When was the last time you blocked off time in your schedule, simply to think?
Do you just randomly fit thinking in whenever you seem to find the time? More likely, you are similar to most people. That is, you layer thinking over whatever else you are doing? Rather than proactively reflecting, most of us randomly think when our minds settle enough, like in the shower.
Strong leadership comes when the leader learns from the past. Leaders that appreciate the lessons in their life are better able to apply them and subsequently have greater success. In order to do that, they must take the conscious time to reflect.
Insomnia hit me
At 12:30 am, I turned on the lamp in my office, snuggled into my chair with my soft leopard print blanket and pulled out my journal. I had trouble sleeping last night and after an hour of tossing and turning, I ultimately got up to do a bit more reflection rather than jumbled fretting and worrying.
Sleeplessness is telling me something
Insomnia is something that occasionally creeps into my slumber. I have learned to address it by trying first to push myself to stop worrying. I try to keep bringing myself back to focusing on my breathing. When that doesn’t settle me down, I know to get up and more consciously sort out what is going on inside of me.
I decided to let me thoughts fall onto the paper
Last night as I started to journal my thoughts, they rambled on in crazy tangents and illegible emotional asides. I allowed the messiness both in the grammar and in the cursive. I just let the words tumble out onto the pages releasing thoughts and emotions.
Suddenly I had my awakening moment
When I journal like this, there is usually a turning point for me. Something finally releases. I have an epiphany, an “ah ha” moment or something becomes clearer. Last night the insight came when I had the urge to reach out to a friend whom I haven’t talked with in a while.
I realized my friend wasn't so helpful
This friend, I knew would console me, give me a little pep talk and then send me on my way. Sounds like a great friend, right? True, if I am only looking to stay right where I am, this friend a great person to have around. However, she has never really held me accountable to be my full self. She cheers me on, but only to a point. She is afraid to step up and do some really amazing work and consequently she has trouble encouraging others to do the same.
The truth comes out
What was happening for me last night is that I am getting anxious about the launch of the next round of my Women with Grit course. Not only is the course is an updated version of work I’ve done but is taking my work to a whole new level. And that is scary!
What I was doing last night was making a big mess in my head
I was doing this all of this crazy worrying and subconsciously allowing it to hold me back. The thought that triggered me to realize this all was thinking about reaching out to the friend. But not just any friend, I was reaching out to a friend who would help me hold back.
I don't like moving out of my comfort zone
Reflection allowed my to see that my insomnia was an upper limit problem. As soon as I move outside of my comfort zone, stretching my self-perceived limits, I try to get back there fast. We all do it. But reflection helped me to see what I was doing. It also helped me to decide to not do that anymore and to keep moving in the direction of the next level of success for me.
When have you had an epiphany?
Think back to your own ah-ha moments. You have likely have had times when you’ve become aware of when you were doing something that was not getting you where you wanted. It could be that you realized said something that was the catalyst for a nasty argument that could have been alleviated. Here are some other examples of when you may have had a sudden awareness.
Increased awareness makes the difference
Increased awareness like these valuable perceptions can really help you to avoid similar occurrences from striking repeatedly. First, though, you must have the conscious thoughts, then second, you must do something with the wisdom gleaned from contemplation.
But, do you schedule time to become more aware?
The difficulty is that many of us don’t plan time to think. We simply rush through our hurried days without slowing down to consider consequences, implications and lessons learned.
Make reflection part of your daily routine
When you do slow down and make reflection a regular part of your day, you will begin to notice differences in how you feel and how you lead. You will not be beating your head against the same challenge, in the same way, repeatedly
Here are 3 ways to add reflection time to your day
1) Schedule time to reflect
Schedule 5 minutes to start then work you way up to 20 minutes a day. This might be 10 minutes after lunch and 10 minutes towards the end of your day. Make the meeting with yourself as important as a meeting with anyone else. Put it actually in your day timer or scheduling system.
2) Pay attention to how your body reacted
Your body knows before you do. Your stomach grumbles before you head says, “I’m hungry”. Your back aches before you mind realizes you need to stretch and your heart swells before you say “I love you”. Your body is speaking to you.
The same is true with the challenges we face on a day-to-day basis. Your body stiffened this morning when that certain person walked in. You got a headache shortly after a conversation about a certain topic. You got red in the face when you had to answer that one awkward question. But what did this all mean? And what can you do to prevent it from happening again?
3) Write your lessons down
Think about what you’ve learned. Become more aware of how your body is connected to thoughts and how those thoughts are connected to your experience. Then write it down. When you write down your lesson, is sinks in more and helps your various learning styles really lock it in.
Learn your lessons
Your leadership strengthens when you pause to reflect and recognize lessons gifted to you each day. Growth comes when you are aware and active in the application of the lessons learned. Strong leaders grow themselves and their teams in this way.
When can you schedule 10 minutes into your schedule that will allow you to think without interruption?
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.