Reflection isn’t typically a part of our day; however, a moment to reflect might mean you are able to thoughtfully respond and don’t react to your circumstances. It doesn’t happen accidentally or by coincidence and requires intention. You aren’t going to magically identify an unused 30, 15, or even five minutes of time in a day that won’t be flittered away on Twitter, binged on Netflix, filtered on Instagram or pilfered by Facebook. I love social media. It’s a cool way to stay connected, but unrestrained, it becomes a massive sucking black hole that will never be satisfied no matter how much time you offer it.
I have found that the only way I will sit and reflect is if I make it happen. If you are spontaneous, it’s will be revolting to think of scheduling time for reflection. And I understand. Who wants to kill the moment with an alarm that says “oh, sorry, I have to go reflect now for the next 10 minutes.
Interestingly, it’s exactly this activity that forms the foundation of most productivity systems. The idea of spending some time thinking about what you have done, thinking about what has happened, thinking about what you must do, and how you feel in the moment, are all essential to improving our productivity.
Life Is Demanding
Trust me, I’m still a student when it comes to practicing reflection; however, when I practice, I always benefit. There are so many areas of life that demand your attention. I literally took less than five minutes to think of these and it’s hardly a comprehensive list:
- health (physical, mental/emotional, spiritual, financial, diet, exercise, stress level, medical and dental – not just appointments, but providers)
- family (spouse, children, siblings, aging parents – especially those who are suffering from illness or disability, or from dementia/Alzheimer’s)
- friends (best friends, friends who are local, friends at a distance, people you would like to know better, those you know too well!)
- community (social programs, service programs, churches, local/regional/state governments, school boards and PTAs, programs you are passionate about)
- social calendar (children’s events and athletics, movies, concerts, plays, other events you want to attend, date nights, weddings, funerals, birthday parties, trips)
- work (things that must be done today, projects, innovation, strategies, contingency planning)
- day-to-day routine (making meals, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, car repairs, yard and garden work, maintenance)
How many times have things just suddenly “happened” to you in the last day, week or month? It’s true, some parts of our lives are completely unpredictable. A sudden illness or God forbid a death. You have an accident that renders a car unusable or you receive an unexpected bill that wipes out your savings.
I’m not saying that there isn’t anything that you can do to plan and prepare for the unexpected; however, what I want to talk about today is all of those “normal life” things that I mentioned above. These are the things that you should be thinking about now because they are routine.
Choice and Consequence
The easiest way to deal with this mass is to not deal with it all! Ignore it or hide from it. This is the default when we are overwhelmed and likely the approach that all of us have taken at different times with different areas of life. Some of these decisions don’t carry significant consequences: for instance, you ignore mowing the lawn this weekend so you can go fishing instead. The consequence might be unhappy neighbors and a yard that takes twice as long to mow next week because of all the rain/heat that you’ve had for the last week. Recoverable right?
Or maybe you’ve been meaning to check the tire pressure on your spare tire that you suspect is low but you just haven’t had time. You put it off but know you should look at it – you just don’t get to it. Then you hit the road – and guess what? You have a flat. You go to change the tire and discover that the spare is flat! It would have been avoided if you had taken care of it. Still, it’s fairly minor on the significance scale, right? It might have caused you a little delay or cost you a little money for roadside assistance.
Sometimes the consequence is personal effort or there is some financial consequence to your procrastination. They aren’t ideal outcomes, but given the choices you have to make at the moment, maybe they are livable. My guess is that these aren’t thought out and planned on your part. It’s not like you’ve evaluated the potential cost and reasoned “Hey, I can live with that!” Most often these things occur precisely because we haven’t planned or reflected.
Often, we don’t give attention where it is needed until it is urgent. We are so busy; we act like firefighters responding to the current emergency. We race from one fire to the next. Somehow, we’ve lost sight of the age-old wisdom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This method of what I will call life management (or maybe life mismanagement!) is a recipe for disaster. It starts out innocent enough, but because the consequences have been relatively minor, we convince ourselves that it’s an acceptable way to manage life.
Then things get more dangerous. You don’t go to the doctor to have that pain checked until you are seriously ill and you have to spend several days in the hospital. Or you don’t think about spending time with your children until there’s a serious behavioral challenge that results in trouble for you and the child.
Maybe you’ve known that things aren’t great in your marriage, but hey, all people struggle with relationships, right? Then one day you wake up to find the damage is far more severe than you acknowledged and now your spouse wants a divorce.
A Better Way
Where have you been putting off the important things in favor of getting lost in black holes? Where have you been ignoring the building signals that something is about to go wrong? There’s a better way to live rather than racing from emergency to emergency.
It’s okay to slow down, and it’s okay to admit you can’t do EVERYTHING. Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to stay like this.
Next week in Part Two, we will have a look at some ways you train yourself to reflect and respond rather than react. Don’t miss it!
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