As December rolls in we are blessed with beautiful snow and the forthcoming of winter. Many of the thousands of lakes here in Minnesota begin to freeze over, and that first layer of ice epitomizes what December is all about for me: a time of reflection. A year come and passed brings many ups and downs, and it is important to be cognizant of areas you succeeded, as well as areas for improvement.
Research on reflective practices’ impact on well-being are still new and scarce, but there is evidence to show daily reflection improves performance in the workplace. One study, conducted by Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, Giada Di Stefano, and Bradley Staats, showed that employees in a call center who were instructed to reflect on their work each day improved efficiency by nearly 23 percent. This was in spite of the group doing the reflections working 15 minutes less per day! What does that say about the old proverb, “time is money?” The afore mentioned paper is available here.
So, if we can improve our work habits and efficiency by reflecting on the job we have done, can we improve our health by reflecting on the choices we made? I would like to believe so, and I have hundreds of pages worth of diaries and journals that support this claim. However, a claim made by myself has no merit (yet) in a world of “experts,” so I will let Timothy Wilson take over.
In his 2011 book, Redirect, Wilson articulates a phenomenon coined “story editing.” In essence, story editing is writing out the narratives we live by. It allows us to take a step back and gain a different perspective on what has happened, and what we hope will transpire. Leaving emotions and notions at the door is key to both reflecting on the past and guiding your future path.
So, how do we practice story editing? Here are a few examples that have worked for me.
- Reflecting on events using a third-party or birds-eye view of the situation will help put things in perspective. Some reflection methods that are beneficial include:
- Think about the past week or month and jot down a few things that served you in a positive way. Why did those things turn out the way they did? What did you control that influenced the outcome? What helped the process that was outside your control?
- Think about something that did not go as planned. What was the reason why? Is there something that triggered the event you weren’t aware of at the time? How did/will you move forward and take proactive steps to ensure it does not happen again?
- Express gratitude to yourself and others who help you accomplish your goals.
- “Do good, be good,” is another story editing method mentioned in Wilson’s book. It derives from the idea that our attitudes and beliefs stem from our behaviors, rather than the other way around. Some ways of going about this include
- Volunteering and community service.
- Paying it forward; for example, covering the coffee for the person behind you at Caribou.
- Simply smiling at people walking by. This should not be done with intention to illicit a smile back, but to send positivity towards others who may be in need.
- When in doubt, write it out! It is much easier to keep your eggs in the basket when you can see them! Some things I write down routinely include:
- Personal goals, such as writing and exercise.
- Academic goals pertaining to completing my degree.
- Professional goals to help with the growth of Inspire Life.
Ultimately, writing things down helps to keep us moving in the direction of where we desire to be. Remember, thoughts matter and thoughts become matter, and if we put those thoughts on paper we literally SEE our intentions manifest before us.
As always, keep inspiring!