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Management and Leadership in Nonprofits

Management and Leadership in Nonprofits



Jan 05, 2016


In my last blog, I wrote about the need to think. This generated some interesting discussion on the differences between thinking and reflecting. I hadn't really thought about this, and I want to thank those (especially Denny) who prodded me to think about the differences.

My first thought:  Why is this important? After all, the gist of what I wrote was meant to help you understand why some time devoted to thought is important to your success. It never occurred to me that thought and reflection may have some differences. Well, after a little pondering of my own (this time involving coffee), I think I get what the differences may be.

First, a little more definition of reflection. One thing most of us do before we head out from our home is check our reflection in the mirror. When we look, we're presented with a reflection of ourselves in the moment. We see our appearance as others may see it. Then based on what we see, we do one of three things:

  1. Accept.  We accept how we appear. It's good enough.
  2. Adjust. We see something we don't like, and we change it (hair, clothes, etc.).
  3. Confirm. We like what we see, and we are ready to go. 

These reflections are quick changes based on what we see in the moment. The actions above are usually pretty easy and can occur almost at any moment.

Thinking is something deeper. When we think about something, we are digging in to an opportunity or concern to try to create a long-term change. In short, we want an outcome that sticks and that results in something positive and ongoing. This is different from the reflection I describe above. Reflections often lead us to change things on the surface or accept "good enough." And sometimes this is all that's needed.

Both reflection and thought are important. Both have their place. If you look at the picture above, each of you may see something a little different:  A fuzzy shot of some golfers or a question as to why the one caddy is so tiny. If you look a little deeper and a little longer, you might see something more:  the ripples in the water, the reflection of the people in the water, and the golfer reaching for the hand of the tiny caddy. Then you might ask why and where all of this is happening. The first look (the fuzzy golfers) is the reflective look. The second, when we ask questions, is the thoughtful look.

The reflection keeps us moving. The thinking process gets us somewhere special. Please make time for both. As for the picture? It's from the par three tournament at the 2008 Masters when many of the pros brought their kids with them. The presentation of the picture is an upside down reflection in the water, showing, I hope, the fun and relaxation of that day before the pressure-packed tournament began the next day. And, yes, I had to think about it awhile before it dawned on me to flip the picture upside down, changing the whole effect.

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Wipfli Editorial Team

Management and Leadership in Nonprofits blog
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