Women’s Leadership Forum Alumnae Retreats (like the one we held at the Salamander Resort) always remind me of how important – even essential – it is to take time for reflection. In my experience, the first thing to get lost in our busy lives is the time for reflection about where we are going and why.

Reflection can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time.  Yet so few of us take time to do it on any regular basis.

It can be hard for us to value “reflection” as much as getting a brief done, developing new business, or spending time with our children. And slowing down, spending time with ourselves, and being truly reflective can be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable, because we’ve become accustomed – or even addicted – to action.

In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven work environment, we are constantly in reactive mode and habituated to being busy all the time. We believe that the act of DOING is what creates value.

We feel “itchy” or “antsy” when asked to wait. As we work through our “action items,” (which sounds so much more glamorous than “tasks!”) dopamine “hits” surround us with feelings of importance and gratification.

Checking things off our lists makes us feel productive and successful. And it becomes increasingly hard to slow down and lose that brain chemical-induced “high.”

But when we are busy making ourselves busy, we only see what is in front of us, and our overall sense of self can begin to erode. Action addiction numbs us to our true feelings and has other consequences, including diminished goal orientation, poor prioritization, and even decreased performance.

We may even wake up one day wondering – Where am I, and why am I here? From a speeding car, the outside scenery appears blurry. Similarly, when the pace of our lives is so fast, it is easy to lose sight of the things that are most important to us.

Does everyone need a full-on retreat? Not necessarily.  (Though I’m a huge fan of creating a mini-retreat for yourself.)  The most important thing to remember is that giving ourselves “white space” for reflection – in any form – is the only way that we can truly regroup and reground. It isn’t always easy.

Acclimating to a slower pace can be disconcerting, and like weaning ourselves from ANY addictive substance, it needs to happen gradually. But nothing should matter more than taking some time to think about the direction our lives are taking.

As author Annie Dillard once said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

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