Manila, 27 February 2019 — If you want to celebrate, reflect and dream every day, this story is for you.
Starting the day can be done in the moment, or with some preparation.
An Evening in Bangkok
In this post, I’d like to share an evening exercise to help you set up every day for an amazing restart at dawn. If you’re a high achiever and you want to create more meaning in your life and the life of people around you, then this exercise is for you.
The inspiration for putting this post together came to me while visiting Bangkok last weekend to celebrate my birthday and meet up with my loved ones and friends whom I had not met for a long time.
The Temple of Dawn, or Wat Arun for short in Thai, sits on the shore of Thailand’s main river, the Chao Phraya, opposite the magnificent Grand Palace complex. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to the rising sun at dawn, the start of each new day.
However, it is best known for how it looks in the evening, when it is lit up beautifully. Paradoxically, therefore, you get a chance to think about the dawn during the previous evening. That’s what this post is about.
How do you start your day? And what do you do in the previous evening to set yourself up for a successful start?
Self-leadership... means that you are in charge of how you start every day, and that every morning is, in fact, the dawn of the next chapter of your life. Wouldn’t it be great to make the most of your daily dawn?
Here is an exercise that you can do every day in the evening. It has three simple steps. While simple, they are frequently overlooked in our overloaded 21st-century lives.
Step 1 ~ Celebrate
Celebration comes first. Isn’t that great?
How often do you set aside some time in the evening to celebrate your achievements of the day? Or, are your thoughts more occupied with what you did not get done, or with things that didn’t go the way you liked? Do you 'beat yourself up' over that?
The problem, and the challenge, lie in how you approach every day, starting at dawn. What I recommend is that you get into the habit of setting Three Daily Wins. You can read more about that practice here.
While your to-do list, which we’d better name memo list in my opinion, may be long, it is important to focus on three daily wins every day. These are important and doable achievements that support your success in your key result areas and build your progress toward your goals for the week, month, and year.
You pick your three daily wins each day, or the evening before.
Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard and author of The Progress Principle, shows how making daily progress is a huge motivating factor to help you grow. That’s exactly what the three daily wins will allow you to do.
WIth three daily wins, you’re giving yourself a reason to celebrate every evening.
Step 2 ~ Reflect
Now on to reflection, the second step.
A well-known saying goes like this: "We do not learn from an experience. We learn from reflecting on an experience.” It is often attributed to John Dewey, a philosopher and educator. While they may not be Dewey’s exact words, the quote does sum up his teaching on the importance of reflecting on your Experience.
Leaders practice reflecting all the time, every day. They build time for reflection into their daily and weekly routines. Note that reflection doesn’t have to take long. Sometimes they happen in a flash. However, setting aside 5 to 10 minutes can be a good start.
Like every else that’s worth doing, more practice in reflecting will make it perfect to support your leadership effectiveness.
So, after your celebration of your three daily wins, take some time to reflect on what you learned from your experiences during the day. Making notes can help. And Set Your Intention for your three daily wins for tomorrow.
Note that I wrote ‘intention.’ It’s important to give yourself some space to firm up your intentions at dawn of your next day, so that you can benefit from the all-important Step 3 below!
Most leadership trainers and coaches emphasize the importance of building strong habits for reflection. So go ahead and create your own reflection habits, which will help you learn much more from your experiences every day.
Step 3 ~ Dream
This step can very well turn out to be the most important one, so listen up carefully.
For the past two thousand years, philosophers and researchers have pondered why we need to spend one third of our life time… asleep.
It’s only during the past decade, however, that neuroscientists have gained valuable new insights from their research on sleeping, aided by functional MRI and other modern technologies.
What researchers like Robert Stickgold, a professor at Harvard, and Gina Poe, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, have found is that when you sleep and, your brain lets you engage in many essential activities. I call it Dreamworks, like the name of the Hollywood movie business. It’s about creating stories that make meaning of your life. This is what your brain does when you sleep!
Stickgold calls our generation the most sleep-deprived, and he explains how sleep is essential and extremely valuable because it allows your memory to be empowered and new connections to be made to piece together your experiences from memory and create new meaning.
Gina Poe (@doctorpoe on Twitter) follows the work of fellow sleep researchers around the world and has written, amongst others, about the importance of forgetting by showing how weakening synapses in the brain allow new information (from experiences) to be incorporated into old schemas.
Here is what you should learn from the sleep researchers: first that sleep is essential, second that you might well be sleep deprived, and third that you should prioritize investing in quality sleep for a quality life and effective leadership.
Leaders are Meaning Makers
So there you have it. A simple, and powerful evening exercise that you can build into your daily practice. Take as long or short as you like for Steps 1 and 2. And then invest in Step 3 by experimenting to sleep earlier than you’re used to.
Leaders are often referred to as meaning makers, and now you know that this doesn’t stop while you’re asleep. Quite the contrary!
Let the beautiful evening image of the Temple of Dawn in Bangkok inspire you to Prepare to Restart each day by doing this exercise the previous evening.
You’re welcome to write me if you have any questions.
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