This is part two of a three part series on Balance Within Chaos.
Reflection is a core facet of our ability to adjust to changes in our environment. We live out a large portion of our lives on autopilot -- and that's necessary in order to conserve our energy -- but a regular habit of reflection can help us identify areas within that autopilot program that could use improvement. After all, how can we make any changes if we're not aware that we need to? if we haven't yet figured out what exactly needs changing?
Balance is not a state but an activity.
That said, reflection alone will not create change. We can journal diligently and have big realizations every day and still continue on autopilot, only growing more and more frustrated with ourselves because we're aware of the changes that haven't happened. Acknowledgement alone won't cut it because it's only the first step. We must take it all the way to the adjustment stage.
Through my own experimentation with this I've developed a 5-Step Reflection guide to bridge the gap between reflection and adjustment. Don't worry, you don't have to write a long essay each day in response to this, but use it as a guiding prompt in order to make sure you're conscious of all these different areas and have a clear path forward.
5-Step Reflection Guide
1. Reconnect with your Context
- What are your dreams? your long-term goals? What are you striving toward?
- What is your plan for reaching these goals? Are you on track? Does your plan need revision?
- Are your smaller tasks and projects well connected to your motivations? Do you know how each task contributes to the bigger picture and achieving your dreams?
2. Identify the blockages
- What is currently keeping you from taking the next step toward your dreams?
- What circumstances in your life and environment are impeding your progress?
- What obstacles or distractions are pulling at your attention and harming your most important work?
3. Focus on your Zone of Influence
- What circumstances are within your power to change or affect?
- Is there a way to mitigate the effects of the circumstances you can't directly change? Can you set boundaries or buffers around them or around yourself?
- What responsibilities can you drop in extenuating circumstances without dire repercussions? What responsibilities can you absolutely not drop?
- What trade-offs can you make in order to maximize your effectiveness in the areas that matter most?
4. Make adjustments in one area at a time
- When our circumstances change, we cannot expect ourselves or our systems to "function as normal". We have to acknowledge that change has happened, and that the only way to regain our balance is to adjust accordingly.
- What is the one issue or obstacle that, if fixed, would make the largest improvement in your life and work?
- Plan and execute the necessary changes to your tools, routines, and other systems such as self-care (sleep, diet, etc.), daily and weekly routines, workflow, etc.
- Focus your energy on designing and implementing the changes necessary to improve that single biggest obstacle until the effects are felt. Use your reflections to monitor your progress and make tinier adjustments as needed for full effect.
5. Rinse and repeat
- There will always be room for improvement, which means that each reflection will give you an opportunity to do better tomorrow. Take joy in that.
- By focusing on the single largest obstacle in front of you instead of on several smaller ones, you get more bang for your buck, more improvement for your energy spent.
- By doing this practice regularly, you never have to remember to do it when issues arise. Instead you will always be monitoring your state and making adjustments before issues snowball into a bigger problem. And when big issues pop up unexpectedly, you will already have a system with which to begin tackling them.