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Pausing for focused reflection

4 min read


James was a leader of a large organization that was downsizing, and he was struggling. He was always stressed out and was experiencing constant physical pain, emotional breakdowns and spiritual collapse. In his words, “He was a mess.”

On the outside, he looked fine, but he said that, on the inside, he was falling apart. He knew he needed a life change, but he had no clue where to begin. I told him we begin from within. We begin with your thinking, your doing, your being.

So often we spend so much time focused on doing that it can be hard to know how to start just being. To lead from within, to change the quality of your living and leadership start by:

Take timeouts. You are most likely a busy leader — someone with a lot on your shoulders. If you’re like most of us, you are being measured by the work you do and how you do it. Anything that takes precious moments out of the day needs to really be worth it.

Taking a timeout helps us collect ourselves and to reflect is worth it! Our pausing gives us an opportunity to bring our best into the future

Time out may mean:

  • Closing the door to your office.
  • Shutting down the phone.
  • Taking a long walk, run, or bike ride.
  • Going to the gym.
  • Or just sitting in meditation.

Taking time out and pausing in solitude gives us the opportunity to cancel out the noise so we can find ourselves again.

Take time to question. Asking the right kind of questions at the right time, gives way to the right answers. When pausing for focused reflection ask yourself the following questions:

  • What impact have I made today?
  • What impact do I want to make today?
  • How have others impacted me?
  • What went well? What didn’t go well?
  • What can I improve?
  • How did I treat people?
  • How can I make today more meaningful?

You may have a different set of questions for your professional life:

  • What did I accomplish today?
  • Did I live by values?
  • Did I go the extra mile?
  • Did I make decisions with clarity?
  • Did I communicate well?
  • What did I learn?

If you’re faced with a difficult situation, you can ask yourself questions that pertain specifically to that circumstance. As a leader, identifying your why, what, and how is the groundwork for understanding your purpose and presence.

Take time to journal. The last thing a busy leader wants is another chore, but I do ask many of the leaders I coach to keep a journal. Reflective thinking cancels out critical thinking, and writing it down gives you an edge.

  • It promotes deeper exploration.
  • It prompts you to complete your thoughts.
  • It provides ownership of your thought processes.

You can write on one of the questions above. Or ask yourself specific questions on one of your challenges and allow your mind to flow. Don’t judge your thoughts allow your mind to follow when journaling, allow your stream of consciousness to speak. Or you can write down quotes, passages, thoughts that inspire you about leadership. Allow your heart to do the writing and the mind to do the thinking. The act of writing things down is witness to your thinking and living.

Pausing for reflection is worth it. It helps your leadership and living in fundamental ways. In those moments of reflection, focus on what matters most. Time spent looking inward gives us perception for who we are. Our leadership journey can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.

Focused reflection helps alleviate the armor of stress we tend to put on ourselves as leaders — and it helps with life when we need to make smarter choices and life changes.

Lead from within: Pausing for focused reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; it gives way to relief of stress, pressure and tension. It gives our minds a mini vacation in order to free our heart to move forward.

Lolly Daskal is dedicated to helping cultivate the right values, vision, and culture for individuals and organizations. She is the founder of Lead from Within, a global consultancy whose clients range from heads of state and CEOs of large multinational companies to budding entrepreneurs.  Daskal’s coaching, consulting, and speaking uses a heart-based leadership approach designed to help people to achieve their full potential to make a difference in the world.