Every morning and every evening, at the end of each week, and at the end of the month, I sit down with my Bullet Journal and go through my reflection routine. I look at the day, week or month and ask myself questions — and write down my answers to — like: What went well? What didn’t go so well? What did I learn? What patterns are emerging? What did I achieve? How can I improve? The process helps me keep on top of the busyness of life, remain focussed on what’s important, review my progress and acknowledge my achievements. It’s also creating a wonderful resource for me to look back on, both now and later in life.
Something that I’ve noticed after reviewing my reflection entries is how habitual a creature I am. I repeat the same behaviour — the same mistakes — over and over again. Even after acknowledging a mistake or a habit one month, and defining an approach to rectify it in the next month, I’ll repeat the mistake and journal about it, completely oblivious of the original entry months prior.
Here’s an example… In my January Lessons Learned I wrote “Being honest is better than bottling things up” — probably in the context of how I handled a disagreement or annoyance with my wife. This last week (September) in my weekly reflection I wrote: "Learned: Spoke calmly, open and honestly to Em about [an issue]. Has been good since then." Nearly nine months between the two instances and I’m still reverting to default behaviour when I’m frustrated, which is to remain quiet, bottle it up and give her the cold shoulder for a day or two.
This is one of many examples of repeat behaviour I discovered looking back through my journals. However my intent here is not to focus on specific behaviour — e.g. how rubbish a husband I can be — but instead on how important a tool reflection is for changing those behaviours. True, in this instance reflection has highlighted an area of my life that still needs attention, but it is through this daily, weekly and monthly ritual that I’ve eliminated many negative habits from my life, and cultivated positive ones.
Reflection helped me avoid getting back into debt when I’d only recently got out of it. It helped me steer clear of commitment and the inevitable overwhelm of marathon training when there was already too much on my plate. It is through reflection I know I’ll never organise another party for myself; I hate being the centre of attention. It’s helped me realise how low I can get if I don’t put effort into developing and maintaining relationships with those around me. And how I’m happier working, producing and creating than consuming digital content. Reflection helps me realise when I’m spending too much time online and not enough time with my kids, or reading.
Reflection helps me identify and prioritise the important over the urgent, choose what’s right for me rather than follow the crowd. It prompts me to think about what I’m grateful for on a daily basis, and forces me to analyse my performance as a father, husband, friend… a human. Reflection brings be back to my core values when the raging current of the modern distracted world does its best to pull me away.
Typically we leave this sort of introspection for times in our lives when shit is falling apart. Although we can never entirely avoid bad things happening, by reflecting on life more regularly I think they’re less likely to occur, and we’ll have a much better foundation and perspective to deal with them when they do.