How a Year of Reflection and Stillness Can Improve Your Life

In Chapter 14 of 15 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, entrepreneur Audrey Parker French answers "What Role Has Reflection Played in Shaping Your Personal Growth?"  French notes how frightening reflection and stillness have been in her life.  As an overachiever always determined to succeed, she learns why stopping and thinking and slowing down is fundamental to understanding her ambition in life and career. 

Audrey Parker French returns to CYF for her Year 3 interview after a one-year sabbatical from work and getting married.  She co-founded CLEAResult, an energy management consulting firm.  In 2010, CLEAResult ranked #144 in the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies.  In late 2010, CLEAResult was sold to General Catalyst Partners.  She graduated from Wake Forest University. 


Erik Michielsen: What role has reflection played in shaping your personal growth?

Audrey Parker French: Well, for me reflection and stillness have been the scariest things for me to do, to be still and just to be reflecting without being really busy and kind of distracting myself. I haven’t – in my life, I’ve been pushing and running and moving so fast and so determined to, you know, capture my flags in those times, in those chapters with the job that I held, I really – reflection and being still was almost like why would someone do that? Not only – it just didn’t make any sense to me. It was like, well, you know, you’re supposed to be productive, that’s why we’re all here, we’re supposed to be productive, you should be producing something and if you’re not really busy then what value are you, and so really this year of reflection and stillness has been the biggest challenge because going and pushing and working harder and harder, that seems like it would be a challenge and it was challenging but even scarier for me personally as an overachiever who’s always been driven and always very just pushing, going, fast, faster, faster.

Not only to slow down but to stop, to be still. And let things happen has been an incredible experience. It has me realize that at any point going forward in my life, I can go back to – I can go fast – I can always – I’ll always know how to move fast and push and run fast. And yet until I learn how to be still, until I learn how to reflect and really say, “Well, what was driving me? What is driving me? What do I want to drive me when I go fast?” Those things really help me just prepare for whatever lies ahead and it gives me a larger, a wider array of options for how I’m gonna choose to live my life going forward.

Before I couldn’t choose stillness or reflection, I had to choose – well, just go faster. That was the only answer to problems most of the time, slowing down maybe but not for very long, and now I have slowing down or being still and reflecting as options.