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The Rhythms of Reflection

#empowerment #flourish #personalgrowth #womeninleadership Jun 06, 2022

Last week my conversation with Sylvia Worsham revealed that we share an affinity for John Maxwell’s Law of Reflection, “Learning to Pause Allows Growth to Catch Up with You,” from the book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Personal Growth. If you’ve not yet read it, I highly recommend it as a great starting place. 

In essence, if you never slow down enough to look around at where you are, or how far you’ve come, you don’t have the information you need to move forward effectively. As it turns out, reflection is a natural practice for me. I had no idea that what I was doing was the first half of a fantastic growth tool, and until the last few years, I was mostly only reflecting without actually using the information to change and grow.

Now, however, you’ll hear me talk plenty about reflection, recalibration and evaluated experience because I’ve come to understand the necessity and value of that process. You know, we all have “lulls” after growth or achievement, and using that time (a pause) to look back at what you’ve learned allows all of it to truly sink in, become assimilated, and inform your next stage of development. 

The best way to move forward is to reflect, evaluate and recalibrate.

I’ve developed my OWN system that I call “The Rhythms of Reflection,” which is one of the tools I created to help those in my group coaching community, Launch From The Beach. It provides a great variety of options for how you can begin this process, and lends light structure to how we grow, evaluate and plan more growth. 

Rhythms of Reflection is about understanding what is,

what you want, what’s possible, and devising a plan to get there.

A plan that ebbs and flows with the rhythms of your life and work. 

My goal here, today, is to help you figure out how you can begin this journey.  I’ll give you some tools and ideas on where to start, and how to move forward.  

What’s important to understand, is that we all need (and, I would argue, actually HAVE) rhythms by which we live. We’ve created our communities and societies around these rhythms, from education to finances, and everything in between. Even my beagle, Shasta, has daily rhythms of following the sun around the house, napping in each sunny spot as long as possible, before retiring to the couch. She  maximizes every ray that comes in every window. 

The key for you is to identify your own rhythms, then set them up as a flexible structure that will give you the ability to move forward with productivity, efficiency and most importantly, joy. 

But first, let’s look at what I mean by RHYTHMS.

By definition, Rhythm is a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. You’ll notice it doesn’t say consistent or measured. For my purposes, I’m referring to rhythms based in nature. Rhythms that might seem constant, yet contain a flexibility in them that provides structure, without rigidity.

They are regular, repeated, but not completely and utterly consistent - like a metronome. 

When a rhythm is constant, repetitive - like a “drumbeat” - it feels insistent, communicates urgency, is pressing, or oppressive. Ultimately, it feels fake. Manufactured. Like a drum track generated by a computer rather than a real, live, human drummer.

But when a rhythm has flex, let’s call it syncopation - switching up the strong and weak beats (2&4 rather than 1&3), or displacing beats - it has a sense of style or fun. In music, this is usually the rhythm that invites you to stand up and move, even just a little bit. 

The best example of rhythm in nature that is constant, repetitive, yet not consistent, is The Ocean.  The waves are never not hitting the shore. 

There is never stillness. 

But! 

  • The waves can be strong or soft - but always coming one right after the other.
  • Each has a swell and ebb - that’s how you create a wave, afterall.
  • Sometimes they are intense (like in a storm), other times they are calm.
  • It is always surging and retreating - always. Never stops.

Of course, this isn’t the only example. 

Solar system: Morning & Evening, moon cycle, every new month & year.

Interpersonal rhythms: breathing, chanting, drumming, martial arts, singing and dancing. You’ll notice, most of these are creative expressions.

 

Figuring out your own rhythm takes time. 

I started out (as most people do) with a prescribed rhythm. Meaning, I took someone else’s process, and began using it. Each time I did that, I found things that worked for me and things that didn’t. I’ve added pieces in, and within a week, yanked them back out because they were just too much or added no value (like ranking my tasks with letters and numbers). Other pieces took me years to FINALLY add in and I wish I’d done it sooner (like daily gratitude)! 

There are three main components to a Rhythm of Reflection, and you’ll need a regular practice in each of these three areas, which when done together, create a constant cycle of upward growth:

  1. Reflecting
  2. Evaluating
  3. Recalibrating

That regular practice is your rhythm. You get to decide what you do when, based on the value it brings to you. Of course, you’ll need a starting point, but if you don’t currently have a steady practice, reflecting is the best place to start. So, let’s do that. 

 

Reflecting: is more than just looking backwards. It’s more than just repeating back to myself what I see - or looking into a mirror.  Reflecting is all about gathering information. 

In any given situation, I’m looking for my feelings, my reactions to it.  I’m also looking at other people’s behaviors or reactions, because when I gather information from multiple sources, it informs my perspective. 

For this conversation, though, let’s just keep it in the personal growth and goal achievement space. Otherwise, we could be chasing squirrels all day. 

So in that scenario, gathering information looks like curiosity. Whether or not I met my goal, I just want to be curious about: 

  • What worked, what didn’t
  • Was this activity pleasurable, or did it bring me joy?
  • Why did I even attempt it, do I remember?
  • Understanding experience and the results to gather data.  

I use a few tools for this process, but these two are essential:

  • Journaling - I personally journal daily. It took me a while to get here, but now I have years of documentation I can access, and it helps me get things out of my head. 
  • Life Wheel Assessment - this is a simple pie chart representation of the main areas in my life, and I fill it out based on my current satisfaction in each area, to see what areas are lacking and why. Do I need to do anything about it, or is it normal, based on what’s going on right now? 

 

Evaluating- this is the process of taking the information I gather in reflection, and determining what it means and what I might (or might not) need to do about it. 

John Maxwell says “experience teaches nothing, but evaluated experience teaches everything.”

