by Achim Nowak

Instead of GETTING BUSY over Christmas, Choose Reflection Time!

December 20, 2020

What are you doing over the holidays? I ask Mitch, an Executive in a Dallas Engineering firm as we ponder our holiday plans. Are you going to have a traditional Christmas?

Well, my wife’s parents were going to come down from Arkansas but they just canceled, Mitch sighs. It will be just the 2 of us and the 2 young ones. It will be quiet, he adds.

Quiet. That sounds wonderful to me.

Quiet can also feel a little scary after a very challenging year. It can bring up a whole lot of not so pleasant memories.

Consider this: In case you’re Netflixed-out and sick and tired of being cooped up at home, why not sneak in a bit of INTENTIONAL quiet time! Quiet time with a PURPOSE.

Reflection time. Thinking time. Feeling time.

"Successful people love to take action. More successful people take action AND reflect."

Achim Nowak

The benefits of reflection time are endless. Research by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats in call centers, for example, demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect (Harvard Business School, 4/2014). Powerful, right?

In my work as an Executive Coach, a lack of self-awareness is always THE #1 career derailer. Self-awareness is enhanced through acts of intentional self-reflection. When we engage in self-reflection, we begin to better understand our relationships with others and how our behavior is helping or hindering these relationships. Self-reflection time leads us to examine beliefs and values that may not serve us. It makes us conscious.

And being conscious changes how we live every moment, every day.

If self-reflection time is so beneficial, why do many of us avoid it? Well, it can feel uncomfortable. YES. We confound reflection time with dreaded workplace performance reviews. EEEK. We prefer doing to stopping and not doing. YES – and so what? Perhaps we don’t know how to get started, and so we settle for accidental self-awareness.

Self-reflection is easily started by asking helpful questions. Questions that are not about “beating yourself up.” The following 3 questions are a great place to begin.

REFLECTION QUESTION #1: What am I grateful for?

Gratitude questions are a perennial favorite - and they can feel like a bit of a cliché. Yeah, I know how to do that! you may think to yourself. Yes, I have no doubt you do – and how often do you actually “go there?” Thinking gratitude is one thing. Even when it is heartfelt, it tends to be fast and fleeting. Writing down what we’re grateful for takes us to the well. The more things we write down, the more spring forth. Especially in a year as harsh as 2020, when it is so much easier to focus on everything that went wrong, jotting down what we’re grateful for will yield heaps of surprises.

A bonus: Writing down what we’re grateful for delivers many ancillary insights. About our behavior in situations that “worked.” How we enabled good outcomes. How we allowed the easy wins and quick successes. And how we at times, perhaps, didn’t.

REFLECTION QUESTION #2: What have I done that worked?

This question goes to THE basic strengths-based principle: Focus on what you do well and do more of that instead of constantly trying to fix things that you don’t do so well. We don’t have to be good at everything. It is hugely liberating to own that and let it be. There is little joy in constantly “fixing” the things we “should” be good at but are not. By amplifying what we do well, we energize ourselves. When we energize ourselves, we energize everyone else in our orbit. Good begets more good. Success begets more success.

Let your reflection time be joyous. Give yourself permission to reflect with genuine curiosity. You will, of course, stumble on things that you did not do well, wished you had done better, wished you could do over again. Good. There are insights to be found here. These insights have a different flavor when we’re not on a Let me Beat Myself Up Mission.

"Don’t settle for ACCIDENTAL self-awareness. Start an INTENTIONAL self-reflection practice."

Achim Nowak

REFLECTION QUESTION #3: What has “touched” me Recently?

The word touched is not meant to signify touchy-feely. Not fluffy, superficial, lack of substance. Think of things, situations, people, causes, moments, movements that have stirred you deeply this year. Moved your heart and soul. Ignited your humanity. Know what these things were and are. They are the things that connect you with who you are at your finest. They activate your deepest beliefs and values. They link to your spiritual core, even if it is a core that operates in deep hiding behind your rational mind.

Knowing what touches us is a rich gateway to a more authentic expression of ourselves. It is a guidepost to a more impactful way if being and engaging in the world. Self-reflection opens that door. Walk in.

Here are some other self-reflection questions that you may find helpful: What would I like to do more of in 2021? What would I like to do less of in 2021? What are some things, people, opportunities that I am avoiding? What are some potential future states that excite you – even though you have no idea how to get there (just yet!)?

If lots of writing is not your thing, find a regular reflection partner. Not someone who tries to provide answers, tell you what’s wrong, wants to fix you. No. Someone who will be there, listen, hold space for you, let you talk out loud. Great self-reflection time. The insights will come.

reflection time

Thirst drove me down to the water where I drank the moon’s reflection, the great mystic poet Rumi wrote.

Don’t turn self-reflection time into a chore. Another thing that you must check off your to-do list in an overly busy week. Instead, trust that self-reflection time will help you to continuously find your spirit and strengthen your character. Know that self-reflection is part of every spiritual practice on our planet. Find your inner thirst and quench it.

Go, drink the moon’s reflection over the holidays. Savor your reflection time. Do it with joy.

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