Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to the Becoming Your Best podcast Leadership Series. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, and we welcome each and every one of you. We’re thrilled that you would take the time to join us today! I’d like to start by sharing an experience I had in Florence, Italy at the Accademia Gallery, where you will find the incomparable Michelangelo’s David. And if you have had that opportunity to be there in person, it’s an experience that literally takes your breath away. It is an environment that invites reflection and meditation about everything that is magnificent and good in life. It invites one to consider beauty and art and legacy, a masterpiece, and becoming your best. Being there is a reverent and special experience. And when you leave, you feel inspired about life and considering the important things in life. And that really helps me introduce the subject of our podcast today, which is the Power of Reflection.
What is nice, is that reflection does not require standing in front of Michelangelo’s David. You can create that opportunity wherever you are and it can be just as powerful, just as sacred of an experience. And whether you take a week, a day, an hour, or 10 minutes just pausing to reflect upon a subject, an issue, a relationship, a concern, or your life in general, it’s all the same. You will gain valuable insight into decision-making, gaining wisdom and insights that will help you in the process of becoming your best and becoming at the very top of your game – because you’re asking a question because you’re taking time to reflect.
Now, research has demonstrated that if you take 15 minutes to reflect at the end of the day, you can improve your productivity by 22.8%. That’s the conclusion of the study at Harvard Business School. Participants spent 15 minutes writing in a journal to embed their learning from that day and it produced these dramatic results. At Toyota, they expect – as part of continual improvement – that every person on the assembly line will come up with two improvements each month, but they don’t expect it to happen automatically on a busy production line. Each staff member is allocated 15 minutes a day to identify possible improvements. And this has contributed to Toyota being one of the best auto companies in the entire world. And a successful organization takes one day of every month that’s actually set aside to innovate. There are no meetings during that day, no day to day task, and email is actually turned off. And on one project the result of the changes that came from this effort led to halving the cost and a 32% reduction in time to completion. So, you can create a deliberate time to reflect.
In the Scriptures, it’s not uncommon to notice Jesus went up into the mountain. Jesus set a good example of taking time to reflect and to re-energize, among other things that were going on. So, that’s a great example. Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” That always seemed a little harsh to me, but really, it’s spot on when you think about it in this context. He was specifically talking about how important it is to reflect upon your life, or your situation, and consider how you can improve.
Now, one of the programs we offer at Becoming Your Best is called the 52-Week Success Rhythm. It basically consists of focusing on one principle of the highly successful leaders per week, and then the next week going to the next principle, and so forth, through all 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders. Now, one of the key parts of this program is taking the 13th week to reflect on how you are doing on the principles. In other words, how can you improve? What’s going well? And then, what you do is you start over with week one again, on principle one. And you go through the 12 principles, and on the 13th week, you step back and reflect. You assess. You do that time in four cycles – four times 13 is 52 weeks in a year. And you can repeat this process over and over until the principles become part of your DNA. You can do it for the rest of your life. You have practice and practices and you’ve thought about them so much they become part of you. And a critical part of this is week 13 on reflection. Recognizing the good, your progress, and how can I do better.
Reflection is a deliberate time to reflect on the important things in life, to take stock of things, to especially reflect on all the good that you’ve accomplished in your life, while at the same time, reflecting and considering on the good, better, and best that is still to come. The time to reflect is as needed. Certainly, it’s helpful to pause weekly and reflect on how things are going, particularly regarding the things that matter most. In other words, pausing in between each week, sometime during the weekend, set out your plan for the week, what are the things that matter the most, organize it, and then you go to work. So, this process is a great time for reflection. It’s built right into your schedule. Other times that are ripe for reflection might be your birthday. And especially one of the big ones, like number 21, or 40 years old or 50, 60, 70, 80. All those are big ones, and they’re great opportunities to step back and say “How am I doing?” Another great time to pause and reflect is when you feel like you are in the middle of the fiery furnace and you need to take your bearings. Another great time is as we wrap up a year, especially like this year that’s been so rigorous, so demanding, so unpredictable, and how do we go forward. So, this too is a great time to reflect on the year or years past and how you can make the very most of the year coming up. How can you improve? You’re never going to have this year again, so how can you make it really special? I saw this quote “Humans are the only creatures with the ability to dive deep in the sea, fly high in the sky, send instant messages around the globe and reflect on the past, assess the present, and imagine the future.” by Sylvia Earle. That’s a really inspiring quote. We have this capacity and that really describes a lot of what reflection is.
