The Benefits of Reflection: Are You a Reflective CEO?

All CEOs need to think hard: you need to watch trends, stay abreast of global developments, find novel ways to motivate your staff and have a ready smile for your clients, all while keeping a constant eye on the direction of your company.

So, how much time do you have for reflection on yourself, your professional and personal situations and your mental and emotional well-being?

None, probably.

You might event feel that time for reflection is wasted, soft, superfluous. After all, what value does it add to your life or your business?

In interviews with executives and business owners in the process of taking stock of their lives, it has been a constant surprise to hear how the time to reflect on your life is seen as a luxury! And yet, without exception, each individual found it invaluable to sit back and take stock of their lives, not only as a ‘business’ person, but as a ‘whole’ person.

Now I can hear the sceptic in you asking, “Exactly what is it I’m supposed to be reflecting upon, and what’s in it for me?”

Well, ask yourself the following:

  • How are you really feeling about your performance? Are you enjoying what you do, and is it what you really want to be doing? Are you firing on all cylinders? Are you feeling fulfilled, or do you find yourself on a treadmill unable to get off?
  • What do you really enjoy doing? In other words, what brings out the best in you and gives you energy? Conversely, what drains your energy and brings out the worst in you?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses, if you are honest with yourself?
  • Do you have what is required to take the business to the next level? Or is it time to step down for any of the following reasons: You feel you have done your time; you feel you are not the appropriate person in terms of personality, knowledge or skills; you have new interests you want to pursue; or perhaps, you’ve lost the passion you had before.
  • What have you come to learn about yourself (both in a positive or negative sense) over the years? What do you need to do differently in your life as a result?
  • What price are you paying for your heading up the company? I.e. What life do you have outside of business? What kind of spouse are you, and how is your professional life affecting your spouse? What kind of friends do you have? What kind of parent are you?
  • What legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want others to remember you?

Significantly, research indicates that many of the younger CEOs are stepping down from their positions after a few years. These are CEOs who have other dreams they want to fulfill or other interests they want to explore. These are CEOs who want to make a meaningful contribution (other than financially) to their children’s lives. Many of these younger execs are realising that due to the inherent stresses of the job, high-powered positions have a limited lifespan.

Some years I was in contact with a CEO who had already suffered five heart attacks (seriously). I indicated I was very concerned for his health, and his response was “Business is in my bones.” I asked him how many more wake-up calls he needed before he got the message and started taking it easier, perhaps even considering retirement – he just laughed. Several months later I heard an interview with him on the radio. I could hear he had lost his passion and drive. I was not the least bit surprised to hear that soon after he suffered his sixth heart attack. This time he got the message.

Was it pride that kept him in the job after his body was screaming for him to quit? The reality is that our health is the very last place an imbalance in our life manifests. And when we ignore the health messages, they become stronger until we listen…. or succumb. You might ask yourself what you prove by staying in a job that is clearly detrimental to your health?!

As we get older we (hopefully) become aware of the limited time we have left. It’s no different for top execs. So what do you still want to do with your life? What would you still like to do, experience or achieve?

These are the questions that should form the basis of effective reflection, and they should inform your decision making and the direction you choose to follow. In summary, effective reflection can offer the following:

  • Perspective: a ‘hawks-eye’ view of your life, and the space to fully witness yourself and your choices
  • Time for thinking with greater awareness
  • The incubation of new thoughts and inclinations, and the possibility of new directions
  • Stocktaking, restoring a healthy balance, and placing yourself in a position to take corrective action timeously (and not only when a crisis hits!)
  • Conscious reassessment and choice

If the idea of reflection and its benefits resonated with you, I would be happy to set up a free, ‘no strings attached’ consultation to discuss effective reflection and how it could help you. If you would like to review your life Contact me.

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