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A quick google search will tell you that the definition of the word, “reflection” is, “serious thought or consideration”. Often times we are told to reflect on a decision or reflect on a major life event. But how many of us, on a daily basis, actually engage in, “serious thought or consideration”?

We live in a world of short-termism. We multi-task (a skill, which has largely been disproven to be a skill at all) by looking at our phones while we are in a meeting or watching TV while we work. We pay attention to the next deadline, the next quarter close, or the next fire that we have to put out. But how often do we break this cycle? How often do we engage in the truly human behavior of using our freedom to shape a response to stimulus?

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey references a book by holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl called Man’s Search for Meaning. In the book, Frankl describes how true freedom, as well as the very essence for being human, lies in the freedom to chose the response to a stimulus. Animals experience a stimulus and respond out of reflex. We humans, on the other hand, have the option and the freedom to choose our response to a stimulus.

But, how often do we actually use that very freedom that makes us human? How many of us go through life on auto-pilot, doing the urgent task at hand without even thinking about it?

A quick test to answer these questions: Have you ever driven or commuted to work and then arrive at your destination without remembering the journey? Do you have whole days like that at work doing the same tasks over-and-over again and not remembering most of your day?

In his book, Covey offers many suggestions about how to break this cycle and I recommend that you read it as well as another of his books, called First Things First. But, in the meantime, I would like to recommend another tactic to help, one that I engage in and encourage my team to engage in daily.

Make the act of reflection your reflex to a stimulus. In fact, I actually prefer the British spelling, “reflexion”, to solidify this idea. The next time you feel your phone vibrate in your pocket during a meeting, try not to reach for it and instead engage in a thought exercise.  Ask yourself and answer the following three questions:

  1. How important is it for me to engage with the people around me right now?
  2. What are the consequences if I don’t check my phone right now?
  3. How would I feel if everyone was checking their phone while we were discussing this topic if I was facilitating?

If we all engaged in “reflexion” in seemingly trivial moments like this example, I believe that we would communicate better, accomplish more, and genuinely feel better as a team.

Further, reflexion should be used in leadership. Once you define the vision for your team, encourage the team to use reflexion to understand how their day-to-day work impacts the direction of the team. Team members can ask themselves:

  1. How does what I am about to do advance or detract from our mission?
  2. What is the best way to address this situation in a manner that achieves our mission?
  3. Are my actions consistent with our mission, vision and values? Why or why not? Who can I talk to if I am unsure?

As team members at the front lines zoom out from their day-to-day tasks and see the bigger picture, they will be in the best position to give you ideas about how to make daily work get closer to your mission, vision and values. They will also be able to point out processes and practices in their routines that may be getting the organization closer or further away from what the organization is trying to achieve. For most of the staff at the front lines, we have to make sure to give them time and opportunity for reflexion. They are often our most important asset for improvement.

I look forward to hearing your stories of reflexion. Please share them with me in the contact section. Thank you in advance!

TAKE-AWAY: Slow down to go faster. Take time to make reflection a reflex and create the environment where others can do so as well. Find ways to recognize when you are losing the space between stimulus and response and create “checks” to switch your brain into reflection-mode.