As the new year dawns we inevitably find ourselves thinking backward and forward. Maybe we have had bad experiences with “new years resolutions” or at the very least have friends who have set forth with good intentions only to lose focus very early in the new year. Regardless of the jokes or bad press we hear about new years resolutions it is very healthy to take time for regular reflection on ones life, goals and dreams. Our reflection does not need to be at the turn of the year but often it is a natural time to do so. Give yourself the gift of quiet time to engage in strategic thinking about your life.
For women in business regular reflection is a critical success skill. Women who set aside time to think deeply about the journey they have been on, the current road they are traveling and how these compare to where they want to go are often women who are not only successful but also feel a deep sense of peace and satisfaction with their success. Women have many choices but seem to be less inclined than their male peers to invest in themselves in a mindful manner. Could this be socialization telling us we are selfish if we take time for ourselves? We often have many roles we play simultaneously both at work , home and in our community. As a result of all of these roles we are very rarely without a “to do” list. A constant focus on getting things done can paradoxically cause us to lose sight of what we are doing.
Most of us are somewhat familiar with the phrase “I was on auto pilot”. “Auto pilot” is the interesting phenomenon of engaging in an number of tasks with out conscious awareness of the activity or of time going by. Driving is one of the most common “auto pilot” experiences. Have you ever driven a familiar route only to arrive and realize you have no memory of the road, stop lights, traffic or turns because you were so deep in thought? Your subconscious mind was executing tasks while your conscious mind was engaged elsewhere. Occasionally we find we have actually driven somewhere we did not intend to go. Are there aspects of your life where you are not satisfied? Could these also be the areas where you are living on “auto pilot”?
A good friend of mine often says: success is not success if you wake up one day and realize you are having a “near life experience”. Somewhere along the way the life you have created is not a life that brings you happiness, satisfaction or peace. One way to avoid getting too far from the journey you really want to be on is to set aside time at least once a year- but ideally more often- to think deeply about the aspects of your life that are most important to you.
At any given point and time in our lives we are at different levels of satisfaction with major life areas. Most people are rarely in alignment on all important life areas simultaneously. Possibly this sense of striving is what it means to be human. Work-Relationships-Money-Spirituality-Health are examples of some of the major life areas to be considered. Whether you are a linear thinker or more creative in your approach it often helps to use unfamiliar methods to delve into your conscious and unconscious dreams and goals. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Close your eyes, take time to breathe and let go of whatever is on your “to do” list this moment. Use words or use pictures to tap into how you see each major area of your life. Consider the major life areas one at a time. Take a few moments to picture one area of your life. Allow any words or images to come up and record them. Take time to consider each life element important to you. After considering the life areas review what has come up for you. Patterns emerge in terms of the areas you feel positively about and those that may not be a fully developed as you would wish. Use this thinking as a starting point to uncover the elements of your life that you want to work on in the coming months and/or years. It may be obvious what your next step is -where you want to go with what you have uncovered. On the other hand it may be foggy- a sense that there are areas you are not where you want to be but you do not know what step to take next. If foggy, take baby steps. Think about the questions you need answered before you can determine where you want to go. Set out to answer these questions for yourself. Often sharing what you have uncovered with a friend or coach can bring new insights to this work. Fear or anxiety about pushing into uncomfortable areas is normal. Your pace is determined only by your sense of urgency in creating the life you want.
Thinking strategically about your life just as you would about your business is an important skill that successful women employ. “Resolve” to give your self the gift of time to engage in this reflection regularly this year and beyond. Each of us make life adjustments along the way, this is just part of living. The skill of regular and strategic reflection can keep you closer to the life journey that will be most authentic for you. Wishing you productive reflection!