I read somewhere once that you should regularly take a moment to reflect.

To purposefully take time to see where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you’re going. To consider what went well, what didn’t, and how those experiences can be used to improve situations in the future.

To use your new experiences to make better decisions, and to allow yourself to take some pride in the accomplishments won.

The reasoning behind this is clear – if you’re always down in the weeds, you can get lost. Some people will fixate on the negatives, and miss the positives, others will do the opposite. Give yourself space to breathe, and to attempt to understand the full situation.

Within a project, or product, these decisions are quantifiable and should be measured. We can choose to invest in our deployment pipeline to reduce release costs and time. We can refine copy in a marketing campaign to improve conversion.

It gets much more complicated when you try to apply the same process to a more complex situation, like a person.

Within your own professional context – i.e. your career – the process becomes almost existential. Do you continue what you’re doing? Are you happy where you are? Will this get you to where you want to be? Do you even know what that is? Does it matter if you don’t?

Many years ago, an old boss (and mentor) once asked me to imagine a situation where we discovered a fence crossing a road. The job would require us to remove the fence. He asked me what I thought we should do before we removed it.

I focused on the practical aspects of how it would be removed – “We’d need tools to take it apart.” – rather than questioning why the fence was built in the first place. I later found out that this is called Chesterton’s Fence.

Don’t just look at the good and bad – try , too, to understand why we’re here, and why it happened.

Then you can make better decisions on what to do next.