This is what I call the “so what” process. 

  • So what if I didn’t reach that goal, now what?
  • So what if I’m not where I want to be in life, now what?
  • So what if I’m on a completely different trajectory than I thought, now what?
  • So what if I reached my goal last week instead of the end of the month, now what?
  • So what if I got a whole new opportunity that is way better than what I was already working on, now what?

I’ll be honest, I’m not always good at doing this by myself. Sometimes I need some outside, and objective perspectives like a coach, my best friend, my husband, or a trusted community. I have come to understand that one of my own challenges is trusting my own decisions, so I’m learning - through the help of others - to get there.  Now, though, many of my answers to these “so what” questions are resolved before I seek others’ assistance, which is great, because then I get confirmation which builds my confidence moving forward. 

You may be in the same boat. You might not know how to answer those questions, or trust yourself in the process. But please know, there are plenty of people out there who are ready, willing and fully equipped (even if not formally trained) to help you look at your own answers, and help you decide what to do next.  

Take note, please… this is the part of the process where (if you didn’t get stuck in reflection - like I used to), it’s easy to get stuck. Sitting here too long creates a “stewing” atmosphere… which is one reason I like to move through the whole cycle as often as possible (daily & weekly), which helps develop my muscles for moving on each month, quarter and year.

Once you have your evaluation answers, it’s time to calibrate - or recalibration once you get into the actual cycle. Let me explain.

 

To Calibrate means to have a standard by which you gauge your progress. When you get into your own rhythm or cycle, you then Recalibrate with each evaluation based on your standard.

As I said earlier, I started out with someone else’s process, and used that to set my own standards (or what we commonly refer to as goals), and eventually created my own process for that. But I also started with their standards. I used the Franklin Covey system, and followed their instructions for how to set my goals and how to accomplish them. There are some pieces of that system I still use, but for the most part, not so much. 

Creating standards for yourself means deciding what you want to be or where you want to be (even if it’s just for a short term - because deciding for “forever” can be daunting). If you don’t know where you want to go, you can’t know if you’re on the right track. So, as I’ve said many times before, straight out of the tenet Intentional - PICK a direction. You can always recalibrate and redirect.

There are some standard tools I use for calibrating and recalibrating.  Anything I mention here, is available to you at the link at the bottom of the article.  

Calibration/Recalibration Tools: 

  • Planner: I started with a Franklin Covey system, back in college.  I’ve since moved through both paper and digital ones, and right now, I use a paper planner while still maintaining a digital calendar and task list. This is what works for me. I created a document with all my planning tool favorites, so feel free to peruse that for anything that might work for you.
  • Core Values: These are the essence of who YOU are, and when you know them, you have a fantastic place to begin with setting your standards. I have a one-page exercise on how to do this for yourself, but if you want a little guidance, I also have a 4-module micro course to walk you through the process.
  • Vision Board: This is a visual representation of your big dreams. It’s important to find ways to help you see goals and rewards in different formats. A vision board pulls in your dreams in pictures, rather than words. This one is new to me - my first was January of 2022, and we did it workshop style with a free replay you can easily access.
  • S.M.A.R.T. Goal Planning Worksheet: I don’t personally use this as much as I used to, but it’s a great way to teach yourself how to set really practical goals.  SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. It’s a great way to ensure you aren’t setting yourself up for failure or disappointment, while still helping you stretch. 
  • Mind Map: I do this when I need a different kind of visual representation of how my smaller goals integrate and overlap in support of an overall goal. On a piece of paper, I place my 3-5 major goals in bubbles, then brainstorm how I’ll get there in bubbles around each one. Then I look at how they connect, and where something I’m doing for one goal might help me accomplish another. 

Once you have your process, or rhythm, and you start reflecting and evaluating your growth based on your own standards (or goals), you can start RECALIBRATING in small or big ways.  

For example:

  • Small recalibrations might include:
    • Adding or subtracting from your practice based on what works.
    • Moving a goal deadline based on how quickly or slowly you are making progress.
    • Changing your tasks or practices to help you reach your goal BY your set deadline.
  • Big recalibrations can be:
    • Eliminating a process because there’s virtually no added value to you.
    • Scrapping a goal when you realize it’s not where you want to go.
    • Changing degree programs in college (I did this one 3 times).
    • Pivoting in your career based on what you’ve learned about yourself and where you want to go - yep, I did that too.

These three areas, Reflecting, Evaluating & Recalibrating, when done together, create a constant cycle of upward growth.

To be CLEAR - I did not wake up one day, create this system and implement all of it at once! It grew, organically, over time to what I have today. Habits are best built one small step at a time, so take what you already have and add one piece to it. 

If you’re not doing anything right now - feel free to find a ready made system, mine or someone else’s, and just start. 

Rhythms of Reflection is all about understanding what is, what you want, what’s possible, and devising a plan to get there. A plan that ebbs and flows with the rhythms of your life and work.

So - go download any or all the tools I’ve provided, including a printable version of my detailed processes. Take advantage of what’s out there. 

If you can do this on your own, FABULOUS! GO! Get on it!  

IF you need guidance, help, accountability, please reach out. 

IF you have questions about any of the tools I’ve offered, please reach out. 

I respond to DMs and emails, and would love to help you.

Book a 30-min consultation, and we will - together - figure out your next best step to empower you to take control of your future. Whether it’s in a 1:1 coaching setting, or in Launch From The Beach, a group coaching community built around the structure of Rhythms of Reflection, with other women to encourage you and cheer you on in your own journey.

Below is the page full of easily downloadable documents to get you started. No email required. Just take the tools, get moving and let me know how I can help!

Rhythms of Reflection - Downloads & Links

Let’s go - let’s do this!

Until next time!

AJ

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