So are you following the top five actions of successful leaders, making sure you use the top six tools to measure your impact on social media, practicing the seven habits of highly effective people? It’s enough to put you off isn’t it?
I want to learn and develop and grow my business, to be successful on my own terms, so I do take an interest in my learning. What I notice however, is a plethora of emails and tweets and articles about what you need to do to be successful. Everyone of them has ‘the answer’ and a number of them are inviting me to spend quite a lot of money with them. Although it is important to invest in you as part of investing in your business, you’re likely to get a better return if you’ve taken some time out to reflect on what you want rather than responding to the latest ‘answer’.
In fact had I been following some of that advice on ‘content marketing’, I should probably have used a title like five tips for reflecting! There is value in some of those tips and guides, but I want to advocate another way of becoming more successful, which is learning from your own experience and spending time reflecting on your future.
We are all busy enough running our business or developing our career, alongside running a home, having a family, taking care of parents etc., so sometimes there is benefit in taking a step back and reflecting on where all that activity is taking you. Life can be tough and complex, and old approaches based on repeating existing answers will no longer sustain business. Rather we need to be able to generate our own creative solutions to the challenges we have to manage.
As Plato said ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ and with the 24/7 pace of life today, choosing to make time for reflection can be a challenge but without it we will stagnate. I’ve seen it variously attributed to Henry Ford and Albert Einstein, but you may be familiar with that quote about doing the same thing will get you the same result. In fact I think it goes on that if you expect a different result from doing the same thing there lies madness! This implies that in order to make a change you need to reflect on what is happening now. What is working, what is not working and through understanding that, what could you do differently? Doing something different means you cannot continue to get the same result. Ok you may not always solve something first time, so reflect again and then do something else different. This is part of that creativity I talked about earlier, being resilient and flexible in our action actually comes from this kind of reflection.
Generally our culture values action more highly than thinking and the idea of sitting down to reflect can feel a little alien, so how can you structure your reflection. A simple approach comes from Kolb’s experiential learning cycle which in essence asks four questions:
What happened, what did you do, what did you experience, what did others do, experience?
What is the significance of what happened to you, what meaning does it have, how did you feel?
In light of your reflections what new action will you take?
What timescale are you committing to?
As with any new skill, the more you practice the more effective you become, so you may find yourself asking those questions in the moment and not just after the event. It may be the case that you only reflect when something goes wrong or fails, a helpful practice in itself, but it can also be beneficial to reflect on your successes so that you can build on your strengths. It’s how you discover what makes you so great at what you do, which has benefits in terms of greater self-awareness and confidence.
Just as important is taking time to reflect on your future. No matter how long you have been in business there will be times of transition, when you want something different – whether it’s rapid growth or entering new markets. So there is value in thinking about that, what it might look like and what it will give you.
What reflection gives you that all those top tips can’t, is your own solution for success and a process for accessing your own inner resources that will enable you to achieve it.
photo credit: deathtothestockphoto