As many of you know (and as I have blogged in the past), I have been doing a three-day silent retreat up in Lake Elmo, MN (near St. Paul, MN) every year at the beginning of December for the past 30 years. This year it is Dec 7-10. My father-in-law explained to me many years ago that this timing was perfect, and I gradually came to understand why. It is because most folks are running around like crazy getting ready for Christmas and forgetting what the purpose of the holiday is really all about. Hopefully, it is more than bright lights and presents.
I arrived at the retreat this year somewhat tired — okay, maybe actually exhausted. I did complete the grading of all of my Northwestern Kellogg MBA and EMBA classes and finished all of my board meetings, but I must admit, I have not been very self reflective the past several weeks.
However, three days and a whole lot of silent self reflection later, I am now completely ready to take on the world and all of its challenges. I took the time to ask myself (as I do every year) what I believe are the important questions:
It helps me focus on what I can do to be a better spouse, father, sibling, colleague, leader and follower. It helps me truly understand the difference between “activity” and “productivity”……yes, I can be active, but how productive am I being? Do I really know if I am being productive, or do I convince myself I don’t have time to figure it out so I will just keep being active?
During the retreat I often take walks around the grounds of the retreat house. On these walks, I always make it a point to stop by my favorite spot where there is a statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is not the statue itself that invariably fires up my self reflection, but the quote from the gospel of Matthew: “What good does it for a man to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” That is a great quote on which to self reflect:
Yes, it really does get me to self reflect on what really matters…
Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!!!
Hopefully, you’ll be going to some high end resort like Hilton Head for your Christmas vacation. Thanks for the self reflection questions. Those help us all to become true value-based leaders. As we come to another Christmas season and a new year, I pray that people of all faiths and professions embrace the true path to a peaceful world. That would be having great respect for the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death. If all people did that, would we not be well on our way to world peace? As you know, the body of knowledge of Lean deals with the reduction of waste. The 8th waste in Lean is the waste of human potential. This applies to people that are unemployed, underemployed, to those victims of the culture of death. And, it applies equally to people of all professions, all faiths, all countries – both male and females – who lose their lives or families. If each of us could take on this new years resolution: Have great respect for the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death and take responsibility for working our circle of influence to bring about a peaceful world by the end of 2018.
Mr Kraemer, a nice article and great thoughts for the season we are in. PS: As the father of Mary Virginia Maher, I want to thank you sincerely for your many kindnesses and great generosity to all the Consecrate Women of Regnum Christi in Chicago. As you also do, those ladies accomplish much good for the world with your great support. You both are a legend and building quite the legacy. God bless you, Julie, and your loved ones always.
Hi Tom, Thanks for your message and kind thoughts. here’s wishing you and your family a blessed holiday season! harry
Great to see you are taking some time off to be yourself Harry! The longest retreat I have ever done was 20 years running with the longest period of Silence being five years running. It’s very powerful stuff. We don’t realize how much energy goes out between our lips until we close and zip them for a few hours, days, months or years. I consider myself an expert at retreats and recommend them for anyone interested in spiritual enlightenment or realization of the Self or Soul that we truly are. Even if we don’t go to a formal retreat facility…even if we just go inside and turn off the TV for a few days, it’s very powerful….but nice to have a cook while reflecting….admitted! I’ve asked myself many times over the course of those silent periods (some at that same facility you were at) some of those questions you have advanced and have ultimately found that I’m just my self……and that may change depending on the position of the planets!