We’ve all been there. Life happens fast and major moments, important conversations can get passed by before we can truly process what’s happened. When you’re getting married I imagine the stress is high, making sure everything is ready for the wedding. When you’re purchasing a new place, or moving cross country, it’s about paperwork, packing up and cleaning, plus logistics for your travel arrangements- on top of saying goodbye and tightening up your social ties. Same goes for switching jobs.
No matter how old we are, we face the predicament of how to slow down, soak in the moment, and think back to what we’ve done and where we are possibly going.
Whether it’s major life moments or just the ho-hum of everyday living, reflecting is a powerful tool that can help us slow down and process what we are going through.
In the age of smartphones, slowing down our mind and thinking things through, focusing on the what, whys, and hows can be extremely beneficial. That’s because reflection has roots in our success. Educational reformer John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.”
If we’re learning, then we’re growing. And if we’re growing, we’re typically finding new avenues for success. Success is defined differently for each of us; yet, the benefits of reflecting can manifest itself in increasing efficiency in our tasks, and it provides a better understanding of our actions and whether or not they are leading us to our long or short-term goals. At the very least it gives us a better sense of self.
Let’s look at Mike Trout. The South Jersey native who is not only the best baseball player in SoCal but the best player in the MLB uses reflection as a tool to strengthen his game each offseason. “If Trout approaches or surpasses Ruth’s single-season WAR record, it will be because range in the field is the latest in a line of modest shortcomings that Trout has targeted for improvement and immediately managed to turn into strengths.” A young man who is making millions uses the common strategy of reflection to keep improving his craft- and that has led him to be on pace for the best season in major league history, surpassing Babe Ruth’s season in 1923.
I’m no Mike Trout, but when I finished my last day of teaching on Tuesday, I realized I do not know when I’ll have another opportunity to run my own classroom. Because of this, I sat down and reflected on my experience after five years of teaching. What have I done well? What do I need to improve on to get to the next level? This growth mindset should make me a better teacher, and in turn make me more impactful for my students, which is the aim of education: put students in the best possible position to succeed.
Reflection can be on a larger scale (season, school year), but it can also be something small. Research from Harvard Business reinforced how reflecting can improve your work (or school) performance.
Research by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats in call centers demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect. A study of UK commuters found a similar result when those who were prompted to use their commute to think about and plan for their day were happier, more productive, and less burned out than people who didn’t.
Reflection is a humbling act and one that forces us to look at life objectively. Asking questions, stopping to think and consider, these are all ways to help us process life. Why do I act this way when faced with _____________? What went well today? How can I improve my ____________?
Most importantly, where am I today and how can I get to where I want to be tomorrow?