“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.”John Dewey
One frustrating afternoon, I stumbled to the attic and opened up one of my college journals. As I flipped through the pages – memories flooded my mind. It struck me that I spent endless hours writing these journals, but never had I ever stopped long enough to read them. “I’ll look at them when I have more time,” I told myself. But time is a funny thing. No matter how hard we try, we can never find more. We can, however, re-prioritize the time we do have.
It was the summer of 2020, and with the world still in covid chaos – I did something drastic. I called my grandfather and asked if I could spend a month at his cabin on the lake – completely cut off from the world. Finally, I would make the time to slow down and reflect on my journey up to this point.
For the next 30 days, I made reflection my number one priority. I meditated for multiple hours a day and re-read every page I ever wrote. I learned about my first encounter with an angel in Kindergarten and reflected on my strange love for burgers in fourth grade. I revisited the lessons from my college depression and spent time crying over letters from past girlfriends and lost loved ones.
Here’s one thing that I learned – reflection is no walk in the park. Doing the work to look back requires us to access memories we’d rather shove away or moments that can trigger deep emotion.
Still, I can’t understate how freaking good I felt after those 30 days. For the first time, I owned my story. With greater clarity, I felt equipped to gaze ahead, genuinely excited for what the next chapter would bring.
Sometimes reflection can feel like a waste of time, but my experience reveals a different truth. The time I spend reflecting saves me the considerable time I’d otherwise waste on things that don’t matter. It helps me find more significant meaning, draws connections I never saw, and inspires me for what’s to come. Reflection is an investment in my future self.
TAKE PERSONAL INVENTORY
At Blue Marble – we find it helpful to break reflection down into these five arenas:
- Experiential – the impact of key moments and experiences in our lives
- Physical – relationship to our physical body and the environment we live in
- Personal – what our actions reveal about our priorities, values, and beliefs
- Financial – awareness of the impact that money has on our lives
- Relational – the quality of our relationships and how we show up for others.
As the new year approaches, this is a tremendous opportunity to create a space for reflection. For the next five weeks, we’ll take inventory on these different areas of our lives. I hope this reflective journey can inspire you to enter 2023 with clarity and intention.
I’m far from perfect – but after that month on the lake, I’ve made reflection a critical part of my process. Staying aligned with where I want to go means staying connected to where I’ve already been. The challenge is giving myself the space to reflect without shame or condemnation.
GIVE YOURSELF AN “A”
While you look back this month and prepare for the coming year, give yourself an A. Chances are, however, this year you did your damnedest to show up and love the people in your life. If you’re human, you probably fought through failure, laughed your ass off, and broke down on more than one occasion. You experienced the best and worst that life has to offer. Understanding and reflecting on our experiences is where we cultivate meaning. Through it, we develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and live more fully in whatever the next chapter holds. Let’s make it count.