One of the concepts important to leadership is the process of taking a person, an experience or a belief you have, breaking it down, and reflectively thinking about it. Breaking it down means examining the person, experience or belief in smaller parts and different ways to understand why they are significant to you. Once you can break it down into smaller pieces and reflectively thing about it, this exercise oftentimes provides further illumination. For me, I prefer to practice reflective thought while out for a run. You might prefer that too, but if you’re not into running or you can’t run, what other techniques of reflective thought are available? As it turns out, several!
Reflective thought is part of continuous learning. Continuous learning helps leaders hone their core values, worldview and guiding principles. Reflective thought can also bring greater memory, greater creativity and help preserve cognitive function.
Reflective thought is a form of meditation. It is a process of clearing your mind in a way that allows you to focus on one aspect of the person, experience or belief you have chosen to focus on. It’s about focusing on one thing and ridding your mind of everything else. While running a marathon in Vienna, Austria, I was so focused on reflecting about a certain event in my Dad’s life, I ran right by a huge mansion turned into a museum without ever seeing it!
If clearing your mind doesn’t come easy for you, here are some suggestions. You can start by sitting comfortably in a quiet place and close your eyes (or leave them partially open, whichever works best for you). Set a timer for 5-10 minutes so you won’t be thinking about time. Leave your mobile phone in a different room; far enough away you can’t hear it. Focus your attention on breathing and then the topic you want to concentrate on. If you find your mind wandering, don’t worry about it. Keep going back to the topic you want to reflect on. If you keep practicing this technique a few times a week, you will eventually get comfortable with it and be able to go for longer periods of time.
If you’re like me, you may not want to sit still as described in the last paragraph. As I said in the first paragraph, I like to run. Actually, any exercise that has repetitive, rhythmic motions works. In addition to running, you can swim, walk, or ride a bicycle. The idea is to focus on one thing at a time and concentrate naturally for calm clear thought. I’ve also found fishing to work quite well.
Regardless how you do it, reflective thought is part of the continuous learning process effective leaders routinely practice for short periods of time. If this concept is new to you, it may be difficult for you to make the time to practice, but it is a skill you need to effectively lead.
What is your favorite method of reflective thought? Let me know in the comment section below.