Taking some time every day to reflect on how things are going can help you move in a more meaningful direction.
In business, evaluating objectives and outcomes on a daily basis is one of the keys to understanding what’s working and what’s not, and to being successful. Whether it’s a multimillion-dollar organization or a small mom-and-pop shop, reviewing how things are going and being clear about where things stand is essential in deciding what to do tomorrow, next week, or next year.
At Life Time, for instance, we count our memberships in every location, every hour of every day. We know how many people have joined and how many have let their accounts lapse. We know which clubs have had an increase in traffic and which ones have seen a drop. We know which programs and services resonate with our members, and the promotions and content that they’re most interested in.
In successful businesses around the world, leaders are constantly checking in with themselves and their teams: How are they doing? What’s working and how do they do more of that? What’s not working and what are they doing to fix it? How can they do things better?
They do this because they understand that daily evaluation is the best way to make the corrections necessary to avoid mistakes that can take them off course and away from their goals.
As individuals, we could learn a few things from these business practices.
Too often we let days and months slip by without stopping to examine how things are really going in our lives. We get so caught up in our to-dos and jam-packed schedules that we don’t see the effects of our actions — on ourselves or those around us. Then, when another New Year rolls around, we set extravagant resolutions that aren’t realistic based on our current circumstances and behaviors. For me, it’s hard to imagine a less effective way of trying to foster change in our lives.
I believe daily self-reflection is one of the most important habits anyone can build: It helps us see why we do the things we do and explore alternative options. It allows us to become more self-aware, to change course, to make amends, and to grow in a healthier, more rewarding direction.
Developing a daily practice doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Begin by devoting just five minutes at the end of each day to thinking about where you are, where you’re going, and what kind of impact you’re having on the world around you. Turn off your devices, find a quiet space, and ask yourself:
- What didn’t go well today, and why did that happen?
- What did go well and how can I make it happen again?
Once you identify specific moments, delve a little deeper:
- What was my intention? Did I communicate it well?
- What effects did my actions or words have on the people around me?
- What do I think the people around me thought or felt?
- What would I do differently if I could do it over? What can I do tomorrow to fix a problem?
Often with just a little mental effort, you can spot patterns — both good and bad. You might discover you have tendencies to self-sabotage or interact with people counterproductively. You might find that there’s one particular time of day you always feel your best or get more done. You might realize that there are opportunities for “do-overs” — chances to revisit whatever didn’t go quite as planned.
This way of reflecting may not come naturally at first. In fact, it may be uncomfortable to remember difficult situations or to acknowledge the mistakes you made. But remember: Everyone makes mistakes and everyone faces difficulties.
The intent is to help you learn from the things you did today so you can do better tomorrow, just as businesses make small adjustments that move them toward their goals.
Over time, this conscious effort can help you grow into the person you want to be and lead the meaningful life you want to live. It starts by taking it one day at a time.