No one teaches you how to intentionally reflect as an act of growth.
For the most part, it’s simply something you do, mostly subconsciously as you navigate each day.
If you’re like most, you followed the process laid out for you at different stages of life.
You went to kindergarten, then grade school, then high school, and then off the higher learning or vocation.
The path was defined, the objectives laid out, the lesson plans constructed, and the outcomes measured and compared. You passed the grade and moved on, or you did it all over again.
You tried out for the team, or the sport, you followed the practice plan, you did the drills, you learned the plays or the skills, and you played the games, competed, sometimes winning, and sometimes losing.
Winning and losing, getting cut, or riding the bench gave you the feedback. Is this working, or not? Coaches gave you feedback, you implemented it, or you didn’t.
You followed the rules set out by mom and dad, or you broke them. You recognized what the consequences would be for your decisions, and you decided they were worth the risk, or not.
You played and created, and explored, and realized what you liked, or didn’t like, and decided if it was what you wanted to keep doing, or stop doing. In some instances you had the choice, in others, you did not.
You got a job, did the training, learned the ropes, figured out the expectations, and you worked the process. Maybe you moved up the chain, took on more responsibility, got a pay raise, got a promotion, and kept on going.
Or maybe you decided then or later, that working for someone wasn’t your jam. You decided something you knew or created would be worth something to someone else, and you endevoured to build your own business or career.
You built a business plan, or maybe you just winged it! You added more pieces, more people, more work, more time, and slowly, but surely, your business venture either flourished or folded.
In all of this, there were indeed moments of reflection. Do I like this, do I not, do I want this, do I not, am I willing, am I not.
But you weren’t likely taught how to intentionally reflect.
You might have been one of those who simply learned through a measure of experience and insight. But there really isn’t much in the way of a formal education in reflective practice.
What I mean by intentional reflective practice is that you use the idea of past, present, and future in a way that serves you rather than simply occurs around you.
Intentional reflection means that you first recognize where you have come from, and how you have grown (the past), then grounds you in what you are doing now, and why you are doing it (the present), and finally empowers you to visualize a future possibility that inspires you to further growth.
There is no resentment of what has been, simply a recognition of how it has shaped you.
There is no pining for a future state. No, “once I get there I will be good” statements. No grass is greener. There is simply an ownership of the present, and how you can make the best of it and experience growth in your effort.
The future represents an imaginary possibility, something you are pulled towards like gravity, but not something you are attached to like it must occur. There is no “there” to get to, instead there is an image to inspire.
The future vision exposes the work you need to do to grow so that you may meet the mark of its demand.
Reflecting with intention means that you own a process, you are conscious and connected, and that you regularly look back for recognition of growth, see yourself now as a clarification of growth, and look forward as an inspiration toward further growth and change.
It’s a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly experience.
It’s who you are, not what you are.
Try exploring intentional reflective practice:
1 – Recognize yourself and mind the gap – “where have I come from?”
2 – Ask yourself to be present; “Who am I now? Do I see my purpose?”
3 – Inspire yourself; “where do I wish to go, and why do I wish to go there?”
Regularly engage in this internal conversation. Make it a part of you.
When you begin to do this, you will see yourself like you have never seen yourself before. It might be uncomfortable in the beginning, but over time, you’ll begin to see your life with more clarity.
You won’t pine for a future state, or regret what has been or is now.
You will be living your life with intention.