The Power of Reflection

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For me, every day is Groundhog Day, the schedule that feels like I’m a prisoner to the clock. When I am running from meeting to meeting or from work to kids activities, it is hard to take stock of what I have learned along the way.  This is why I LOVE the last 2 weeks of the year.  I take this time off to not only frantically finish my Christmas shopping but to also spend time with my family and take time to reflect.  I intentionally take a step back, assess what I have learned, and show gratitude to those who left an impression on me along the way.

Take a Step Back

I was lucky enough to do this intentionally at a peer workshop called Design@Business. Design@Business is a small group of approximately 20 peers in similar large-size companies that are striving to get design thinking and doing adopted. One of our members ran a learning journey activity. It was more focused on our design thinking journey to identify the high and low points that have shaped us into the practitioners we are today.  I have been in the business and capability design space for approximately 4 years and I was totally unaware of how much I learned and the insights that drove my accelerated learning.

Since that exercise was so impactful, I decided to do a reflective learning journey for my year both professionally and personally.  I first listed all my “standout” moments in the year both positive and negative. I then put them in chronological order and surprised to see the a uniform rhythm of highs and lows.


Assess Learnings

So, what new insights did I gain throughout the year? PLENTY!!! Overall, the goals I set on Jan 1st became my compass for the year. It helped me with focus and be intentional about my growth as a person, mother and wife. I did, mostly, a good job with that. Although, I did miss my blog writing goal, which will be written as a SMART goal next year!

Reflecting on my standout moments to gain new insights was quite powerful as well. I have 3 of them that I think are important to share:

  • Connections are the start of great learning – I found an amazing fitness and marathon coach from my college girlfriend, Nicole, during my girl’s weekend trip in February. We were discussing what races we plan on doing in 2017, as well as, complaining about our injuries.  Nicole told me about her coach, Kim, and how instrumental she was in her training.  I immediately hired Kim and we started a plan that included cross training to prevent injury, strength training and nutrition.  I had no idea how critical a coach can be in achieving peak performance.  As a result of Kim’s training regimen and coaching, I was able to overcome my injury, train 6 days a week and successfully complete the NYC marathon within my goal time.  It was truly a bucket list moment for me this year!  Interested to learn more-check out her site Kim Webster Breakthrough Performance Coaching.
  • Perturbation is the source of TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE – I learned the perturbation concept from an executive coach/friend, Sarah Singer (Sarahsinger&Co her site and book are AMAZING!).  Perturbation, in a work-sense, is the process of going through immense change and transformation that creates something new in the end.  Amy, a colleague and friend, and I lived through it! Amy and I have worked together for over a decade building several new capabilities in our company. We share the same grit to make the impossible possible, we share the same sense of humor (and love of laughing) and we share the same deep caring for people. However, what I failed to realize, is that we are also very different people. Our team was getting stretched into new spaces that was rife with conflict and unknowns. We had to separate for a while to focus on our individual growth and then come back together to create a new working relationship with clear boundaries. This process took over 3 months with some intense conflict (and, yes, some yelling…).  However, we are now stronger than ever, both of us becoming better leaders, friends and people.
  • The 20% Rule – I had a collision of unplanned and planned work projects that impacted my personal time. Since I am a planner, I tend to max out my time with very little room for anything else (I love the feeling of being very full!). This impacted me in the fall when I lost a few team members, a major project was having difficulties and my “planned” personal goals were hitting (a conference presentation, marathon, both my boys soccer games) – YIKES!!! I learned 2 things from this experience: (1) Delegate fully after good design is in place and (2) Implement a 20% rule to have some “float” in my capacity.  I am definitely going to add to this my 2018 goals! Not sure how to do this yet…

Show Gratitude

This year, I started to send a weekly gratitude email on Fridays to share my reflections with someone that impacted me for that week.  I discovered that showing gratitude helps me to be reflective, solidify new learnings and to share my feelings with those who left an impact on me.

I devoted my last work day of the year to send gratitude emails to those who impacted me throughout the year. I didn’t realize it at the time, however, this day of gratitude was so powerful in many ways. It jumpstarted my reflection process. It made me realize how much I learned throughout the year. AND…It really felt good to share my thoughts with each person.  Such a nice way to end the year!!!

Let’s Get Started!

Reflection is such a powerful part of the learning process. To do you own reflection, here is a simple framework to apply:

  • Identify your standout moments – List your high and low moments throughout the year. Think about and write down WHY these moments left a heavy impression on you
  • Create a timeline – place your moments chronologically, as well as, use a scale to signify the impression left on you.
  • Develop insights – Take a step back and look at the full year first. What do you see? Are the peaks and valleys connected? Do they have other associations with events in your life – past or present? Or are they stand alone moments? What do you want to build on, change or stop?
  • Share your gratitude – Learning never happens alone and we all have had help along the way.  Who left a mark on you? Who lifted you up?  How did it help it you grow?  Take a moment to share your inner thoughts with someone who likely had no idea of the impact they had!

John Dewey, philosopher and psychologist, famously stated “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience”.  I believe this is so true.  As we embark on a new year, create the space to reflect before you dive into setting those exciting goals for 2018. You may find that your reflection will become an important part of it!!

Post blog note – I told my husband about my new 20% rule…his response was “Great…so that means you will only be at 100% capacity now!”  LOL – OK – I have a long way to go to improve…


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