Leading through Reflection
One of the greatest moments in anybody’s developing experience is when he no longer tries to hide from himself but determines to get acquainted with himself as he really is. Norman Vincent Peale
I was joking recently with a friend that I was appreciating how easy life was in my previous lives. Now, I am not sure exactly about living before; what I am really saying is that there seems to be so little time to stop the ferocious activity and reflect on what is happening in our world and more closely in our own lives.
If you read the biographies of great leaders such as George Washington or Samuel Adams or Thomas Jefferson, you find that they were deeply reflective people. They wrote extensively to friends and constituents about their ideas and passions. The used conversations with friends and colleagues to explore issues of great concern to them.
This type of reflective leadership continued well into the 20th century. Franklin Roosevelt was noted for spending time away from Washington in order to regain his perspective about the right direction for the country. He maintained his time for reflection even while helping to overcome the worst depression in our history and engaging in World War II. More recently, Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft, is well known for his annual retreats where he brings books to read and little else. This time away helps him gain perspective on what has transpired in the past year and where he can direct Microsoft in the future to assure its success.
Through reflection, we can clear away the “noise level” of our modern existence. We are bombarded by phone calls, Internet information and communications, and an overwhelming list of things to do. At times, it seems as if we are on a tread mill that is only getting faster.
Without interrupting the patterns of our daily life, we can quickly become removed from what is truly important to us in our work and life. We lose sight of what is really going on and become increasingly imprisoned in a smaller and smaller world, with less satisfaction with almost everything.
So how about you? What are the practices you have to gain perspective on your work and life? What do you do to step out of the daily demands for your time and attention – to deliberately choose your next steps?
My own practice is:
* I sit quietly each morning before my day begins to decide what my intentions are for that day. I use this picture to help me make choices about what to do and not do during the day.
* At the end of each day, I reflect on what happened. I look for lessons that will aid me in being more deliberate. I also look for any people that I feel incomplete with. I decide what I need to do to make sure that I don’t carry any judgments or ill-feelings into the next day.
* I deliberately choose to read books that challenge my common sense. They help me look beyond my beliefs about what is possible and consider many things from a new perspective.
* I make sure that I connect with nature as frequently as possible. This allows me to remember that my work is only one aspect of my life.
* I write each day. This helps me express myself and remember my purpose.