For many of us reflection seems like a luxury in our over-packed schedules and high-efficiency mindset.
We feel a need to respond immediately.
In our world of disruptive innovation and fast change, don’t we really need to initiate?
Proactivity requires reflection. Overcoming recurring stumbling blocks demands new solutions. In the words of Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
Reflection gets us thinking at another level.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
– Albert Einstein
Here are five situations when deeper level thinking is vital.
1. When Faced with Failure
- The deal you were about to close fell through at the last minute.
- You expected a positive response from a colleague and met a very different reaction.
- An employee left the company or is in burnout.
We could be too close to the problem.
Try stepping back using space. Using Post-It notes, write one element of your challenge on each note and place them in order on a wall. Step back and discover the pattern. Where is the breaking point?
Try stepping back or forward with time. Two weeks ago, what was the situation like? Two weeks from now, what would you like to happen?
2. When Your Body “Complains”
- You cannot sleep at night.
- You have gained or lost weight.
- You get sick.
- Your digestion has gone havoc; gurgling sounds interrupt your meetings (!)
“If I knew I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”
– 90 year-old Al McDonald, previous Managing Director (CEO) of McKinsey & Company
Your and my energy is finite. With exercise, nutrition, self-care, and planning we can increase our productivity … to a limit.
Physical signs point to a need for change. It’s time to re-evaluate the distribution of work. Are you accepting too many projects? Is it difficult to say, “No”?
Seeking recognition is a common goal. All humans experience the fundamental need to belong and to contribute to a meaningful community. Colleagues and neighbors may admire superhumans from afar. It’s people we come alongside. It’s relationships with fellow humans that bring meaning to work and life.
Review your investments in time and energy to identify tasks to delegate… and offer others a chance to grow and contribute too.
3. When Bored or Feeling Blasé
When all you see is 10 000 shades of grey, mental fatigue may be blinding you to life in full color spectrum.
Consider these color images. The first lacks greens. The second is without red. Without these hues, one can miss out on the obvious.
When life appears color blind, it’s an invitation to reflect. Easier said than done when we are in the blues. Connecting with another person can add the clarity of perception we may have temporarily lost. (That’s what coaches like me do.)
We have been given life in technicolor. It’s urgent to re-assess when life appears monochromatic.
4. When Your Calendar is Always Full
I read of a foreigner learning English who integrated phrases she heard spoken around herShe learned to respond to, “How are you?” with, “I’m so busy.”
Many of us live with little margin. We plan flexibility out of our lives.
Think of Yourself
Have you travelled on an airplane recently? The flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen mask BEFORE we help others.
Many people postpone self-care, prioritize working for others over taking time for oneself. If you don’t invest in yourself, why should anyone else?
Self-care is a way to express your worth to your entourage. Again, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should your boss, colleague, spouse, or child?
5. When You are Bitter or Jealous
We all look at the world through a filter. The lens of envy focuses on faults … and since we are all humans, imperfections in each of us will be found.
Bitterness jettisons us into a vicious cycle of hurt and retaliation. It’s a lose-lose situation, and the one who harbors bitterness suffers most of all.
Lack of forgiveness is like drinking the poison you wish for someone else, reminds us Nelson Mandela. Riddled with venom we perish; our joy dies, our ability to contribute constructively dwindles, and our sense of belonging withers.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
– Nelson Mandela
Focus on Long Term Benefits
Numerous studies report how the elderly look back on their life. Men and women lament the energy they wasted on insisting that they were right, even at the cost of a relationship. The wise in years wish for strong rapport with folk who know their imperfections AND respect them still.
You may not desire nor need to reconnect in a hurtful relationship. Do reconnect with yourself and your values. (Often this does imply some kind of gesture in relationship recovery.)
It takes some stepping back to recognize our own responsibility in a relationship rift.
- The 10 additional critical words to make SURE the reprimand got across
- The 10 additional decibels in our tone of voice so that the entire floor could hear the negative feedback
As we realize and express our responsibility in the conflict, we free ourselves from a victim mentality and from reactivity.
Do you use a mirror to pluck out an ingrown hair? Consider getting a coach or a sparring partner to bring to focus behaviors which could be aggravating an already delicate situation.
Reflection Becomes a Habit of the Mind
Reflection becomes a habit.
Try this activity from Positive Discipline that we do in my workshops:
- Put your hands together and interlace your fingers
- Straighten your fingers and move them down one notch. If your right index was on top before, the left one will be on top now.
- How does it feel? What do you want to do?
One participant shared, “The new hand position felt weird. I wanted to go back to the previous way, and without thinking did so. Then I tried the new hand position again. It still felt unfamiliar, but less uncomfortable. I realized that with practice, I could do this.”
Neuroscience corroborates this phenomenon. When we activate our brain (as in through reflection) neurons create a pathway of connections from one part of the brain to another. As we rethink similar thoughts, those same pathways get utilized, like a path a well-worn path that becomes easier and easier to follow.
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