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?

Statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola on the retreat house grounds

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:

–Have I focused too much on material possessions?
–Do I worry too much about what others think of me?
–Is it about success or significance?
–Is it about your resume or your legacy?

Yes, it really does get me to self reflect on what really matters…

Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!!!