The most impactful thing I did in 2015 was to create a new structure around my reflective practices. Two friends and I agreed to be in community around our learning for the year; we selected the Power Path’s Monthly Forecast— a shamanic reading of the month— as the platform for our exploration. At the beginning of each month, we each read the forecast, pulled out excerpts that resonated with us, and wrote a reflection on how those pieces connected with our lives.
While I love the Power Path, more significant than engaging with it was committing to a regular structure for introspection. As someone who is already quite reflective, the space to write about my learning and pull out larger patterns was particularly significant. Exploring this in the context of community provided both challenge and support, from the accountability for regular reflection to the example set by my friends in their depth of inquiry and self-kindness in approach.
As a leader, carving out space to foster learning, identify areas for growth, and notice the themes emerging in your life is critical. Cultivating this connection to your inner landscape enables you to lead from a place of greater awareness. When we talk about mindful leadership, we are talking about this awareness.
Whether you are working on further incorporating reflection into your leadership or you need a tool to tease out a bigger picture of this regular activity, here are five ideas to create some scaffolding around your reflection.
Morning Pages Morning pages is a daily practice of writing three pages of uncensored stream of consciousness when you wake up (this goes against Cameron’s teaching, but I suggest that doing it any time of day serves you better than feeling guilty about hitting snooze). The idea behind the practice is to clear out anything swimming in your subconscious. Whatever I write— complaints, inspiration, the block in writing I feel, or spontaneously creating something I didn’t know was in me— I am carving out space to listen to myself. As one of my mentors often quips: “When we write it down, things move.” Something is released, or else I conclude that it’s boring and unfruitful; either way is okay, as it allows me to lead with greater openness.
Weekly Words Sports psychologists have long-known the effectiveness of intention setting. One way I use this tool is by choosing a word or phrase that I would like to live into for the week. Using the same word for a week provides me with time to practice it; I might forget it one day, while the next day I say it with every breath (another practice known as centering prayer). Either way, choosing an intention creates momentum in my life. To choose the word, I often ask myself: What am I discovering about myself through daily pages? From that: What do I need more of right now?
Lunar Calendar There are many ways to structure a monthly reflection, be it the Roman calendar or the moon’s cycles. Whether it's a series of questions to ask myself or a monthly source of inspiration, I grow more when I pause every thirty days to reflect upon my inner-work. This practice is about slowing down and zooming out. When I take this time, I usually notice the way my daily and weekly learning is circling around a specific edge or opportunity.
Seasonal Rhythms Just as the planet cycles through different seasons, so too does our learning. Using the changing seasons to connect with my roots (autumn), slow down and store energy (winter), cleanse and shed old layers (spring), and take new action (summer) is a helpful way for me to understand my year. For spiritual exercises around this, check out The Circle of Life: the Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons.
Whether you implement one of these ideas or create your own, I’d love to hear in the comments section about the structures that support your reflection.
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