A main part of doing personal action research to improve your life is to learn to reflect. Anyone who has read Thoreau’s “Walden”, will have seen the potential in reflective writing as he comes to understand himself better through musing on his life and his environment. Three kinds of positive outcomes seem to consistently come to people who reflect.
First, they come to trust their own ideas, because those ideas have been tested over time. Second, they see and understand the interconnectedness of various aspects of their lives, and situations in which they find themselves. Third, relaxation often follows reflection. All in all, not bad outcomes, for perhaps an hours work.
Reflective practice is a skill that develops over time and through different contexts. This article focuses on reasons to begin a reflective practice and how to work through writing a journal or blog. The important results from this phase, are that you learn to trust that your thoughts are worth listening to, things in your life may have greater meaning than what is apparent on the surface. This part of the journey is enjoyable because you gain a sense of depth to your life. The second phase comes after a person has taken up regular reflection, and wants to understand how to better organize it as a tool in their life.
Perhaps it is best to start with the definition of reflection and here we use one that is simple and to the point. If, as human beings, the only moments that we live are those that are here and now, then we can see reflection not as a mere memory exercise, but rather as a tool with which to focus our body, mind, and spirit on our understanding of our own reality.
That is a rather tall order, so let us see how it works.
Steps in reflective practice commonly might include the following:
- Find a quiet or beautiful space in which to sit for a moment.
- Bring something on which to write, and to write with (many people enjoy beautiful journals and pens because they find those add to the experience).
- Start to write.
It is the last one that seems so daunting, that leads many people to not pick up the practice. In a few words, it does not matter at all what you write about. Some days you will have great insight, new ideas will come to you and it will all flow easily. But many times you will wonder why you are writing at all. Yet persevere and the magic begins to happen, you take more and more interest in your life, you begin to see the subtleties that you had not noticed before. You also begin to see how you can move ahead, and that builds excitement. Watch out, it may become a ritual that builds strength in many aspects of your life.