Many of us have returned to business as usual this week. Thanks to the downtime, extra sleep, and extra meditation time, I had a huge insight: Reflection is more essential than making resolutions.
When working with my clients, I consistently find that they are stellar at setting goals and announcing resolutions. It's what we do every December, right? Some of us even revel in our ability to multitask and complete two goals at once. Before we know it, our calendars are completely filled with tasks and meetings. We catch ourselves instant messaging someone while watching a webinar.
Here's the downside: there's little time left to step back and observe anything. As a result, many of us are stuck in this "doom loop." We want to be invited to the strategy table, but we commit all of our time to being company problem solvers and firefighters. As a result, we seldom get invited to design the future. One of my CMO clients laments that "I'm tired of my team being treated like a fast food drive-through window."
While automated tools and productivity apps may be effective time savers and free up our time to invent the future, multi-tasking kills our ability to reflect. It erodes our short term memory and sabotages important relationships. Research from Dr. David Strayer at the University of Utah proves that only 2.5 percent of the population can successfully multi-task. In fact, Strayer's studies revealed that talking on a cellphone while driving (a very pervasive form of multitasking) leaves people as cognitively impaired as if they'd had two or three drinks.
Sadly, this hit home for me over the holidays when one of my colleagues was killed by a tractor trailer truck. She was driving at high speed and talking on her cell phone when it happened. Why should someone's untimely death be the wake up call to remind us that we are human beings, not human doings?
The greatest leaders I have met create their own reflection rituals to foster acceptance, insight, and compassion. While flying from New York to San Diego, I had the privilege of sitting next to Joseph Hoar, the U.S. General who served under Colin Powell in war-torn areas such as Somalia and Middle East. He told me that "every day, no matter what, I take time to reflect."
In addition, we can now cite thousands of studies outlining the benefits of mindfulness, single tasking, and reflection. We can no longer ignore the reams of valid data. Thankfully, these practices are making a comeback. The Huffington Post founder and bestselling author, Arianna Huffington, never brings any mobile devices or computers into her bedroom. During her recent keynote address in Washington, DC, she proudly announced that she uses an old-fashioned alarm clock and a traditional phone in her bedroom. If her news staff needs to urgently reach her, they have the emergency phone number. Otherwise, the temptation to check emails during waking moments is too strong.
How do you incorporate reflection into your day? Journaling in a distraction-free zone is one option. It all starts by asking questions that can propel you to a new level of whatever you prize most in life.
Developing relevant, provocative questions is the easy part. Addressing them with candor and compassion is slightly tougher. These are seven of my favorites to help you get started:
- What one thing can I change that will make the most difference in the quality of my life, and increase my happiness day-to-day?
- If I had no fear, what would I do?
- How do I have more laughter every day?
- What is the most wonderful thing I can do for my relationship with my best friend/partner/spouse that will help it grow stronger and more joyful?
- What one thing can I change that will make the most difference in the quality and trust within my team, thereby increasing their efficacy every day?
- What no longer serves me in 2016? (write this activity, habit, or association on a Post-It note, and display it prominently, until you are certain it no longer appears in your life)
- With whom will I share these reflections?
Writing your responses is the first step. Sharing the reflections is like gulping a protein shake after your high-intensity workout. It replenishes your cells and boosts your metabolism.
In lieu of making resolutions and measurable goals, Karen Walker, President of One Team Consulting, creates annual aspirations. She finds that the aspirations naturally evolve from the confluence of her successes from the previous and the business model she wants to design for the coming year (which she calls "aspirations"). Walker told me "I can refer to these short, meaningful aspirations easily each day. I regularly ask myself 'Are my actions today aligned with my aspirations?'" With inspiration from the Six Word Memoirs movement launched by SMITH Magazine, her 2016 annual aspiration is "strong voice, strong body, useful, prosperous."
Six words could shift your perspective. Reflections just might transform your year.
Copyright 2016, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.