Photo courtesy of hael0
The wise man at the top of the mountain – it’s a timeless image many of us are familiar with when we think of the road to wisdom. Most stories about the wise man on the mountain involve someone climbing up to the summit to seek the elderly man’s counsel. These stories often serve as a metaphor for the journey each of us must take in the pursuit for greater understanding and awareness, with the wise man representing who we will become through this process. And yet, if we examine this tale from the perspective of the wise man, we’d find that there are also some valuable insights on the importance making time for reflection.
In terms of the seeker, having the wise man at the top of a mountain makes sense as it implies a challenge to reach this source of knowledge and insight. And yet, there’s an important reason why being at the top of the mountain is beneficial for the wise man as well. From his position at the summit, the wise man is able to take in the full view of his surroundings. Instead of getting caught up in the details, his focus has shifted to understanding the bigger picture, of examining how everything relates and interacts. Being up on the top of the mountain allows the wise man to be free from the distractions found in the village below so that he can instead reflect on the questions in his mind in the hope of finding some answers, if not a greater sense of awareness of the situation.
Like the wise man, it’s important that those in leadership positions take time to reflect on what’s happened so far, to review past mistakes in order to understand why things didn’t work out and to evaluate whether changes should be made to the current course of action.
Unfortunately, there’s not enough emphasis in the business world about the need for leaders to make time in their day for reflection. In fact, thanks to today’s accelerated pace in the workplace, a greater focus is being put on a leader’s ability to react fast to changes and making quick decisions for their organization. While the ability to think quick on one’s feet is certainly a valuable trait for a leader to demonstrate, it’s also important that leaders develop the habit of putting aside time during their day to reflect not only on current decisions their organization needs to make, but also to review past mistakes to see what lessons their company can gain from that experience.
Of course, it’s hardly practical to climb to the top of mountains on a regular basis, but there are measures you can take make time for reflection:
1. Schedule time in your day for reflection
As you would for any important task you need to perform in your day, scheduling time for reflection is a good first step to start developing the habit of reserving time to stop and review. Again, given the hurried pace of today’s workplace, it’s hard to ensure that we’re giving ourselves time to reflect on past and present decisions. By blocking off time in our schedule for reflection, we’re giving ourselves that opportunity to address some of those questions that need our attention and focus before we move ahead.
2. Make sure you remove any distractions
As we saw in the story of the wise man, it’s not enough to make time for reflection; we also have to be free of any distractions or interruptions. As such, it’s important that in these moments spent on reflection that you remove any distractions in your environment, such as turning off any computer notifications, not answering the phone and advising your team members that you’re unavailable during this time. If your office setting provides too many distractions, find yourself a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed during this period of reflection.
3. Prepare a list of questions to reflect on
Now that you have this designated time for reflection, how do you start this process? A good place to start is by asking questions, questions about the results your team has achieved so far, how it aligns with your business vision, why certain projects failed and what your company can do differently the next time.
To help get started, create a list of questions revolving around an issue that’s important to you or your organization. This will also make sure your time is spent on reflection and not on other tasks or diversions.
4. Make this a part of your work routine
We all know that eating well and exercising on a regular basis is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, it’s important that leaders make a regular effort to take time to reflect on the decisions they make and the impact it has on the health of the organization.
Part of the responsibility that comes with leadership is being able to make the right choices and decisions to ensure the continued growth and development of your company. Making time to reflect on past decisions and mistakes, and allowing yourself the opportunity to learn from it, is a critical step to this process and your ability to effectively lead others.
What’s been your experience in reflecting? What other steps have you used to encourage taking time to reflect on your decisions and the choices you have to make?