Reflection Season: Frameworks and Ideas

Yesterday, I shared the concept of reflection season.  Today, I wanted to share a few ideas I’m using as I think about my goals and resolutions for the year ahead.

First – it’s my practice: I should do what works for me.  At the start of the new year, there’s no shortage of opinions on resolutions.  Whether you should set them or not, what you should do to be successful, and how many people fail.  I think it’s important to remember growth is an individual process: each person needs to do what works for them–and that will change with the season they’re in and what they’re working on.  The right resolution is whatever you can implement that will bring you back next year, excited for more–even if it seems absurdly small.

Vary your time horizons.  One of the most fulfilling exercises I’ve ever done was setting 3-year goals as a family, instead of one-year goals.  We were in the midst of graduate school with a toddler at home and another on the way.  Things like buying a house, potty training the kids, or taking a vacation seemed impossibly out of reach.  By taking  a longer time horizon, we opened our minds to what we were really excited about, and the possibilities we should consider.  Most of the goals we thought were impossible we achieved far sooner than we thought.

But sometimes short term goals are better.  For 2019, I plan to run a half marathon in August.  I can put that on the calendar now, with a defined date to register and schedule a 3-month training plan.  If you’re making resolutions, consider whether a longer or shorter time horizon would help you implement.

Pivoting your approach.  Sometimes, when planning, I forget to give myself permission to change my approach.  This helps me with goals that involve a regular practice.  Here’s a few questions to help.

  • Can I make this simpler or easier?  I’m planning to do this with fitness.  Instead of trying to complete a workout, I can commit to one rep with a very light weight, or to simply putting on my running clothes on a certain frequency.
  • Would re-framing to lower the benefit help?  If I’m working on project with an expected return, and it takes longer than I expect, I often get discouraged and quit.  Lowering expectations can help.  Instead of writing for readers, consider writing only to become a better writer.  Instead of exercising for looks, consider working out to be able to enjoy a walk with friends.  Instead of committing to an annual project, consider a 3-month experiment.  You’ll be more likely to follow through.
  • Can I make a more substantial investment?  I might do this with something I’m learning or recommitting to.  I could purchase a course, or a hire a coach.  Or I could sign up for a future event that feels like a stretch.  When we make an investment, it can increase our level of commitment.
  • Can I create a system to hold myself accountable?  I could calendar a sustainable rhythm to revisit my progress. Perhaps I can chart how I’m doing each week or month, or I can ask a close friend to share this journey with me.

Choose a framework you love.  I’ve really enjoyed reading about the reflection processes of mentors and friends over the past few months.  Here’s a few.

Write down your plan.  Finally, I am continually amazed by the value of writing down my thoughts and plans.  And, I was shocked to find that–even with all that I do to think about personal growth and change–I couldn’t find my 2018 goals in my files when I was reflecting recently.  So – whatever you commit to, write it down, post in a place you can see, or email it to yourself and a close friend.  You’ll be able to return to it in the future, check how you’re doing, and see how you’ve grown–you’re likely to be amazed at what changed and what stayed the same.

In the next few days I’ll share a few of the insights I had from my reflection season this year.  Stay encouraged, and enjoy your work!


Reflection Season

Recently a friend, through their writing, introduced me to the idea of Reflection Season.  From Thanksgiving through the New Year, they focus on  a period of reflection over the past year and preparation for the year to come.

I love this idea for a few reasons.

First – Most of us pause during the holidays.  It’s a time when work slows down, we travel, see friends and family, and have the opportunity to step away from our daily routine and have the conversations needed to reflect.

Second – Reflection should be paired with gratitude.  If we don’t have the right frame of mind, it’s easy to take the wrong lesson from a situation.  By having more time, and extending reflection through a season of generosity, gratitude, and deep relationships, we are more likely to take the right lessons from our reflection.

Finally – A season of reflection gives the chance to experiment.  If I’m considering a new routine or commitment, I can start during this season and make adjustments before the new year if it’s not working out.

Most of  us probably already set resolutions over the past few days.  If that hasn’t been a fulfilling process, consider what a season of reflection might look like next year, and prepare for it now.

I’ll share a few thoughts I came away from this reflection season with in the next few days.  Until then, stay encouraged and enjoy the start to the new year.



The Promoted Version Of You

A common piece of advice in large companies goes like this: “To get promoted, you’ll have to first perform in the job that you want earn.”  Successful work comes before recognition.

Normally, when I hear that, I think that means to work harder, stay longer, and do more.

