The Art of
By Joelle Jay,
Imagine being able to accurately predict what would happen
before taking a certain action. Imagine being able to adjust course
mid-decision so you could achieve a better outcome. Imagine learning
from your mistakes in such a way that you not only overcome the
current mistake, but also achieve more success because of it. All of
these scenarios are within the reach of everyone. Unfortunately, few
people take the steps to actually do them.
So how exactly can someone predict the future, harness the
present, and use the past as a springboard for success? The answer
lies in the art of reflection. Reflection is a way of
learning from your mistakes and your successes in the course of your
life and in your business. It means looking at your experiences to
make informed decisions about what to do, when to do it, and why it
should be done. It’s about stepping back, taking it all in, and
looking ahead. Ultimately, reflection brings clarity, and clarity
leads to sound decisions.
Think of reflection as the art of extraction. You are
extracting knowledge and learning right out of your own experiences,
squeezing daily events for every ounce of learning they have to
offer. Studying your own experiences by reflecting on them allows
you to move faster toward your goals instead of having to try, try,
try again until you get it right.
To some degree, reflection happens naturally, but it is far
more powerful as a business tool when you understand how to steer
your reflection purposefully to make the most of your talent,
experiences, and business knowledge.
The Art of
reflection, you simply choose an event or scenario that will impact
you and your company. Then think about the event in advance, be
conscious about the experience in the moment, debrief the event
afterwards to see what there is to learn, and prepare for an even
more successful experience next time. In this manner, your learning
“curve” should not be a curve at all but a continuously moving cycle
That’s how we learn. Researchers call this:
action, or thinking before you act.
action, or noticing your thoughts and feelings right in the
middle of the action. Like a jazz musician, you play off the events
of the moment, improvising as you perform.
action, or the process of looking back at your
experiences to see what there is to learn so you can apply it in the
For business professionals, taking the time for reflection is
essential for long-term success. When you’re skimming along, trying
to make a profit, and making all the daily decisions, you’re going
through the motions but not really reflecting on them. As such, you
could be missing opportunities, trading results for what’s urgent
(fire fighting), working too much, and/or sacrificing your health
and relationships in the name of something else that’s less
important. These are the kinds of mistakes you’ll pay for later –
and they’re usually the ones you can undo.
If all you do is manage fires all day, you’re not being
reflective. And if you’re not reflective in your job or business,
then you won’t be the one who gets the promotion or who creates the
new product or service. The people and companies that get the
promotions and create new offerings are the ones who have new ideas.
You don’t get innovative ideas by answering e-mails all day or
dealing with one crisis after another.
So let’s say, for instance, you want to evaluate your
company’s advertising strategy. To do so with the art of reflection,
you would do the following:
action. Think about any new advertising you want to do
ahead of time. Decide such things as your specific goals of
advertising, how long you’ll test a certain medium, and which
advertising venues your customers typically deem credible.
action. In the midst of your advertising campaign, stay
cognizant of your goals and intentions. See if you need to
adjust course midway.
action. After the specified timeframe you already
identified, ask yourself:
Repeating this pattern again and again will eventually help
you learn what you need to achieve your vision.
The Benefits of
How exactly does
reflection help you be a better leader and have a better business?
The benefits of reflection are many:
You avoid mistakes. Reflective leaders and business owners are rarely blindsided. You give
yourself the chance to weigh options and consider consequences
before making a big decision.
You fill in the gaps.
Through your reflection, you will discover not just what you
need to do, but also what you know and what you don’t know. Once
you can see what’s missing to help you be successful, be it
information, education, resources, funding, or connections, you
can go out and get it.
You are lighter on your feet.
Many times people struggle with a decision. Should we or
shouldn’t we? Which way is best? What should we do? Reflection
is a big stop sign to keep you from running in circles. The more
reflective you are, the faster you can see how each and every
option does or does not advance your goals. You make a decision
and get back into action while everyone else chews on their
You learn by leaps and bounds.
Reflection is a way of learning that cuts out wasted time and
unnecessary action. If you rely on learning-by-doing, you have
to do a lot before you can learn a lot. If you
couple learning-by-doing with reflection, however, your learning
is more condensed, and therefore, faster.
The good news is that being reflective doesn’t mean you have
to go into the woods for a week to assess how you and your
professional pursuits are advancing. Reflection is possible in a
half hour here, a day there, or even a few minutes every now and
The bottom line is that if you’re reflective, you can live
the life you want and have the professional success you desire. But
if you’re not reflective, you may later regret your life’s choices
and may pay dearly for business mistakes. You can choose to stay on
the same path you’re currently on, or you can see the path you
really want and take the steps to get there. The choice is yours.
Reflect on it…and then choose wisely.
Read other articles and learn more about
Joelle Jay, Ph.D.
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