Ginni Saraswati is the founder and CEO of Ginni Media, cofounder of The Podcast Accelerator and host of The Ginni Show.
A wise woman in the 1990s once wailed into a microphone four simple words: “You live, you learn.” In her song about the ups and downs of everyday life, Alanis Morissette covers some of life’s most common, yet prickly, attributes. There’s “biting off more than you can chew,” “sticking your foot in your mouth” and, of course, heartache. “You Learn” is a song about the wisdom gained upon the reflection of past experiences.
The time for reflection is … often.
This chart-topping album was released in June 1995. This means that for 30 million people, Morissette’s raw, canorous and very personal reflections resonated. And not at the end of the year but smack at the height of summer. This left me wondering about our cultural tendency to wait until the end of the year to reflect on everything that’s happened over the last 365 days. Why do we feel the need to scrunch so much potential insight about our lives into the final days of the calendar year?
So much of the content that goes around in December is jampacked with reminders to perform your yearly ruminations: What have you achieved? What surprised you? Who did you meet that was life-changing? Even taking the time to come up with thoughtful answers feels like a lot of pressure to put on December. Those are deep questions, not pop quizzes. Besides, isn’t the end of year a busy enough period already?
Regular reflection provides more accurate insight.
Truth be told, I’m quite the “Dory” when it comes to these things. Like Nemo’s amnesic swimming buddy, remembering as far back as the last 12 months is quite the task and quite the ask. So much happens in a day as an entrepreneur. Regular reflection provides lessons, which inspire growth spurts. From there, opportunities are born. These routine pauses serve as invitations to consider other big questions like, “What kind of leader do I want to be?” and “What kind of company do I want to run?”
Unfortunately for proponents of the year-end summary practice, ripe moments for reflection don’t only happen when the clock strikes 12 on the Gregorian calendar. For me, making regular, more frequent pit stops to pause and reflect feels more meaningful and intentional. It also relieves the pressure of taking a personal inventory at the busiest time of year.
How reflection can shift our beliefs.
Reflection works best for me when I do it on a smaller scale. It can be daily, weekly or monthly. For example, lately, I’ve been fighting with myself over one question: Have I done enough? With this guilt-tinged curiosity hanging in the back of my mind, I did a self-check-in to see if this worry had any legs to stand on. I wrote down a list of every single thing I had done over the period of a week.
The conclusion? Of course, I could have sent more emails, had more meetings and recorded more podcast episodes. However, there are only so many hours in the day. I also need to sleep, recharge and possess enough time and energy to be (really be) with my loved ones. Rather than blindly accepting some societal definition of “enough,” I now know that I’m doing what’s possible for me. I’m also living into the values I believe in when it comes to work-life integration.
Five Prompts To Inspire Reflection
Regular reflection practice can help you gain deeper insight into your decisions, past, present and future. You can start by choosing a day of the week to ask yourself the same questions. Notice how your answers change and see where this practice leads you. Try starting with this list:
1. What’s working/not working?
2. What lessons have I learned this week?
3. What do I still need to learn?
4. What does my business/team need that I’m not giving?
5. What actions can I take to do 2% better next week?
Gifting yourself the time and space for regular reflection is an express pass to greater self-awareness. Not only do you learn from your mistakes and successes, but it creates the space for fresh ideas to flourish. Newly gained perspective and sharper wisdom can be passed on to your team members, too. The benefits of reflection then become woven into the ethos of your organization, which is a win for everyone. Reflection is not a singular event, it’s a process. And I, for one, wholeheartedly trust that process.
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