Direct Marketing Article
Stop Making Business Mistakes You're Going to
Pay for Later
The Art of Practicing Reflection
By Joelle Jay, Ph.D.
Imagine being able to accurately predict what would happen before taking a
certain action. Imagine being able to adjust course mid-decision so you
could achieve a better outcome. Imagine learning from your mistakes in such
a way that you not only overcome the current mistake, but also achieve more
success because of it. All of these scenarios are within the reach of
everyone. Unfortunately, few people take the steps to actually do them.
So how exactly can someone predict the future, harness the present, and
use the past as a springboard for success? The answer lies in the art of
Reflection is a way of learning from your mistakes and your successes in the
course of your life and in your business. It means looking at your
experiences to make informed decisions about what to do, when to do it, and
why it should be done. It's about stepping back, taking it all in, and
looking ahead. Ultimately, reflection brings clarity, and clarity leads to
sound decisions. Think of reflection as the art of extraction. You are
extracting knowledge and learning right out of your own experiences,
squeezing daily events for every ounce of learning they have to offer.
Studying your own experiences by reflecting on them allows you to move
faster toward your goals instead of having to try, try, try again until you
get it right. To some degree, reflection happens naturally, but it is far
more powerful as a business tool when you understand how to steer your
reflection purposefully to make the most of your talent, experiences, and
The Art of Practicing Reflection
To practice reflection, you simply choose an event or scenario that will
impact you and your company. Then think about the event in advance, be
conscious about the experience in the moment, debrief the event afterwards
to see what there is to learn, and prepare for an even more successful
experience next time. In this manner, your learning curve should not be a
curve at all but a continuously moving cycle of
how we learn. Researchers call this:
Reflection for action, or thinking before you act.
Reflection in action, or noticing your thoughts and feelings right in the
middle of the action. Like a jazz musician, you play off the events of the
moment, improvising as you perform.
Reflection on action, or the process of looking back at your experiences to
see what there is to learn so you can apply it in the future.
For business professionals, taking the time for reflection is essential for
long-term success. When you're skimming along, trying to make a profit, and
making all the daily decisions, you're going through the motions but not
really reflecting on them. As such, you could be missing opportunities,
trading results for what's urgent (fire fighting), working too much, and/or
sacrificing your health and relationships in the name of something else
that's less important. These are the kinds of mistakes you'll pay for later
and they're usually the ones you can undo.
If all you do is manage fires all day, you're not being reflective. And if
you're not reflective in your job or business, then you won't be the one who
gets the promotion or who creates the new product or service. The people and
companies that get the promotions and create new offerings are the ones who
have new ideas. You don't get innovative ideas by answering e-mails all day
or dealing with one crisis after another.
So let's say, for instance, you want to evaluate your company's advertising
strategy. To do so with the art of reflection, you would do the following:
Reflect for action. Think about any new advertising you want to do
ahead of time. Decide such things as your specific goals of advertising, how
long you'll test a certain medium, and which advertising venues your
customers typically deem credible.
Reflect in action. In the midst of your advertising campaign, stay
cognizant of your goals and intentions. See if you need to adjust course
Reflect on action. After the specified timeframe you already
identified, ask yourself:
How did it go?
What went well?
What didn't go as well?
What would you do differently next time?
Repeating this pattern again and again will eventually help you learn what
you need to achieve your vision.
The Benefits of Reflection
How exactly does reflection help you be a better leader and have a better
business? The benefits of reflection are many:
You avoid mistakes. Reflective leaders and business owners are rarely
blindsided. You give yourself the chance to weigh options and consider
consequences before making a big decision.
You fill in the gaps. Through your reflection, you will discover not
just what you need to do, but also what you know and what you don't know.
Once you can see what's missing to help you be successful, be it
information, education, resources, funding, or connections, you can go out
and get it.
You are lighter on your feet. Many times people struggle with a
decision. Should we or shouldn't we? Which way is best? What should we do?
Reflection is a big stop sign to keep you from running in circles. The more
reflective you are, the faster you can see how each and every option does or
does not advance your goals. You make a decision and get back into action
while everyone else chews on their options.
You learn by leaps and bounds. Reflection is a way of learning that
cuts out wasted time and unnecessary action. If you rely on
learning-by-doing, you have to do a lot before you can learn a lot. If you
couple learning-by-doing with reflection, however, your learning is more
condensed, and therefore, faster.
The good news is that being reflective doesn't mean you have to go into the
woods for a week to assess how you and your professional pursuits are
advancing. Reflection is possible in a half hour here, a day there, or even
a few minutes every now and then.
The bottom line is that if you're reflective, you can live the life you want
and have the professional success you desire. But if you're not reflective,
you may later regret your life's choices and may pay dearly for business
mistakes. You can choose to stay on the same path you're currently on, or
you can see the path you really want and take the steps to get there. The
choice is yours. Reflect on it...and then choose wisely.
About the Author:
Dr. Joelle K. Jay, Ph. D., is an executive coach and the senior managing
partner of the leadership development firm, Pillar Consulting. She
strategizes with business leaders to enhance their performance and maximize
business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and
C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of "The
Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership." For a free Sample
Chapter, go to
www.TheInnerEdge.com or email