A lot of important decisions are hard to make in the moment and so we get slowed down trying to decide what we want. Indecision often is just a bad decision that wastes time, and can ultimately lead to lost opportunities or meandering through life. We live in a busy world so it can be hard to fit in everything we want to do…let alone contemplate life at a deeper more intentional level. Sadly, this powerful type of thinking, which lets us cultivate personal leadership habits, rarely makes it to the top of the to-do list.
But this kind of personal reflection is exactly what we need in order to have any chance of knowing in advance what we want or need…and seeing it come to life!
Below are 5 of my favorite life patterns. They are tried and true habits that will help you find the time for some powerful personal thinking. These habits will help you know what you want or need BEFORE the big decision comes. They’ll give you insight. They’ll help you create more Life-Clarity. I know this because I’ve used these tools and taught them to countless others in my coaching and leadership development work over the last two decades. I’ve seen these habits drastically change lives!
Don’t worry: you don’t need to do all of them all the time to take more leadership over your life and start knowing what you really want or need. Picking just some of them may be your answer, and your answer may shift from year to year, season to season! Like most new habits, it is about experimenting until you find the right shoe for the right dance.
Let’s dive in!
- Life Pattern 1: Set a daily routine of personal reflection and contemplation. Pick a time that works for your schedule, body, mind and soul during which to reflect on yourself and your life, slowing down just a little. Quiet places are best for most people and you’ll probably need some sort of resource (book, podcast, bible, song, journal, reflection question, etc.) to keep you guided. For some people (and for some days) 5 minutes may be enough. Others may like (and have) 45 minutes or more to dedicate to their daily reflection. I currently start my day off with a personal reflection routine, but in contrast, when I was in high school, this personal time was always right before bed. I never did it in the morning because I wanted to sleep in as long as possible. Now, I get more gain from doing my personal self-work in the morning. Do what’s right for you and the season of life you are in now. Aim for quality, not quantity. Aim for insight, self-compassion and purpose in the day at hand.
- Life Pattern 2: Conduct a weekly review. With or without daily reflection time, a weekly pattern of personal review and intentional thinking can help keep you on track with goals and personal intentions. This pattern over time can also help you see patterns in your life and behaviors. Like the daily reflection, selecting a consistent time and place for this weekly personal session can really help! And again, quality is more important than quantity. If 45 minutes is enough time for you to review your last week, plan for the week ahead, think about areas of personal leadership (e.g., your values, big decisions, personality management, your schedule conflicts, your goals and more) then great! If you want more time to yourself and can take it, great! For me, these reviews tend to happen on Sundays in the later afternoon for about an hour.
- Life Pattern 3: Spend a day with yourself once a month. American society rarely encourages us to be alone and disconnected from the world around us. Staying constantly connected may even prevent you from living a better life, according to author John Boitnott. Time alone is so good for us because it allows us time to slow down, be purposeful with our life and connect with ourselves in ways we likely can’t do during a typical week. To start this pattern, pick one day a month to regularly tend to your personal development and how you are leading your life. I’ve set the first Sunday of the month aside as my day for reflection and rejuvenation, and I’ve chosen to focus these days on my faith life. Having a topic or general area of focus helps give some structure to an otherwise unplanned day, so I’d encourage you to select a purpose for your days alone. Sometimes I only get half a day in, but I know that taking time once a month to get away from all the crazy demands of my everyday life is really beneficial. It helps me set a healthy perspective on my life, including what is most important in the month to come. It often results in more inner peace and who doesn’t want more of that in life?
(It is important to note how this habit has become especially important for me as a professional helper. As someone who cares deeply about helping other people, I’ve learned how essential it is for me to take time away from others for self-care and attending to my needs. Many leaders and professional helpers burnout due to skimping on self-care and I don’t want you to be one of them!)
- Life Pattern 4: Conduct a quarterly synopsis. Every 3 months, try to find a little extra time to think on a larger or deeper scale. A quarterly review is the perfect opportunity to look over the past three months and look ahead to the next three. This is a great time to take note of what you’ve accomplished and to re-evaluate your goals. A lot happens in 3 months! If we take the time to stop and reflect on the biggest highs and lows of the quarter we will gain great insight into our life, who we are and what we really want or need. If possible, add a night away somewhere, for a period of personal reflection, even if this is at a friend’s house to save on expenses. You don’t need to spend $100s on a fancy hotel room or a remote getaway. Any way you can set aside time for focusing only on yourself will reap significant rewards. My next one is tentatively set for the second weekend in October and I’m already excited for it!
- Life Pattern 5: Plan for annual evaluations. Most employers do an annual review. If done well these reviews highlight past projects or accomplishments followed by planning for future goals. They might even review your strengths and areas for improvement to help you grow. This type of annual review is a great pattern you can establish to develop your own personal leadership! It is a great way to think ahead! An annual review can include selecting Ultimate New Year’s Resolutions, establishing new goals (in multiple categories of your life), or selecting a guiding word, image or phase for the year. This personal work requires a bit more attention and time than the previous habits. I often spend the last week in December reflecting on these bigger questions about my life because the timing feels so natural. I don’t always get the chance to take a personal retreat to do this work, but when I have, it’s been amazing. Planning a trip (even just a night) to get away and really focus on how you want to lead your life is well worth any sacrifice you experience to make your personal retreat happen! This is the one life pattern where a little financial investment could go a long way in creating the right environment for you – one that is conducive to your focused reflection and rejuvenation.
These habits will definitely help you know ahead of time more what you want or need for your best life. But more than this, these habits are going to help you create greater Life-Clarity! You’ll understand yourself and the world around you better. You’ll be more prepared for big life decisions or surprises. I expect you’ll also find more peace, confidence and self-acceptance along the way!
Again, remember you don’t need to do all of these in one year, especially if all of these ideas would be brand new habits for you. Don’t let me stop you though from trying to do them all, though, especially if you’ve done some of them before! More power to you!
Right now, I am combining all of them them after years of individual refinement and periodic usage. I just love the additive synergy created by practicing the whole package! Writing this post has really reminded me why each habit is so great!
If these habits are not realistic for you right now, just know their ultimate purpose is to help you live more intentionally. They invite you to give more thought to how you spend your time and use this life you’ve been given. Intentional living is one of my favorite parts of leading yourself well! If you want to read some other ways to be intentional with your life, you may enjoy reading a post I wrote last fall, 4 Ways to Live More Intentionally. You can also read my post Life-Clarity Introduced to learn more about the background behind my work on creating more Life-Clarity with my coaching clients.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions! As always, if I can be helpful as you apply these ideas in your life, feel free to contact me. It would be my honor!
First published by Jessica Lynn Johnson for www.jljcoachingservices.com in August 2017