Every leader I coach wants to grow, improve and "make a difference." But few know how to escape the frenetic pace of busy-ness to realize that ambition, so life quickly slips through their fingers like sand.
PAYING ATTENTION is the key to an Examined Life. Yet you and I live in a world of Attention Atrophy.
Have you noticed how your smart phone has shortened your attention span? How do you feel when you see a Facebook post that requires your attention more than a moment? [For that matter, how are you feeling at this moment about how long it'll take to digest this blog?]
When was the last time you sat down to spend an extended period of quiet, reflective, contemplative reading? Did you capture your last "Ah-Ha" moment of clarity and insight somewhere?
"Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity,
and where there is no continuity there is no growth." C. S. Lewis
I deal in the world of sustainable change in the lives of leaders. Author Sibyl Towner in her blog An Examined Life offers a brilliant insight based upon C. S. Lewis' comment: "Lasting change occurs in the context of continuity -- the provision of regular events at regular times, with consistent expectations and consequences. In the context of continuity, you can periodically introduce change in a way that the person has to reevaluate their life with God, themselves and others. They can make new commitments and live out those change decisions in the context of continuity."
I try to make the case to leaders for slowing down in order to go fast. Neuroscientific research brings fresh validation to an "old school" technique with the power to grow through the synthesis of change and continuity. It's called Journaling.
"All of humanity's problems come
from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." Blaise Pacal
In the July 7, 2017 edition of the Harvard Business Review, Dan Ciampa makes the case that The More Senior Your Job Title, the More You Need to Keep a Journal. "The best thinking comes from structured reflection - - and the best ways to do that is keeping a personal journal." "There's strong evidence that replaying events in our brain is essential to learning. While the brain records and holds what takes place in the moment, the learning from what one has gone through - - that is, determining what is important and what lessons should be learned - - happens after the fact during periods of quiet reflection."
"Writing it down brings a certain clarity that puts things in perspective," he continues. "Journals can also be the best way to think through big-bet decisions and test one's logic... Notes should be made as soon as possible after an event from which one wants to learn - - ideally the same day."
The old school benefits of handwritten journaling actually have a basis in neuroscience as well. "Brain scans show that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing [and] it's easier to remember something once you've written it down on paper." Handwriting is slower and less efficient than typing, and that is exactly the point: it allows your brain to ponder, chew upon and rephrase ideas into your own words.
My physician leader clients see how journaling parallels the concept of "lab notes" that every scientist uses to discover the hidden threads connecting numerous data points in the experimental lab.
The obstacles to this time-proven leadership tool really boil down to one thing: Do I believe the investment of a few minutes daily in structured, purposeful reflection will provide a harvest of wisdom from the experiences in my daily life? The experience of the most effective leaders I know is Yes!