Overview of Chapter 4 of “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” by John C. Maxwell

Posted: October 16, 2016 in Quintessential Leader Basics
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Striving to become a quintessential leader and growing spiritually, mentally, and emotionally into the character, integrity, and knowledge that being a quintessential leader requires is not optional for us.

15 Invaluable Laws of Growth - John C. MaxwellThe 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell offers some very practical insights into both the mechanics of growth and the obstacles that we must overcome that hinder us or stop us from growing.

In this series of posts, I will be summarizing the main points of each chapter – each chapter covers a particular law of growth – in hopes that each of us will be more consciously aware of our need to grow, as well as the things that can stand in the way of our growth as we strive to become quintessential leaders in all areas of our lives.

 In the last post, we reviewed Chapter 2, which discusses the Law of Awareness. In this post, we’ll review Chapter 4, which covers the Law of Reflection.

Note: I am intentionally skipping Chapter 3 (the Law of the Mirror) because I don’t agree with Maxwell’s premise. His discussion reminded me of the SNL Stuart Smalley “Daily Affirmation” sketches of self-adulation instead of what looking in the mirror for quintessential leaders actually consists of: honest, soul-searching self-examination that leads to action to change and grow.

An import component of growth, change, and improvement involves consciously and consistently taking time, alone and in a quiet place, to stop to allow the lessons we learn every day to sink in and become a part of who we are becoming.

When we consciously and consistently make time every day to stop, to be alone, to be still, and to be quiet so that we can critically think about, process, and reflect on the day’s experiences (positive or negative), we gain insight into the lessons within those experiences.

With those insights, we have the opportunity to learn what we need to change or do differently – and how (application) – if the experiences were negative (either we handled them in a wrong or inappropriate manner), and we also have the opportunity to reinforce and make more permanent within ourselves the what and how of the experiences that we handled positively (in a right or appropriate manner).

It is, therefore, no surprise that the first point that Maxwell makes about the Law of Reflection, is that reflection turns experience into insight.

Evaluated experience is an excellent resource for us to learn, to change and to grow. We waste this thing called life if we simply go through all the good, all the bad, and all the ugly and learn nothing from it.

We must consciously set aside time everyday to reflect on the day’s experiences and allow the understanding and lessons of those experiences to catch up with us.

When we find places in our lives where, in a negative sense, the same things keep happening over and over again with the same or worse results, it is because we have not taken the time to really stop and learn from those experiences.

The second point of the Law of Reflection is that everyone needs a time and place to pause.

This takes discipline and commitment and conscious effort on a daily basis, especially in the world we live in that never stops and does its utmost to keep us from ever stopping as well.

If we are going down the wrong road, we don’t need the motivation to speed up. All that will do is get us further down the wrong road at a faster rate of speed.

Instead, we need to stop and realize that we are on the wrong road – we all end up there from time to time – by evaluating and reflecting on where we are and how we got there and what we need to do to turn around and get back on the right road.

Reflection requires us to identify a quiet and solitary (disconnected from all distractions) place and a time where and when we will pause each day to go over our experiences during that day. We must then go to that place at that time every day and do the work of reflection that leads to growth and change.

The third point of the Law of Reflection is that pausing with intention expands and enriches our thinking.

Sadly, in our society, critical and analytical thinking is in very short supply. More and more, we, as a society, just speed through life, flying by the seats of our pants and simply quickly and emotionally reacting as we scurry on our ways to the next thing.

That’s the phenomenon we all witness continuously on social media, which, in many ways, has become the driving force behind the way our society speaks and behaves.

Its dangerous side effects are blatant ignorance, destructive polarization, unabashed dishonesty, and egregious disrespect.

This, in turn, erodes all trust and trustworthiness, which we as quintessential leaders, are committed to building and becoming.

When we take the time each day to go to quiet and solitary place, free of all distractions, we will probably be surprised at how instructive, especially in the sense of recognition, understanding, and initiating change and growth, this time will be for us.

Because we’re taking the time to stop, get quiet, and critically think, analyze, and reason, we will also find that we become better at both solving problems and addressing the most difficult challenges we face. It also makes us better at finding new and/or better ways to improve or even change things that may currently be working okay, but have the potential for so much more than the present outcomes.

Maxwell’s fourth point about reflection focuses on what components it’s composed of:

  1. Investigation – Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?
  2. Incubation – We need to take everything that comes at us each day and process it thoroughly, instead of giving in to knee-jerk reactions and responses, which tend to be the way most of us are innately wired (not all, however – for those of us who are introverts, we process first naturally and automatically, and it may be hours, days, weeks, or even months before we’re ready to talk about it or give an answer, but by then just about everybody else has already been blithely cruising on to a gazillion other things and that “thing” has already long been forgotten).
  3. Illumination – by putting the spotlight on our experiences – and our lives – we not only see what happened, but we also see how we responded (or didn’t, if we should have) to it. This is an important aspect of growth and change, because we can’t grow and change if we can’t even see what we are doing or not doing. The light can be – and is, at times – harsh and extremely uncomfortable. But that’s the point. Real change and growth often come when the light is bright enough that we can truly see ourselves and the flaws, the imperfections, the mistakes, and the missteps we all have, make, and take every day.
  4. Illustration – Without fleshing out the process of stopping to pause into concrete things and ways that we are going to use going forward, the law of reflection is a waste of time. Because we’re using this time for discernment, the truth, the right, the good, and the factual must be the end result and those things implanted in us by the time we are done. This takes time, but we can never afford the temptation to shortcut and shortchange ourselves.

The Law of Reflection’s next point is that good questions are the heart of reflection.

I will go one step further than Maxwell and say that our lives depend on both asking good questions and asking the right questions. Reflection gives us the opportunity to do both.

Asking good questions and the right questions is essential to the sifting process that accompanies reflection. The more deeply we engage in reflection, the more likely we are to find that the questions we ask at the beginning were just an entry way to the process and they are not the genuine questions that we need to both ask and answer.

Maxwell’s final point on the Law of Reflection is that reflection is an essential part of self-examination.

As quintessential leaders, self-examination should be an integral part of who and what we are and do on a daily basis. Some questions that we routinely should be asking ourselves and answering to see where we need to change and grow (this is a just a starting point from which we all should have many more questions to ask of and answer about ourselves on a regular basis) are:

  1. What are my strengths?
  2. What are my weaknesses?
  3. What are my positive behaviors?
  4. What are my negative behaviors?
  5. What is my best habit?
  6. What is my worst habit?
  7. What do I value most in my life?
  8. What do I value least in my life?
  9. What is the goal of my life?
  10. What tangible steps am I taking toward that goal?
  11. What’s holding me back from that goal?
  12. What do I need to change?
  13. How am I going to make those changes?
  14. Do I want to be at the exact same place in my life that I am today tomorrow, next week, next month, next year? (The answer should be, “No.” But the next question must be, “What do I need to do right now to make sure I am not.”)

The Law of Reflection must be something that we as quintessential leaders practice daily. Our teams depend on us taking the effort and the time to make this a continual practice in our lives. If we are not doing this, then not only are we failing ourselves, but we are failing those who depend on us for quintessential leadership.

How are we doing?

 

 

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