I recently revisited one of my favorite books, The Tao of Leadership: Leadership Strategies for a New Age (1986) by John Heider. Despite the passing of time since its publication, this book holds words of wisdom that still apply in 2022. On page 23, there is a short piece titled Time for Reflection.” In it, Heider describes how too much noise overwhelms the senses and how continual input obscures genuine insight. He invites us to practice regular silent reflection, allowing us to turn inward and digest all that happens in our lives and in our world. He finishes with, when group members have time to reflect, they can see more clearly what is essential in themselves and others.” (p23).

At this time of year, there is the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays and messages all around us telling us to buy gifts. We experience the pressure of getting our big jobs done before the end of the year, the stress of anticipated travel and visits with family, and the stress of the wider world and worries we might have about what is happening in our economies, politics, energy and weather events.

As a result of this “noise,” we tend to speed up, trying to get everything done. At the same time, we don’t stop to see what really matters. As human beings, having meaning in our lives gives us perspective and helps us to slow down and see things more clearly. It can help us notice what is happening around us, something we may have missed in the hustle of work or life.

The power of pause

In my role as a leadership coach, I support people wishing to influence significant change or transformation in a system or organization. In my coaching, executives benefit from speaking with a confidential thinking partner weekly, providing a scheduled opportunity to pause, breathe and reflect on all that is happening. As a result, my clients can take a natural step back to see the bigger picture and what it means. In other words, they have the opportunity to be on the balcony instead of on the dance floor.

In complex dynamic systems, the most powerful strategies come from patterns, not parts. Pattern recognition is a form of reflection for me. It makes me more effective and helpful as a coach when I pause and notice the underlying pattern in the dynamics of an organization. It also helps us as individuals when we notice patterns in our lives as we slow down and reflect. When we hit pause, it gives meaning to what we are doing and helps us to determine whether we need to shift our actions and behaviors or continue supporting our current choices.

Grounded in reflection

Reflection helps us in one more powerful way – it can ground us in our life. Think of the grounding wire in an electric plug. The extra energy is transferred into the ground to keep circuits in the plug from being overloaded. Similarly, when we reflect, it takes all the excess noise we live with every day and lets it flow away from us so we can reclaim space in our minds to be present.

During this busy holiday season, I hope you take time to be on the balcony instead of on the dance floor. We all could use some time to break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There is power in hitting pause!