A Practice of Reflection

A couple weekends ago I went on my own self-led weekend sabbatical.  I wasn’t totally sure of my plan — or even my final goal of my getaway — but come Friday evening I took off.  With my cell phone off and an empty house in Indiana awaiting me, my journey began.

My intent for the time was to kick-off my next phase in life, or at least the next year. I felt a transition period begin around the end of last year and knew it was time to get intentional around what I would work toward next. I had two basic plans for the weekend:

  1. Think about what is important to me and decide how I want to prioritize my focus
  2. Look back on my past phase to see where I am standing right now.

I felt excitement toward the planning my future, and dread when thinking about looking back part of the weekend. After all, I thought,  I lived my own life — I know what I went through, what I felt, what I endured, what I overcame and even what I thought got the better of me.

What I did not expect was that my time reflecting on my last year and half was actually just what I needed. In the process of going back in my mind and reading my old journals, I gained a whole new perspective on this life that I lived and thought I knew so much about.

What I found in my reflection was gratitude for how far my journey had taken me.  I also saw how little I actually controlled of that journey. I saw twists in the plot of my life that I had forgotten and saw how quickly my journey went up and down before settling (for now) in this transitional space.  In the process, I felt both responsible for where I ended up and yet felt I cannot take credit for the outcome either. That paradox and sense that I’m not completely in control of the outcomes led me to gratitude for all my circumstances.

That gratitude is now setting the course for my next phase. But amidst my gratefulness, I see that the critical step was actually the practice of reflection. It was in my reflection that I found gratitude for a phase of life I had seen with disappointment and even shame. Reflecting isn’t a cure-all. And to be honest there are times I have reflected and not liked the picture that came together. But even in those less than desirable findings there is power in looking back and taking stock. It changes my acceptance of my “I lived it, I know it” attitude and it creates a full picture beyond what my ego and memory hold as the storyline. For me, that shift holds the power of opportunity.  It gives me the opportunity to view what I’ve lived in new light.  That shift in perspective, for me, led to a shift in my outlook for what’s next.

My challenge for myself is to make reflecting a practice I follow consistently in my life. What practices do you have in place to reflect? Are there places or times that you need to create space to reflect upon?

By Greg Hawkins
Greg completed his initial weekend in 2014 and will complete the Two-Year Transformational program this year. He believes in the power of being vulnerable to foster authentic and courageous lives. He is a husband, dad of two girls, yogi, blogger, and is a director at an industrial supply company. His favorite activities are dance parties with his girls, getting outside with his dogs or horse and date nights with his wife.

Photo Credit: Austin Shulz via Reshot