“Reflection may be the pivotal way we learn. Consider some of the ways of reflecting: looking back, thinking back, dreaming, journaling, talking it out, watching last week’s game, asking for critiques, going on retreats — even telling jokes. . . because reflection is vital — at every level, in every organization — and because burnout is a very real threat in today’s hectic atmosphere, all executives should practice the new three Rs: retreat, renewal, and return.” — Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader

  • If applicable, you and your life partner should get away at least once a year to review, assess, celebrate, and refocus the progress toward your vision, values, purpose, and goals.
  • Using a journal to reflect on and record your deepest thoughts is especially important if you’re going through a tough period and you don’t have someone or a group of close people that you can talk and reflect with. At this point in the annual improvement process, look back through your journal entries to review and assess your progress.
  • You can’t recharge anyone else if you’re own batteries are low. Develop ways to maintain your energy and passion. How you can best do that is unique to you. You might try frequent reviews of your vision, values, purpose, and Blessing and Brag list. Daily affirmations can help. Jennifer James suggests taking a “bliss break” by making a list of all the little things that “give you a thrill.” It’s a fun exercise (the list can run to many pages once you get started). Setting aside four or five periods of 30 – 45 minutes per week for inner reflection, meditation, and spiritual renewal has been a major re-charger for me over the years. Seek, find, and continually draw from your personal energy source.
  • Learn how to be quiet and listen to your voice within. Follow where it leads.
  • If you’re not already, become a celebrator. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, the kids going back to school, a friend’s promotion or new business opening, and thanksgiving (and give plenty of thanks). On Valentine’s day, Mother’s day and Father’s day, and other special occasions, do more than send flowers and a card. Use these times to celebrate, appreciate, and recognize the special people in your life and the contributions they’ve made.
  • 360 degree feedback and getting other personal data on your performance can be very useful, especially if you’re in denial (which you’ll deny) or not very reflective (the less time you’ve taken to reflect over the years, the more you need this feedback). But keep the feedback and data in perspective. It’s being given to you through the eyes and ideals of the person or people delivering it. They may not understand — or even agree with — your vision, values, and purpose. So the feedback could be leading you toward compliance with what others want from you, or how they see you, rather than self-leadership.

Reviewing, assessing, celebrating, and refocusing is an important check and jumping off point in our improvement journey. If we do it well, we’ll redirect and reenergize ourselves and others to continue learning, changing, and improving.