humble ramble. Vol 3: reflection
Our world continues to roll in discontinuity.
On a daily basis, it seems to be getting harder to simply comprehend what we are seeing, feeling, experiencing — on the ground or via our phones, let alone understand the accumulated impacts on our mental and physical wellbeing over time.
More than ever, creating space to reflect in our lives, to sit with and share feelings, to understand how we have been impacted by the trauma in our changing world would seem to be a natural, beneficial endeavour. I am describing reflection here as a source of self-care, healing and learning. I am also talking about it because it is not talked about enough, and not practiced enough. Intentional, deliberate reflection is one of the greatest sources of insight that exists, and I would argue one of the most under-utilized practices.
Reflection at this time also seems apt as the beginning of March marks one year that I have been a part of the community and team at the think tank, Demos Helsinki.
Why (not) reflection?
Humbly, my first reflection is that, well, reflection (for example, this ramble) matters. Without consistently devoting time and attention to understanding what has already transpired, one’s ability to assess, learn, create, adapt is hampered. So why is intentional reflection seemingly not a priority for many folks (personally or professionally) or for organizations we are a part of?
There may be a few reasons.
Perhaps because reflection is not seen as productive time? (a topic for a future ramble for sure!) It takes discipline, often introspection, and certainly humility. It means slowing down, and sitting with difficult things, not bypassing, side-stepping or distracting from challenging conversations. It means turning the mirror on oneself. And of course, reflection is not necessarily related — in a causal, linear, real-time manner to tangible, positive ‘outcomes.’ I would argue these definitions of productivity are the real questions we need to tackle, not the value of reflection.
Since the pandemic began and the world’s discontinuity ratcheted up about 8 notches, I’ve found investing time in reflection vital for my mental health and ultimately overall wellbeing. A precursor to reflection for me is unplugging from the socials and my devices. Most of my reflections have been solitary experiences, from short, quiet moments of introspection and morning runs to hikes in the Rockies while trying to avoid Grizzly bears. Occasionally and brilliantly they are with community —having intentional conversations with friends. Giving time and space to topics and past experiences have brought me peace. These discussions and contemplations have uncovered unknown biases and pain and brought beautiful learnings. They have made me a better human.
Creativity, joy, compassion, healing — all these come from a place of self-awareness and self-care which is cultivated when reflection is practiced regularly. I don’t think it’s inflammatory to say the world could use a little more of the aforementioned elements.
Moving to a think tank was a bit of an emergent move a year ago, the convergence of cumulative life experiences and a healthy dose of serendipity. I could not have foreseen it, which made (and makes) it magical. Even in the magical places, there are learnings, sometimes painful ones — after all, I am (we are) only a human being living in a time of tumultuousness. It is easy to forget, in the rigours and mechanics of the daily grind what is accomplished, what has been accomplished, and also what has been lost along the way. Embedding reflection — opening and holding space for sharing is a practice that develops skill, practicing active listening, learning to better attune to one's needs and those of others, regardless of the context, makes life richer and more joyful.
I have learned a tremendous amount about myself in the past year through my experiences at Demos Helsinki and otherwise. I have learned to be more curious when encountering and being surprised by my own preconceived notions and more aware of what experiences and privileges I bring to my interactions. I have learned to be more curious and less judgemental. I have also come to understand better what I need, and how to support others. These are big things. Are they resumé worthy? Yes, but perhaps you won’t discover them unless we are having an intentional conversation, and better if they matter to you too.
It is interesting that just now I thought of some of most the fascinating and transformative projects I have worked on in the past year. They make me smile because they are changing the world for the better. I feel blessed to be a part of that story, it is a hopeful one. One that has already opened me to beautiful new relationships and thinking.
A part of humility is understanding what you know, and what you don’t. It is about understanding where you are on your journey, with clear eyes. Without reflection, one’s relative position can be lost.
Here is my heartfelt challenge to all of you:
Seek out and be open to opportunities for learning outside of the expectations and constructs our society has imposed or normalized. You are writing your own story and always have been — but are you aware of the power in that? Are you doing it intentionally? Reflecting is a starting point for imagining what you want to see.
more reflection, more love.