Recently, I’ve been challenging that story.  Here are some other things you might do:

  • Ask for more.  The promoted version of you (TPVOY) would probably ask for more without worrying about being out of line.  They would have a bigger budget, worry less about exceeding it, and think more about spending in ways that produce value.
  • Go slower.  TPVOY would take time to be intentional.  They would solve problems once, and keep them solved.  They would use words like “To really do this right, we need to….
  • Less meetings, more finished products.  TPVOY would be more scalable.  They would create products and references once that could be used for a long time.  They would probably create them with more simplicity and less effort, but not sweating the small stuff so much.
  • More time really learning the business.  TPVOY would think nothing of the organization making a big investment in their learning and development: for someone at the next level up, that sort of investment would just make sense.
  • More initiative. TPVOY might go first without thinking twice.  They would ask for time on the agenda at important meetings; they would schedule gatherings and know that people would come.  They would update the really important people regularly–the VP, the SVP, the CEO, the Board–because the really important people would be concerned about what they were doing.  They would have a bias for action.
  • More gratitude and more generosity.  TPVOY would take the time to express gratitude, celebrate achievement, and recognize success.  They would find ways to do it that fell more extravagant than expected.

Of course, some of these things don’t work when you’re new in a role.  But – if you’ve been in your role for a while, and you’ve earned some level of trust, maybe it’s time to start acting like the promoted version of you in a few areas.

Stay encouraged as you begin!

Simple Promises for Your Team

I was attending a conference this week, and listened to a team sharing how they’d led some spectacular changes in their organization.

They explained that they’d made a commitment to their team as they started:

  1. We are going to do work that matters: “If it’s not important, if it doesn’t matter to you and resonate with why we’re all here, we won’t do it.”
  2. We are going to do practices that work: “We are going to measure our work.  If there isn’t evidence that it is effective, we won’t do it.”

We all aspire to these principles–two simple ideas that are easy to defend, and that we can always be glad to be held to, or to hold ourselves accountable to.  May these be true for all of us in our work.

Stay encouraged, and have a great week!

Self-Determination Day

I voted yesterday!

This was the first time I’ve ever voted in person.  I’ve spent a long time living in places away from my home of record, or deployed overseas.  Then, two years ago, with two kids under three, I got to the polls 5 minutes after close.

Yesterday, I arrived around 815am.  Where I voted, there were two groups.

People who were prepared were generally in hurry.  They left their car running in the loading zone while they jogged to the drop off box, dropped their prepared and sealed ballot, and headed off to work.

People who hadn’t filled out their ballot were mostly confused.  Inside the building, I saw lots of uncertainty and confusion.  I heard things like “I think I’m registered, but I’m not sure…” or “I’m not sure who the candidates are”.

For those that showed up later in the day, there were huge lines–so some who wanted to vote, but waited too long to arrive, and didn’t feel like they had the time to stay, weren’t able to cast a ballot at all.

Like many optional, important in life, it’s tough to quantify the cost of not voting.  An individual vote feels like it doesn’t matter in the big picture. But few would say that the leadership of our nation is inconsequential–it impacts our laws, our national conversation, our economy, and whether we have peace or war.

I thought this was a good analogy for the important decisions in life:

  • We often don’t set aside time to make deliberate, optional choices
  • It’s a private, individual decision, so it’s tough to learn from others
  • The cost to waiting is substantial, but tough to quantify
Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

May we all take the time to be intentional about our decisions and find ways to keep learning from others–particularly in the small, optional, important actions that determine our direction.

Stay encouraged, and have a great day!

Book Review: Influence–The Psychology of Persuasion.

I recently read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, PhD.

Highly recommend:  I thought this was an entertaining read, and essential for anyone who interacts with others in making decisions (that is, everyone).


In the book, Dr. Cialdini explains a set of compliance triggers.  These include:

  • Social Proof–the idea that we look to others to know what to do
  • Consistency–that we all want to be consistent to the view we have of ourselves
  • Comparison–we tend to judge our options by what they’re compared with, rather than to an objective baseline, and that comparison changes our willingness to comply.

For each trigger, Dr. Cialdini provides a detailed explanation, a humorous example of how it works in the real world, and ideas for mitigating its impact.  While the book is focused on the interaction between people, many of these ideas can also be helpful for supporting personal change.

I felt like the book was filled with interesting stories and examples.  However, I thought the most important insight was at the beginning.  The author points out that in a world of increasing complexity, we will all use these compliance triggers more and more in making our decisions.  Here’s the quote:

“…each principle is examined as to it’s ability to produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people, that is, a willingness to say ‘yes’ without thinking first.  The evidence suggests that the ever-accelerating pace of informational crush of modern life will make this particular form of unthinking compliance more and more prevalent in the future.  It will be increasingly important for the society, therefore, to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of automatic influence.”

Since reading the book, I can’t stop seeing these influence techniques in media, advertising, and interactions at work.  Because of this, I highly recommend this book.

Happy reading, and stay encouraged!