The Importance of Practice, Reflection and Inquiry

Practice, self-reflection and inquiry are critical aspects of developing and changing as a leader and as a human being.

When we talk about taking on a new practice, what we mean is repeating an action or behavior often enough that over time, we build competence. Practices are the “rituals” we perform each day. Often, our practices are so embedded that we are not even aware of how or when we do them. Examples are brushing our teeth, kissing a loved one, typing at a computer, setting the table, driving a car, walking the dog, reading the newspaper and hundreds of other things we do automatically every day without giving them much thought.

We change and learn by adopting new practices. And new practices, when repeated often enough, become new habits, and embodying new habits moves us closer to becoming who we seek to be. New practices are often difficult until they are performed often enough to become a natural part of daily life. They may take time to integrate, but they are the key to learning and growth. New practices provide new awareness, and new awareness leads to growth.

We develop greater awareness when we take the time to reflect and inquire about what we are learning, so creating time and space for reflection and inquiry in our daily lives provides us with the opportunity to notice the impact of what we are learning and practicing on ourselves and others. These practice/reflection cycles provide us with self-insight that helps us learn how to make corrections in the moment. It is very helpful to keep a journal about what we are learning as it provides us with a map of our progress and allows us to clearly see any patterns that emerge.

This practice is on developing presence. We invite you to explore this new practice and reflect on what you notice as you integrate this new activity into your life and leadership.

Practicing Presence:

Over the course of the next two weeks, pick at least one conversation each day in which you commit to being fully engaged and undistracted for at least five minutes. By full engagement, we mean listening deeply to what the other person has to say, being truly curious in seeking to understand their perspectives, and focusing your full attention on the other person without allowing yourself to be distracted by your blackberry or the numerous other things that plague busy people.

Self-Reflection and Inquiry on Practicing Presence:

Imagine that you have an internal observer you can call on to help you recount the events of the day that can help you reflect on your internal state as well as your impact on others as these events occurred. As you scroll back through the day, what do you observe about yourself as you reflect on these inquiry questions?

1. When was I aware of being fully present and engaged today?

2. What made that possible?

3. When was it difficult to stay present? When was it easy?

4. What did it feel like in my body when I was present? When I wasn’t?

5. What was the impact on others? What was the impact on my effectiveness and personal satisfaction?

6. What am I learning about myself? How can I take what I’m learning and apply it to other aspects of my life and leadership?