Year-end reflection – where do you do your best thinking?

Emma Vallin, Executive Coach

This is the time of the year when many of us stop to reflect on the year that’s gone, personally and professionally. It might be hard to fit in personal time between work projects and Christmas shopping, but hopefully the holiday period will give us some an opportunity for quality thinking.

As with all positive habits, we need to make it as easy as possible for ourselves. Therefore, ask yourself where and how you do your best thinking?

We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

I’ve always find writing the best way for me to reflect and plan. And some of my best thinking is usually done in very specific places.

First of all, I do my big thinking around things like how I want to live my life, during flights (and long train journeys). But of course, I haven’t done much of that in the past 18 months.

My second favorite place to think is in cafés, writing on napkins. That’s where I do my best career and business planning. The napkin helps because it makes it spontaneous and removes the pressure. I also love that there is limited space on the napkin – as if my ideas are too many and too big to fit on the piece of paper 😊

Recently I’ve discovered a third place – when I’m out walking. It’s when I’m most creative and come up with good (and bad) business ideas. Until recently I always listened to a podcast or music, which is great to inspiration. But I was surprising to find how the ideas started flowing when there was silence.

Where and how do you do your best thinking?

Making it easy for ourselves and exploring where and how we get our best insights and ideas can help us make reflection into a positive habit.

Writing this made me think that perhaps I’m a Lone Wolf who doesn’t need others to reflect and come up with ideas? I definitely think the pandemic has made me more self-reliant when it comes to inspiration. But I get a lot of energy from sparring and discussing with smart, fun, and open-minded people.

And come to think about it, one of the most rewarding activities I’ve done this year is started group Walkflections here in Stockholm.

So, as I close the books for 2021, my conclusion is that I’d like to spend more time bouncing off ideas and discussing plans with some of the interesting and talented people in my network. Consider yourselves warned!

With that I would like to wish you all a restful holiday with time for reflection and interesting discussions.

 

Is our constant ‘doing’ keeping us from ‘being’?

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.” — Annie Dillard

I had to read that quote a couple of times before I really understood the meaning of it. ‘It is a net catching days’. That is both such a beautifully poetic and scarily dark at the same time.

When you think about it, if we spend our whole lives constantly doing, planning, worrying, working, chasing (I can think of too many action filled verbs), are we actually living our lives or just managing them?

I moved to Rome, Italy when I was 19. I was stunned by the Romans love for the good life and talent for just being, enjoying and indulging. (Along with their double-parking skills). However exotic I found the culture, I was often frustrated with the 30 minutes it often took to say goodbye to friends outside the restaurant, or the four-hour lunches at someone’s parents.

My Scandinavian individualism, punctuality and love for schedules often clashed with my warm, social and sometimes chaotic group of friends.

Now, I’m the first to admit that my five-year plans in excel or my habit of setting 100-day goals at any new job has taken me further than my 19-year old self could have imagined.  It has allowed me to work and live in four countries, meet fascinating people and learn the most unexpected things about myself and the world.

But a few years ago I started asking myself if this need for individual success and purpose, this constant scheduling and planning is really keeping us from living our lives.

We of course need both ebb and flow – without hunger and drive to achieve we would miss out on a lot of great experience and personal growth. But at what point do we turn on this doing-autopilot and stop appreciating the now? And however painful the answer might be, we sometimes need to stop and ask ourselves:

Is our constant ‘doing’ keeping us from ‘being’?

Just think back to the best conversations you’ve had with a friend. Or those Friday drinks with colleagues who ended in a crazy all-nighter (in my case often at the Piano Bar in London). Or perhaps playing hide and seek with a 3-years old (they are really rubbish at this game). – What do these experiences have in common?

      • They were not planned.
      • They were not likely part of your 3-months objectives.
      • They were spent with people close to you.

Although the pandemic is certainly not helping with the spontaneity and social interactions, try experimenting with a less rigid schedule, less obsession with productivity and the mentality of constant doing. Try instead doing what you feel like once in a while and make sure you stop to appreciate it. When the urge to write that to-do list comes again, and it will, ask yourself:

      • What do you fear will happen if you stop ‘doing’?
      • What do you think will happen to your life if you relax the grip on that proverbial stick?
      • Who are you ‘doing’ these things for and will they thank you for it at your funeral?

If we turned off the ‘doing-autopilot’ for a while and thought about what is really important, what we really want more of in our lives, I bet our days would look very different.