“Without reflection there is no true learning”, Kevin Buck, philosopher, author
When’s the last time you took a day to just review what you know, where you’re going and what to do next? They say that the essence of intelligence is the ability to make distinctions, to notice the differences, to see more than the obvious. This takes a window of disengagement from the activities under consideration. It’s hard to observe accurately while you’re still “doing.”
I’ve led some people through this process recently and I am continually amazed at how valuable it can be. Insights, “Ahas!” and better decisions are typically the outcome. And it only takes a day of focus and reflection.
What we typically do is meet in advance via video call and identify the goals and hopes for the day of reflection. Then, in person, at breakfast on the main day we discuss what matters most and what kinds of outcomes we’d ideally hope to achieve. After that, our focus is on identifying the major categories under our influence and the moving parts within them. For example: in my world that would be speaking, training, consulting, advisory coaching, and authorship. I do them all but not all at once, so I’d need to focus on one at a time. The same is true for other fields.
Within each category we isolate the current state of affairs and select the ideal outcomes we’d like to see. Next comes a comparison of the strategies and tactics that would get us there.
At lunch we reflect on the morning’s experience and go for a walk to discuss how this feels and how workable we think it will be. In the afternoon, we isolate the priority items, the points of intervention where a valuable difference could be made soon. Then we focus our energies on mastering those steps and identifying the next moves that we could make.
Back home, after a few days back in the saddle, we talk again about the effects felt by our new decisions and refine the plan to assure that it is organic, natural and true to who you are. I’ve found this process to have great value every year or two. Give it a try with a trusted advisor and see where the value is for you.
You may look at a something and see exactly what I see, but I will only notice what I see. Because of my lack of specialized training in your field, I’ll only observe what is obvious to anyone. As a trained professional in your specialty, you will notice much more. You’ll see systems, patterns, brands, types, extras, omissions and even more. You can look at a product or service and know how to use them, whether they are new or not, etc. That’s because as you’ve learned about them, you have also given a great deal of thought to what they are, how they operate and what each item means in the mix. By contrast, technically I see what looks like any other item.
But, as an objective observer who cares about you, I can bring observations that would never be thought of from your insider’s view. This is what makes having a “Master Mind Alliance” so valuable. (“Master Mind” was a term coined by Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich.) When you get together with people who care about helping you, in an open forum where you’ll tell each other the truth, then the ideas and solutions you produce will have great value. I spent 29 years with my Master Mind group “Speakers Roundtable”, professional speakers and authors at the top of their careers. Twice a year we’d get together to help each other grow, and all year long we’d tell each other the truth in a caring and creative way.
I’m at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to reflecting. I take what some would consider, too much time to think about what things mean or how they could be applied for some good purpose. Then again, it’s my job to “think about” things and interpret them for you.
My favorite phrase of late is: “What this means to you is…”
Schools teach lots of great information and powerful ideas but if there’s no reflection on how to apply them then the classroom time was wasted. Knowledge isn’t power. The ability to apply knowledge is where the power comes in. The intelligence that comes from taking time to think things through is, in many ways, the “transmission” of our minds. It takes the potential power of knowledge and translates, or transmits, it to our hands and voices for application in wise ways.
The next time you talk with one of your coworkers about something that they already know, consider that they may only know it technically. In other words, they might be able to say it back to you just as you said it, but without thinking it through, they won’t really understand what this means to them. Don’t expect people to truly know what they’ve merely seen or heard. Help them think about what it means. And be sure to take a day occasionally for yourself.