Sometimes life is like a treadmill.
Occasionally you’re on a calm jog and the belt speed never outpaces your strides. Sometimes, you push yourself to the limit but find the challenge ideal. But in certain seasons, the treadmill is moving too fast to handle. You long to step back from the grind, but this seems like an impossible luxury.
It’s ok to press pause. It’s actually GREAT to press pause. Often in our battle for success, we never stop to address broken systems in our home, health, or careers. Simple adjustments might bring substantially better output, but we rarely prioritize personal maintenance. The decision is yours: will you make time to reflect and adjust or continue relentlessly until life dumps you in a heap?
Take Time to Press Pause.
Once you’ve slowed down (yes, really slowed down!) what should you do?
Perhaps you should begin with a simple pleasure (a walk, coffee treat, or nap?) to allow your mind to unwind. Then consider an intentional approach to reflection.
Psychologist Robert Taibbi (author of “Boot Camp Therapy: Action Oriented Brief Approaches to Anxiety, Anger and Depression") suggests you begin by defining a problem area as concretely as possible. Avoid being vague or grouping several problems under one umbrella (i.e. “this house is a disaster!”). Instead, identify specific areas of struggle (“this coat closet is overcrowded”) and decide on a personal plan of action.
Don’t be overwhelmed by what you CAN’T do, instead focus on manageable steps that will move you forward (“lower coat hooks would be better”). Begin with a positive spirit and an intentional ownership of the solution. Make a plan, ask for help, or take action as soon as possible. As you make even tiny strides, you will be empowered to continue.
Find Tools for Growth.
Sometimes a perspective shift requires greater insight than we have on our own.
Consider some coaching, mentorship, or tools like workbooks or discussion groups. Clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson has been fascinated by the therapeutic effects of writing for decades. Experiments dating back for decades show that writing can reduce depression, increase productivity, and even cut down on doctor visits.
Peterson and his team have recently rolled out several tools for self-reflection, including virtues and faults analysis, past and future writing exercises, or a full “self-authoring” suite that allows people to locate and resolve problem areas so they can better dream and achieve in the future. “The act of writing is more powerful than people think,” Peterson says. The decisive results of Peterson’s research prompted NPR to dub his reflection tool the “writing assignment that changes lives.”
Make a Plan.
They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
What part of your week do you devote to reflecting on your goals or challenges? Do you take mini-retreats to refocus? What if you set this as a top priority and allowed your reflection time to dictate your schedule priorities in a given week, month, or year?
Look for natural cues in your seasonal schedule (i.e. Daylight Savings changes, pre-scheduled auto maintenance, your half birthday) and seek to align some intentional reflection with these cues. Add smaller goals (like a monthly “plan of action”) to put wheels on your long-term vision. Find a friend or mentor to keep you accountable or schedule regular check-ins (alone or with others) to get yourself back on track after a derailment.
Just as professional performance reviews are a priority, how much more essential is self-review? Make regular deposits into your own well-being and soon your bank account will grow!