Reflective thinking allows me to process the events in my life and improve myself afterward. – Dr. John C. Maxwell.
According to the American Heart Association, a stress test is done on a treadmill to test the heart’s performance under strenuous conditions. The goal is not to injure the heart but to expose problems like an irregular heartbeat. As the body is under strain, the heart pumps more blood. This test helps a cardiologist determine if there is enough blood supply or lack thereof going through the body.
This year feels like a prolonged stress test. 2020 put us on life’s treadmill and increased the intensity by way of a global pandemic that led to a myriad of problems. Add to that the racial tension sparking protests on many streets. What did this year expose about you? Did it reveal you lack patience in some areas? Did it show resilience in the face of adversity? Was your supply of hope, kindness, and determination interrupted or challenged by the intense pressures of 2020? I believe that this year proved the lines that divide us are irrelevant.
One thing I have learned this year is lines that divide countries and people no longer matter. The global pandemic has not discriminated in its assault on human life. The global death toll, which stands at around 1.4 million, brought to light that color, wealth, influence, country, or any other status cannot immunize us from COVID-19. We are all in the same boat. The lines that divided us were irrelevant as the realization that anyone can be infected dawned on us. And as lines became irrelevant, masks became paramount. Wearing a mask is not only meant to protect yourself but also as a sign that you care about others. Mask wearing is one of the many adjustments that we’ve made this year. Just like on the football field, some audibles were initiated this year.
In football, an audible occurs at the line of scrimmage when the quarterback changes the initial play he calls out in the huddle. This change is warranted when the quarterback sees the defensive posture set up by the opposing team. In January, many of us huddled around our planners and set vision and goals for the year. Many of us said this year, 2020, was our year. Then February came and everything changed. An audible was necessary as lock downs and social distancing have become the trend. For example, the Bel-Aire Diner in Queens, New York, stayed afloat during the shutdown, by turning their parking lot into a drive-in movie theater.
In this month’s end of year assessment blog series, we will look back at the year intently to determine where to make adjustments for 2021. And the power of reflection is key. Here is the road map:
1. Pull Back the Arrow (Today)
2. Where did I.T. Fall? (December 10)
3. Prepare for Launch (December 17)
No blog posts on December 24 & 31.
Pulling back the arrow
The observation by Dr. John C. Maxwell, “reflection is the process that turns experience into insight,” shows the importance of reflection. To maintain reflection as a habit and reap its benefits, we must practice it. In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, Maxwell shares four key ingredients to create a routine of reflection. Investigate, incubate, illuminate, illustrate. I believe these four components lead us to initiate new patterns of thought and action in our lives that will take us to a better future. The alternative is ignoring this practice and going from year to year repeating the same thought patterns, making the same decisions, taking the same actions, and arriving at the same disappointing results.
Before an arrow in the hand of an archer is launched forward, it must first be pulled back. At this stage, the archer measures the target, controls their breathing, and prepares to release the arrow. Reflection requires that we pause, pull back the veil on our footprints (where we have been), measure our impact, and prepare to launch forward (where we are heading) with intent, passion, and accuracy.
I did not respond well to the challenges brought on by the pandemic at first. In retrospect, I approached the first few weeks of the shutdown with an attitude of indifference. As one day led to the next and each new day seemed a repetition of the previous one, my passion began to wane. My usual supply of hopeful thinking was stopped in its tracks. In its place, doomsday thinking took over. I did not practice daily reflection to catch my negative thoughts or the “little foxes that destroy the vine.” I retreated to the cave of worry regarding my family, fear about the future, and discouragement concerning life in general. But I did not remain there for long.
The Turning Point
Without reflection, it is difficult to control the flow of our thoughts, just like the archer cannot control the flow of their breathing without the pullback action of the bow and arrow. While we have no control over the events of the year, taking control of our minds is not only possible but critical to setting ourselves up for success in the future. Author Tracie Miles said it best, “What we focus our thoughts on grows in our mind.” What did you focus on this year? This was the question I asked myself in the cave, which helped me arrived at a turning point. I emerged from the dark, suffocating cave of isolation into the light and fresh air of hope. Focusing my thoughts on the possibilities, instead of all the problems energized my perspective. When I assess the year and my experiences, I can point to focusing on what was still possible as a game-changer. This correction in focus, through prayer and Bible reading, was a gift from God, the Great Optometrist. He restored my passion. Rather than begin each sentence with, “Now I won’t be able to ______,” I chose to replace with, “I get to __________.” One distinct privilege during the shutdown earlier in the year was homeschooling our daughter Esther. I am amazed by how a shift in focus turns on our mental light switch. This is what makes reflection a valuable practice.
Final Thought: As we kick off the month that will culminate in the transition to a new year, I encourage you to build a daily habit of reflection. Pay close attention to your focus, your thoughts, and how they affect your progress. What focus-shifting adjustments can you make to catapult yourself into a better future? I can promise the time spent in reflection is never wasted.
Keep on Keeping on!