘this is unprecedented’ and my favourite ‘you’re on mute!’.

It’s been a year of learning to live our lives differently and embedding new behaviours. It may be that this has given us an opportunity to re-evaluate what is important to us, how we have been, what we can do different and maybe even where we are heading. But with 2020 being so different (dare I say unprecedented!) it may not be so easy to make sense of it.

Anyone who has ever done a management or leadership course will have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This is a great place to start as this model states that, as individuals, we need to ensure our basic needs are met before we can focus on other needs.

These basic needs are referred to as our physiological needs (e.g. food, water, warmth and rest) and our safety needs (e.g. security and safety). With these met we can focus on the next important set of needs which are our psychological needs. These include relationships and self-esteem (feeling of accomplishment), and in turn our self-fulfillment (achieving full potential) can’t be fully met if our psychological needs are threatened.

(diagram from simplypsychology.org)

Therefore, it is not surprising that 2020 has had different effects on us all and the chance to take stock is important as we move into 2021.

We don’t know what 2021 will bring, the only thing that is certain is that for many it will be more changes, uncertainty and challenges! Therefore, it makes perfect sense to stop and take a breath before we launch headlong into 2021. But where to start…

To reflect on 2020 we could just think about what we did/what we are doing differently and how this has worked for us – or not. Or we could spend a bit more time and use the idea put forward by Better Teams.

The team at Better Teams have identified some suggested questions based around the different parts of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But before you start they suggest the following preparation:

  1. Block at least one hour of uninterrupted time
  2. Do this activity somewhere comfortable
  3. Consider writing rather than typing your answer
  4. Give yourself permission to be fully honest without judgment. If you realise that you did not do something – don’t beat yourself up, just consider it and learn from it.
  5. Determine what aspect of your life you will focus on

Questions to consider:

Physiological Needs/Physical Well Being

How did your workspace impact your ability to meet your goals?

How did you nurture your body and mind?

How did you manage stress? What worked/didn’t work?

How did you sleep?

How did you exercise?

How did you eat?

How would you rate your overall physical wellbeing?


How safe did you feel in your workspace?

How secure did you feel about your income?

How safe did you feel in your relationships?

How would you rate your overall sense of security?


How did you maintain existing relationships?

How did you build new relationships?

How did you connect while social distancing?

With whom did you feel like you belong?

With whom did you feel cared for and appreciated?

Whom did you actively care for and appreciate?

How would you rate your overall sense of connection with others?


How confident are you in your abilities to do the work asked of you?

What tasks or roles are you the most confident in?

What tasks or roles are you the least confident in?

How respected are you by the people you work with?

What achievements are you most proud of this year?

What were you not able to achieve this year?

How would you rate your overall confidence level?


What did you do to increase your confidence/competencies?

What did you actively learn?

What did you learn this year about yourself that surprised you?

What new people/groups did you actively engage with?

How did you actively learn this year?

What did you do to serve others?

How did you impact others in a positive way?

How would you rate your overall growth this year?

How would you rate your acts of service this year?


As you answer the questions notice how you feel, and think about changes for 2021 you could make, or make a note to do more of the things that helped.

It would be interesting to do the same this time next year and see what positives have been realised.



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