The contemporary emphasis on instant gratification has seeped its way into almost every aspect of our lives--from the creation of credit cards to fast food to smartphones, we rarely have to wait for anything. But mindfulness and thoughtfulness are important for leaders to practice. You need be decisive, but if your values and beliefs get swept away by the fast pace of life, your behavior can change in negative ways.

As a leader, you need to give yourself time for self-reflection and think about philosophical issues like "values, character virtues, and wisdom," David Brendel, an executive coach and philosophical counselor, writes in Harvard Business Review.

Brendel cites a recent study that found the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a critical region of the brain for evaluating emotional, motivational, and cognitive information, is activated during times of self-reflection. "Activating the ACC via self-reflection, in other words, can promote business success by helping leaders to identify their values and strategic goals, synthesize information to attain those goals, and implement strong action plans," he writes.

Setting aside time to map out your worldview is a necessity for anyone. Keeping both of your feet on the ground is important no matter what your job is, but if you're leading a company you should make sure your behavior is always at its most fine-tuned. During times of crisis, personal or professional, you must have the ability to have "productive discussions with [your] team about next steps" or fall back on "reasoned decision-making," Brendel writes.

"Contemplating timeless philosophical values can fuel timely behavior changes in the service of growth and lasting success," he says.

If you haven't recently thought about the bigger picture, what's important to you, and what your position in this world means, you should make time to do so. Below, Brendel outlines four questions, each based on a great philosopher's teachings, that he believes every leader needs to ponder.

Socrates

"What is the most challenging question someone could ask me about my current approach?

Aristotle

"What character virtues are most important to me and how will I express them?"

Nietzsche

"How will I direct my 'will to power,' manage my self-interest, and act in accordance with my chosen values?"

Sartre

"How will I take full responsibility for my choices and the outcomes to which they lead?"