Stop the Game – The Value of Reflection

In Business, Reflection by Joe SweeneyLeave a Comment

This article was originally published in the Milwaukee Biz Times on November 27, 2017. Written by Joe Sweeney.

Technology continues to change how we live, work and play. As someone who loves all Wisconsin sports teams, I’ve taken particular notice of the advancements in sports technology and how it has been a real game-changer in many cases – specifically, the instant replay review process.

With football season upon us, it’s likely you’ve recently heard the phrase, “After further review…”

“After Further Review” is the title of my newly released book, and this is part one of a four-part series I will be sharing with BizTimes Milwaukee readers. This series will highlight the principles I share in my book to help individuals and teams reflect on the four quarters of life and put action into place to reflect, transform, and live a life filled with purpose and meaning.

Consider this…

When an NFL coach throws a red flag onto the field, referees are signaled to review a play. This happens after some of the biggest plays of the game, like touchdowns, turnovers or fourth-down conversions – plays that can swing the momentum of the game, or even determine the eventual winner.

When a coach throws the red flag, the stadium gets quiet as everybody takes a break from the action. The players step off the field, head to the sideline, get a drink of water and huddle around their coaches. The TV broadcasts cut to a commercial or bring in their replay analysts. The fans head to the concession stands and the bathrooms. But most importantly, the referees come together to quietly review the play.

If NFL referees can reflect and find clarity at key moments of a football game, why can’t we do this after critical plays in our lives? How can you tap into the power of reflection to find more meaning and purpose in your personal and professional life? Here are a few concepts to consider:

  1. Learning from experience is more effective when you pair it with reflection.

As long as we’re “getting things done,” we’re headed in the right direction…right? Not necessarily. Oftentimes we think that just the action of doing something is better and more productive than not doing anything. In reality, being “busy” is not better than being idle.

For example, once you’ve acquired experience, reflecting on that experience to examine and study what you’ve learned is the most effective way to improve your performance in the future. Here’s why: on a cognitive level, reflection increases understanding of a task.

  1. Reflecting on what has been learned makes you more productive.

West Point’s Col. Eric Kail said, “experience is only as valuable as what we do with it.” When I think back on the significant experiences in my life (both good and bad), I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Kail stresses that reflection requires a type of introspection that goes beyond thinking, talking or complaining. We need to understand how the events of our life shape the way in which we see the world, ourselves and others.

Reflective thinking helps you learn from experience. In the process, you discover ways to integrate new knowledge, contemplate ways to handle situations differently in the future, and identify what you want to improve. Decisions about which practices to discontinue and which new ones to adopt may also come to light. Every alteration you make to your productivity efforts by tweaking a process or implementing new – trimming away something that no longer works – is an element of this process.

  1. Reflection builds confidence in your ability to achieve goals.

Reflection can create a temporary sense of anxiety or fear that is associated with the divergence between our current state and our goals. Let this feeling be a driving force and a great motivator that instigates behavior change and propels you toward achieving your goals. Reflective practices go beyond recognizing failure – they allow you to contemplate what you did, how you felt, what you learned and how you will move forward.

On an emotional level, reflection increases your belief in your ability to succeed. It will increase your capacity to implement behaviors to accomplish certain goals. When you reflect, you give yourself feedback that will make you feel more confident, capable and certain of your ability to complete future tasks. And I am confident you will perform better on future tasks.

Just like in the game of football, reflection allows us the opportunity to change outcomes, both in our personal and professional lives. Is it time for you to throw out the red flag and make reflection a part of your daily routine? If so, I challenge you to think about one moment from the past week and replay it from someone else’s perspective. After further review… what really happened?

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