Time to Reflect

“It’s not the experience that brings transformation, it’s our reflection upon our experience.”  –  Jan Johnson

Well, it’s the first week back after the holiday season. Over the last few weeks, conversations with friends and family have centered around plans for the holidays, how things are going, how busy we are, and even a little introspection about the year gone by, as well as the year to come. As the holiday season ended, and the new year began, no one seemed to be thinking about the wonderful two weeks of celebration we just had. Instead, we all fell into “scurry mode” as we prepared ourselves for the upcoming week’s schedule, and “getting back to reality”. 

This made me think about how we seem more conditioned to “plan and do” than to “rest and reflect”.  Why is that? We know (and research supports) that stopping and reflecting regularly keeps us calmer, more focused and more productive. Yet, we can’t seem to make this practice a regular habit. Even during the “most wonderful time of the year”, many of us turn it into the “busiest time of the year”. And sadly, in our busyness, we fail to properly contemplate the year gone by. 

So I’m calling for a different approach. And what better time to change it up than the beginning of a new year and a new decade. Toran Scott recently reminded me that new practices will more quickly become habitual if time and place are scheduled around the practice.  For example, I have a better chance of sticking to an exercise routine if I say, “I’m going to the gym at 6:00 am Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays”, versus just saying “I’m going to begin working out next week”.  What if we took the same approach with rest and reflection?  

First, we need to schedule rest. A few years ago, I wrote about how to go about doing that. You can read about that here

But what about the actual practice of reflection. How does one go about reflecting in a beneficial way?

Author and speaker, Emily P. Freeman provides a great framework for doing just that. You can listen to her podcast and read the post directly on her website. 

In short, here are the necessary steps…

  1. Schedule your reflection days for the entire year. And, make them unmovable.
  2. On your reflection day, bring a journal.
  3. Reflect on short windows of time. For example, focus on the last three months.
  4. Come prepared to ask yourself pre-determined questions such as “What was draining? What made you happy? Where did you see breakthrough? Where are you facing battle?”
  5. Write down the questions that come to mind about life, relationships, work, God… and anything else.
  6. Review your to-do lists and calendar from the last 3 months. What comes to mind as you do so?
  7. Scroll through your photos, and write down any thoughts that come to mind. (Note: do this with your OWN photos, not with any social media sites…you’ll get distracted.)
  8. Think about any events that happened whether nationally, regionally or locally.  Observe and write down how they made you feel.
  9. Think about work for the last three months, and the next three months. What are you excited about? What are you worried about?

As Freeman says “The practice of reflection is not one to keep us living in the past or wallowing in mistakes. Instead, it’s a way to pause on purpose and listen to our life so that we can move forward with a little more confidence, a little more clarity, and a lot more intention.”

I hope this process serves to make this your best year ever.