Everyday Reflection

Hindsight is 20/20

choices, two paths

About a month ago, my husband and I had a big decision to make.  It was a decision that would have physical, emotional, and financial consequences for our whole family.   

We were both raised to pray when faced with these kinds of questions, but this time, in addition to prayer, I decided to add more actively engaged and focused reflection. 

I found a secluded place where I could be completely alone with my thoughts, including silencing my phone, and I started to slowly and methodically unravel the previous year.   

Over the previous 14 months, my husband and I…

  • Got married
  • Changed jobs
  • Started a new business
  • Moved
  • Sent our oldest daughter off to college
  • Adjusted to life as a blended family

…to name a few.

Looking back over these experiences chronologically, I saw so many opportunities as they were carefully brought into our lives.  I saw:  

  • Peace in our home while we learned to merge and balance our finances, activities, and lifestyles
  • My husband’s business grow, building confidence in our abilities to care for our family 
  • A home become available to move into at the exact time we needed; one that fit our family’s needs perfectly

Additionally, anxiety stopped consuming my thoughts.  Our family’s interdependence, communication skills and understanding of one another also grew.  

As these things occurred individually, we were able to recognize them as blessings, but my faith wasn’t strong enough to recognize the combination of them as God’s hand literally shaping our lives and carving a path to facilitate this very decision we were facing.   

It wasn’t until looking in hindsight—or reflecting—that I was able to see how all the pieces of our year came together. 

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

Søren Kierkegaard

Everyday Reflection

This experience made me aware that I don’t spend enough time reflecting—do you?

Teachers and small business owners are constantly reflecting on which strategies are successful.  Doctors review notes when meeting with their patients and reflect on what did and didn’t work.  Police reflect on a timeline of events when writing an incident report. 

The process of reflection is something we’re familiar with doing, we just might not frame it in our minds as “reflection”. 

I think we often associate the term “reflection” with a sort of mysticism.  Maybe something reserved for meditation?  Meditation can be a great time for it!  In fact, if you’re not taking at least 10 minutes a day for meditation, you’re selling yourself short. 

I can’t think of anything bad that comes from meditation, but I can think of a LOT of good. 

MEDITATION:

Meditation, reflection benefits

Don’t get discouraged if meditation doesn’t come easily to you—it doesn’t for me!

It takes practice because our minds are so busy and overworked that it is so difficult to quiet them.  In fact, scientists estimate the human brain has approximately 70,000 thoughts per day.   The irony of course is that this is the exact reason we should implement meditation in our daily routine. 

Meditation Newbie

If you’re new to the meditation game, one of my favorite strategies is to list in your mind everything you’re grateful for.  This practice is full of positive energy.  When you’re finished with your list, just sit and let your mind ponder more deeply those blessings.  I love this strategy because gratitude always leads to happiness!

 In expressing our gratitude—even just within our own minds—we welcome more blessings into our lives.  This is because we become more cognizant of all that we have to be grateful for, and therefore more easily recognize how those blessings are constantly around us.

Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Charles Dickens

Teaching Reflection to our Children

We should teach our children while they’re young to reflect. 

learning from reflection, John Dewey

A friend of mine had a fabulous reflection strategy he taught his kids.  Every night he would spend just a few minutes individually with each of his kids and ask them two questions:

  1. “What was great about today?” and
  2. “What can you do to make tomorrow better”? 

Imagine the powerful impact this father had on his kids by practicing this brief reflection with them.  His kids grew up knowing he was concerned about their daily activities and invested in their futures. 

I also love the subtle teaching of the growth mindset here.  On the best of our days, we can still improve; on our worst, we believe there is always tomorrow. 

Best & Worst Reflection

Happy sad faces

My favorite reflection is another simple strategy I started with my kids years ago.  Dinner with four children can be competitive and noisy.  Oftentimes, my kids were clamoring for my attention, which meant they were interrupting and fighting with each other.  This invariably turned my idealized “family dinner” into nothing but an exercise in frustration.

So, I implemented “Best & Worst”, which is just like it sounds: everyone (myself included) goes around the table and shares the best part of their day and the worst part of their day (while everyone else quietly listens!).    

It requires the kids to reflect and synthesize the many experiences of their day into two small pieces: usually the ones that carried the greatest positive and negative emotion. 

The best part of this activity for me, as the Mom, is that it enables me to keep in tune with any struggles my kids are having in an inobtrusive way; especially since they’re relating their troubles in such a relaxed, almost game-like, atmosphere.   

By the way, when we first started, at least two of my kids would say the best part of their day was the food we were eating at that exact moment.  So, I had to put the “kaibosh” on being able to use food as their “best”.  But this just shows that reflection doesn’t always come easily to us.  Often, we are so wrapped up in the most present moment, that we have to train ourselves to step outside that moment to see the bigger picture.

Spiritual Reflections

Prayer is another reflective exercise.  When we pray, we reflect on the events of our day, the blessings we enjoyed, and the challenges we faced.  We also call to mind the primary focus(es) of our lives after being distracted with the general “busy-ness” of our day. 

Kids walking together, love, empathy

Having prayer together as a family at the close of the day, or any other unifying moment as a family, can also teach our children how to reflect on their day.  When one child acts as voice in family prayer that child reflects upon the needs and blessings for the whole family, thus teaching them not only how to expand the use of reflection in their life, but also teaching them greater empathy and love. 

These little reflective practices with your kids don’t take up a lot of time and are simple to incorporate into your existing schedules.  It is a joy to watch your children’s self-awareness, confidence, grounding, empathy, and focus increase as they develop a purpose-driven life. 


If you have any other reflection strategies that you use with your children, please share!  I would love to teach them to my own kids, and will be happy to update my post with your great ideas!

Comments

  1. Grace says:

    Hi, I have trouble with “quieting my mind” so to say, when I attempt to meditate. I’ve been told that meditation requires a clear mind but I can’t seem to grasp it. Any advice?

    1. Cate says:

      Great question! I think this is a common misconception about Meditation. “Quieting” your mind is not turning it completely off! Meditation is a time to allow your mind the freedom to explore creative thought and resolve questions we have stuck in our subconscious (watch this awesome video about those questions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRUso32LRSg&t=358s). The thoughts we need to dismiss during this reflective time are: stresses, anxieties, fears, and of course our nagging, daily “to-do’s”.

      One of my favorite strategies to “quiet” my mind is to picture floating bubbles and then pop them! Or count your breaths–slowly count from 1-10, the repeat again. But, don’t restrain your thoughts from exploring during this time. What we’re hoping to achieve is focus, not become brain-dead! Hope this helps!

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