Well, today I’d like to just give you four things that you can do that helps you have a quality reflection. And so, here they are. The first one is to take time to pause and reflect. Either have a regular time to reflect or take the time as needed or both. So, I mentioned pre-week planning is an ideal time to reflect. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on your personal vision, your annual goals, and the past week. How are things going? How did they go? And what can you do this coming week that would make a difference in each role that really matters most? This is absolutely a glorious time. This reflection time is inspirational, it’s motivational. Another great time to reflect is early in the morning, or late at night when it’s quiet and there’s solitude and you can think of things without interruption. You may reflect upon not only the New Year, but it may be a challenge, you may be feeling a little low, dealing with an illness that you or a family member may have. And reflecting upon your roles in life, personally or as a partner, spouse, parent, or grandparent, professionally. Listen to your impressions and your feelings. What is on your mind or in your heart? Think of your vision and your goals. What do you think of them? Think of the next one to five years or five to 10 years. What do you desire? To what do you aspire? What do you hope for? So, this is whole under number one, just take time to pause and reflect – and the answers to the big questions of life will come to you. That’s number one, take the time.
Number two, maintain a positive, upbeat outlook. Be positive and upbeat, avoid being down on yourself. Have an attitude of gratitude, and reflect upon your present blessings of which every man and person and individual woman has many. Not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some. Charles Dickens offered great insight into that, “Your frame of mind will have a significant positive impact on your thinking and quality of reflection. Invite the spirit of the goodness of humanity and of the universe.” All right, good stuff, there’s two of them. Number one, take time to pause and reflect. Number two, maintain a positive upbeat outlook.
Number three is to use a journal or a notebook. Write down and capture your thoughts and feelings and ideas and inspirations. Put a date on them if you will. And if you use some type of planner, many planners have a place to copy down your thoughts. But the main thing is to have a place to write. Writing is tremendously cathartic or helpful to you. In other words, it helps you see deeply. And you don’t necessarily have to feel a compulsion to act on what you write down, you’re just writing things down. However, you may find that what you write down frequently becomes a plan forward with significant ideas that become a reality, and that lead to greater happiness, and joy, and a positive pathway forward.
So, let’s review the first three. The first one is to take the time to pause and reflect. Number two, maintain a positive upbeat attitude. Number three is to write it down, have a place to write. I have six or seven full notebooks that I use and just write away. I look back at those and so many of those ideas have been important for me or led to important ideas in action.
And number four is to take action on your inspiration. So, once you’re done with a reflection, you may step away from it, let it simmer for a while. Any other thoughts that you might have, you can come back to it and add to it, do an additional reflection. And then for those that merit action, or if you feel an urgency to do something about it, translate your reflections into your goals and especially your pre-week planning. It’s the perfect place because you’re reflecting upon your life by your roles and you’re asking yourself what action is most important for each role this week. Well, this is where you can combine the worlds and it gives you a pathway forward. This provides a way for you to make it a reality. And this pathway provides for a deeply meaningful way to move forward. It provides a deeper why and what. This allows your actions to be in harmony with your vision, annual goals, and pre-week planning which in turn allows you to consistently do what matters most.
So, what is the impact of regularly taking time to reflect? It produces alignment, harmony, congruity, less stress, greater peace, happiness, health, stronger relationships, and becoming your best type of performance at work and professionally. I started off by sharing my experience of reflection, while standing in front of Michelangelo’s magnificent David in Florence, Italy. As wonderful and beautiful as that experience was, you can have just as glorious and magnificent experience reflecting upon your own life, anytime and anywhere. It too can take on a feeling of reverence, wonder, and just be as exciting. I love this particular quote, “Like water which can clearly mirror the sky, and the trees only so long as the surface is undisturbed. The mind can only reflect the true image of self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed.” shared by Indra Devi. What a wonderful thought that is! It’s putting ourselves in that peaceful state when we can see a reflection of how things really are.
We are wishing you the very best as you take time to reflect, to pause, and to win the battles of life. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive day!