Lesson 4: The Power of Reflection

It has been several weeks since the half-marathon.  Like anything else, as my life moves forward the experience gets pushed into the background as other things crop up and take its place.  It is so easy to let day to day life consume our thoughts and actions and not take time to reflect upon what was.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Søren Kierkegaard

I am guilty of always thinking towards the future, always trying to be two to three steps ahead.  I have trouble focusing on the present and hardly ever taking the time to reflect on the past.  Being future-focused has a lot of positives.  I tend not to dwell on past.  Research shows that living in the past is associated with greater feelings of pessimism and can be a trigger for depression.   Being focused on the future also means that I am a planner and I am rarely unprepared.  However, this obsession with always staying ahead of the game robs me of one of the most valuable tools for happiness and personal growth – reflection.

Transforming Pain into Gain

No one can argue that physical activity is awesome.  Study after study validates the myriad of benefits of physical activity, including improved as physical health, mental health, and social connections.  However, if we do not take the time to look back and reflect upon the experience, we will miss valuable lessons.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey

When I finished the half-marathon, I was physically exhausted.  My anxiety level was through the roof.  I was disappointed with my performance and was just relieved it was over.  Now, my default state was to push the experience aside (essentially checking it off my mental to-do list) and move on to the next thing.

I mentioned in my previous posts that this was my 5th half-marathon.  However, it was the first that that I took the time to stop to reflect upon the experience as a whole.  I forced myself to look back and evaluate every aspect of the experience. I won’t lie, it has been a difficult process.  However, it was only by taking the time to look back and reflect that I was able see the power of discomfort, gratitude, and acceptance.

When we take the time to stop and reflect upon our experiences with consciousness and intent, the process can be transformative.  In my case, by stepping back and reflecting upon the race, I took an experience that I associated with frustration, anxiety, pain, and disappointment and transformed it into one that I now look upon with fondness and appreciation.

Benefits of Reflection

Reflection is an incredibly powerful tool that is available to each and every of us.  The only thing we need to do is allow ourselves to slow down and take the time to actually do it.  The next time that life is moving fast and you are tempted to just push forward, I invite you consider the following ways that reflection can help you live a better life.

Reflection can help you…

  1. identify negative thoughts and feelings.
  2. understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. view life with more gratitude.
  4. stay focused on the bigger picture.
  5. acknowledge and accept things that are out of your control.
  6. reduce anxiety, allowing you to overcome your fears.
  7. become a more capable, confident, and caring person.

The Final Word

Sometimes the most challenging events in our lives can provide the best opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth.  For me it took a very long 13.1 miles to teach me the power of discomfort, gratitude, acceptance, and reflection.  I hope that the next time you face a challenge, you will remember the power of these tools, use them, and emerge a stronger, happier, and healthier person.

Jennifer's Signature

 

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