The above quote from the poem “Leisure” by WH Davies was written over a hundred years ago, and one that I learned at school, along with many other people. However, the opening lines are ones that keep coming back to me more and more over the last few years, and seem a reflection more on our modern life than they ever did back in 1911.
Back then, as now we were in a period of flux; the old eras of Victorian and Edwardian life were being overturned around the world with war, revolution, the start of emancipation and technological innovation in transport, media, and the arts. By the time the 1920s developed the world was unrecognisable from the one that had started in 1910; and older generations hankered after the old ways as change marched on and led us firmly into the 20th Century and the 2nd and 3rd industrial ages.
We are currently in a similar period of change with the political landscape as we would never have imagined it; the older generations wondering at how different Millenials and Gen Z are to them; the third industrial revolution – the technology age is being prolonged, and the fourth industrial revolution is creating change and breakthroughs at an unprecedented pace. We are just starting to come to terms with the fact that exponential disruption will impact the way we all work and I reflect on how similar the parallels are between the last century and this in response to the ever changing world around us.
As I edit this article from 2017, it’s now May 2020. Most of the world is just starting the early stages of emergence from Coronavirus lockdown. We’ve had a massive jolt in how we work and live:
- Millions of people are working online as never before, and let’s hope it continues as it can help our eco system and society enormously.
- Businesses have been disrupted beyond all imagination and may never be the same again as owners and business leader grapple with how the hell to do business now
- Social welfare, healthcare and the essential services that keep our societies running have been appreciated in ways we’ve not acknowledged since the last world war, and communities have come together to keep their neighbours and those most in need, safe
- Millions of people have had their personal freedom curtailed in a way that has not been seen in generations. Different age groups have struggled with this in different ways as the baby boomers maybe find they have to be conversant with technology they avoided, and Gen Z & Gen I learns what it’s like to be bored and how creative that can be.
- Everyone has been separated from loved ones, family, friends and colleagues, and this has taken its toll in a multitude of ways.
How though do we cope with it? Jump on board and hang on tightly; or take time to reflect on what needs to change and more importantly what we value and is still fit for purpose? Stop and reflect on what we have learned, how we need to adapt and realise what we need to do differently to fit into this new era.
So, my question to you is; when do you just stand and stare?
Our lives are busy, frenetic and always on and we humans aren’t necessarily built to withstand that constant onslaught of information, technology and communication. Reflection; time when we can contemplate and think deeply about things is something that many of us don’t do. However, it’s crucial to all of us to take that time out; step back and think about our actions, our impact and what matters.
To some, like me, reflective time is when I walk the dogs or go for a run; for others, it may be sitting in the bath, colouring books, mediation, yoga, cycling, rambling or simply sitting quietly and taking time out. That quiet time (and when we sleep) it is the only time our brain is at rest and in that time, builds new neural pathways and gains new perspectives and insights. It’s the reason why you have your best ideas in the shower
What’s your reflective practice?
So, when do you reflect? When do allow your brain that quiet time to just switch off and be? When do you stand and stare?
If the answer is, I don’t think I do; for the good of your brain, consider how you can build that time into your life. Do you…
– Exercise: go for a walk, run, cycle, swim?
– Meditate – either through mindfulness, yoga or a similar practice or an app like Calm or Headspace?
– Take time out at the end of each day?
– Work with a coach?
When we reflect we notice things about ourselves, those we interact with and the world around us. When we reflect we learn, and in that learning, we can make a change. In that reflection and learning we can adapt and flourish in our current Brave New World.
So, think about when and how you can make reflective practice a habit; your life will be all the richer for it!
A reflective diary is something which will allow you to track your thoughts and reflections, log actions and changes and measure impact of what you have done. It will also allow you to see patterns which may not be apparent straight way.
Logging your thoughts
For some people, an old-fashioned note book works well, for others a phone or tablet will suffice. Either way, choose how you’ll log these so you can come back to them.
When you do log them, make a note by day/date then review below.
Daily: take 2 mins and ask yourself the following questions, noting your answers:
– What went well today?
– What could I have done differently?
– What will I do differently tomorrow?
Weekly: take 5-10 mins and review your daily notes; look for patterns and themes and celebrate success
– What has gone well this week?
– What patterns do I see?
– What impact have these had?
– What will I change next week?
Monthly: take 15 mins and review your weekly reflections, asking yourself the same questions. Note any patterns, successes, goals you wish to set
Quarterly: Take 30 mins and review the last quarter, looking afresh at your reflections and making a note of 1-3 things you will focus on for the next quarter. No more – remember 1 small change that you embed is better than 15 you planned to do but never achieved.