|As a young pup, I used to keep a poem about opportunity in my doggie wallet. Another famous poem says it’s “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” While it’s bad to squander an opportunity (e.g., Prodigal Son parable), it’s worse to never know that you’ve gotten one.
Almost all of us were pandemic-gifted with something, whether it was more precious family time together, or, as you underscored, more time for reflection.
I think the difference is, some folks perceive time as a gift… while others perceive time as a given. If you are one of the latter, maybe the thought of trying something new is already more than your pandemic-challenged-self feels ready, willing, or able to handle…
…*even if* it:
- is proven to benefit one’s mental health;
- tempers “System 1” thinking (fast, instinctive, and emotional) with “System 2” thinking (slower, more deliberative, and more logical);
- encourages a long-game/30,000-foot-view perspective conducive to learning and growth;
- improves decision-making by making biases more avoidable;
- allows one to step out of tunnel vision, echo chambers, and groupthink bubbles to make aha!” or “Eureka” moments possible (serendipity or epiphany).
Regarding reflective journaling, it helps to remember when each of us started. It usually was anything but smooth, intuitive, or regular. You have to find a rhythm, a cadence, a flow state until it becomes second nature… until you even miss it when Life causes you to skip a window.
That’s when it’s helpful to consider the reality versus the perspective:
Were they ready?
Perception: “I have no time to journal.”
Reality: Start by writing *one sentence* that expresses one new thing you are grateful for… or for that matter, anything at all.
Like promising yourself you will just put on your workout clothes, then work out for five minutes, you will usually find that goal attainable, and maybe even pleasant… and if not, you get to try again tomorrow!
Were they willing?
Perception: “I have no experience in how to do it effectively.”
Reality: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten” (often attributed to Henry Ford). Or from your own book, Salty Dog, and attributed to Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Why not take a shot at reflective journaling… and get comfortable enough taking shots until they start to hone in on the goal? The only way to get experience is to cultivate a bias for action. And cultivation doesn’t happen without establishing and nurturing a new habit to replace an old one.
Were they able?
Perception: “I start but just can’t keep it going.”
Reality: Salty Dog, you and I used to sing this song on wintry walks where the weather was near unbearable, and we needed to buck ourselves up to keep going. Interruptions and distractions are a way of life—especially during pandemic times—but they rarely last that long, so it’s tempting to keep stringing together excuses and avoidances. With that same amount of energy, however, we could expend the marginal effort to keep a string or streak of relatively simple activities going, even with the occasional hiccup or misstep.
Even if you do not view yourself as a competitive person… or one striving for leadership excellence… or even as someone resolved not to keep making the same mistakes over and over… you will almost always feel better-getting something out of your head, through your heart or soul, and into your hands… through reflective journaling.
It is truly a holistic experience… and although Four Loop Learning provides ample guidance in many different ways to do it, these are simply road signs and mileposts to help you on your way forward… not obstacles or impediments put in place to hinder you in any way, nor ones that you must master all at once to even make the initial attempt.
Like Michelangelo, releasing the angel from the marble, remove the basis for the excuses, and what remains is the desire and not the fear, to change.
And nothing has changed my life more than reflective journaling. I invite anyone, from all walks of life, to benefit from our examples.
Associate Director, Bridgewater Associate Director, Communication & Change Management