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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    February 01, 2016

    On Balance
    Reboot: 10 Questions to Jump Start 2016

    The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to do a self-review, by asking yourself 10 questions whose answers will promote goal-setting and resilience.

    Paula M. Davis-Laack

    jumper cablesThe holidays are behind us, and another year has come to an end. It’s a natural time to reflect on the past year, focusing on what went well and what could be improved, both at home and at work. Not only are these questions designed to promote self-reflection, but most of them are also linked to a specific resilience building block. As a result, you can use your answers to both inform your 2016 goals and build your resilience.

    Here are 10 questions to help you evaluate 2015.

    1. When Did You Have Fun?

    There are many health benefits associated with positive emotions. They boost immune function, help people with heart disease recover more quickly, result in fewer illnesses and less depression in those who have experienced both minor stressors and traumas, and activate healthier coping strategies.

    2. What Good Risks Did You Take and How Were You Outside Your Comfort Zone?

    Owning a business means that I’m regularly outside my comfort zone. This has resulted in both a great deal of meaning and great deal of stress. One of my biggest lessons from 2015 is that meaning and stress are usually linked. My favorite definition of stress comes from health psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal: stress is “what happens when something you care about is at stake.”

    3. What Gave You the Most Meaning?

    Good leaders regularly ask this of their constituents and model a culture of meaning. Meaningful work is fostered when the following conditions are present:

    • You feel respected and valued for your contributions.

    • You are given autonomy to execute duties.

    • You are given a clear understanding of how your organization functions.

    • You are given all the information and resources you need to do your job.

    • You understand how your unique talents and abilities help you work well.

    With some subtle changes in wording, you can apply these attributes to your family as well.

    Paula Davis-LaackPaula Davis-Laack, Marquette 2002, MAPP, is the founder and CEO of the Davis Laack Stress and Resilience Institute, an organization that educates attorneys and professionals about how to better manage stress, prevent burnout, and build resilience. She is the author of the e-book, 10 Things Happy People Do Differently. This article originally appeared on

    4. How Did You Handle the Tough Times?

    Post-traumatic growth is the sum of the positive personal changes that result from your struggle to deal with highly challenging life events. People tend to notice growth in one or more of these areas after a traumatic event: renewed appreciation for life; recognizing new paths for your life; enhanced personal strength; improved relationships with others; and spiritual growth.

    5. How Did You Become More Authentic?

    My favorite definition of authenticity is from Dr. Brené Brown: “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” She quotes E.E. Cummings, who wrote: “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”

    6. What Healthy Habits Did You Put Into Place?

    This is about more than exercising and eating right. Did you become more grateful? Did you forgive the people who needed forgiving (including yourself)? Are you coping with life’s stressors in a better way or are you still eating a bag of chocolate chip cookies every night?

    7. Who Were Your Sources of Support?

    I implemented the Facebook “unfollow” this year and it helped me weed out many of my low-quality relationships. You know you’re in a high-quality relationship when these four traits are present: respectful engagement, task enabling, trust, and play (see “fun” above).

    8. When Were You Too Hard on Yourself?

    Self-compassion is a hard skill to learn, and one that I will try to get better at. These core beliefs and questions about our ability and worthiness can make self-compassion impossible:

    • I must be perfect.

    • What will people think of me?

    • I’m not good enough.

    • Who am I to think I can accomplish that?

    9. How Were You More Mindful?

    This was a conscious area of focus for me in 2015. I got better, but I have more work to do. One of my favorite mindfulness skills from my work with soldiers is deliberate breathing. Practice either of these forms of deliberate breathing for five minutes each day so that it becomes second nature when you’re under stress:

    Option 1: Inhale for a count of 5, hold for count of 6, exhale for a count of 7.

    Option 2: Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4.

    Play around with the amount of time you inhale, hold, and exhale so that it works for you.

    10.What Did You Learn About Yourself?

    Think about what you learned in all of your roles – as a parent, a friend, a leader at work, a spouse or significant other.

    You don’t have to answer all of these questions to start 2016 in an effective way. Pick a couple that you really want to focus on and start there. I’d love to hear from you – which questions are you going to focus on and why?

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