Learning How To Reflect Will Save Your Life. Here Is How

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When you read the word REFLECTION, what comes to mind?

For some, it strikes fear.

For many, it means tedious effort and a lot of attention. 

Others never think about it.

Have you noticed that I ask reflection questions at the end of nearly every post?

Similar to dreaming while we sleep, we are always reflecting. All day every day. Our brains are constantly trying to understand what we do, see, and hear in a way of assessing if it serves our survival.

Reflection as a tool

Learning the look, sound, and movement of a sabertooth tiger was imperative for our ancestors to not only defend themselves but also learn how to more efficiently hunt. Learning only occurred because the ancestors reflected on their first interaction with a sabertooth tiger and applied what they remembered toward preparing for / against future interactions. If they had not, every interaction with a sabertooth tiger would be the first time and chances of survival would be 50/50 every time. Sounds terrible...

Think about school. Teachers drop a ton of information on us. In order to fully learn the material, we had to think about what they said to us (reflecting it in our heads) and try to make sense of it. If we were able to make sense of it, then we let our memory absorb it and then we could apply it to other areas of our lives, as needed. 

Gaining that knowledge and enabling its application to life significantly increases our chances of survival. 

Every piece of new knowledge is a tool for us to use. ("Knowledge is power", anyone?)

Reflection as medicine

Reflection is not one of the most trendy buzz words these days, but it has always maintained a solid popularity due to the fact that it is most often correlated with therapy and mental health.

This is where the bias toward difficulty arrives. 

Reflecting for the sake of your mental health can be challenging because it has a very specific outcome toward which the reflection is directed. Our above examples noted survival as the outcome, which of course is important, but we are always accumulating tools and knowledge for survival. 

In mental health, the need is not always apparent or the need is extremely urgent. Someone in denial of their emotional obstacles vs. someone who wants to commit suicide, for instance. 

The outcome is the same, however, despite the urgency: healthy survival. 

The urgency from crisis or the visible disruption in your daily functioning creates panic, fear, and anxiety because one fears that they do not have the tools necessary to kill their sabertooth, so to speak, in the immediate time frame that the challenge presents. 

This is why people give up, break down, or worse. Simply due to the fact that they think they cannot effectively reflect. 

But they are wrong. 

Let me remind you: YOU ARE ALWAYS REFLECTING. Whether consciously or not, your brain is constantly looking back at the information it is constantly receiving. 

The difference now is about you taking responsibility to do something with that knowledge. 

Reflection as a team effort

But we are going to start slow. We will do this together. 

I am really good at reflecting but I learned how to a long long time ago and it certainly did not occur overnight. Proper reflection takes time and attention. If your attention is pure, it takes a lot less time. Attention comes from acceptance, however. 

You must accept the mission before you can put effort toward it. 

In the past week, I have experienced seven things of immense power and meaning to me, each of which occurred over different frames of time but which occurred one after the other and continued to relate to and reinforce the power of the others. 

I have been quite emotional this week as a result.

I have also been reflecting on them for the past few days, but I am nowhere near "finished" thinking about how they apply to my life. Every time I try to, I get emotional again (in the grateful existential way), which is my barometer for how to schedule the reflection. 

I will keep you updated. 

In the meantime, I want you to think back to last week's post about what we hold on to and take with us in life. What did you come up with in response to the questions I asked?

This week, I want to start simple:

  1. What do you think a lot about in a given week? What thoughts or desires distract your mind. 

  2. Are they good things or bad things? Or a mix?

  3. What are the things: work? money? relationship? food? housing? travel? love? alcohol? exercise?

  4. Once you have the category, what about that category do you specifically think?

Whatever that prevalent thought is for you is the starting point for determining how you reflect, how you learn, and how to reflect more effectively and healthily in the future. 

You know, for your survival...