Looking Back, Moving Forward: The Power of Reflection

Looking Back, Moving Forward: The Power of Reflection

Taking time to reflect is a natural part of every new year. Resolutions abound and gym memberships fly off shelves as we review our passing year and make plans for the next one. But why limit this educational practice to a once-a-year frenzy? Reflection is a simple, free, no technology needed method of digesting our experience and nourishing plans to thrive in the future.

Learning to reflect is easy and the benefits are immediate. The Kolb Learning Cycle, a concept integral to what we teach in Adventure Education, is a useful, straight-forward approach. First, we do the familiar part; have concrete experiences (let’s call this life). These are happening all the time but become educational when we take the next step and pause to consider how things went (reflection). What went well? How do we know this? What didn’t go as expected? Why did that happen? Can we make any discoveries? 

Answering these questions leads to the next step wherein we arrive at conclusions, form new concepts, make plans and bring along what we've learned in a conscious way. From here, we can incorporate our ah-ha moments into new practices, put our learning to the test and magically find ourselves back at the beginning of the cycle immersed in experience.

But really, why bother looking backward when the way is always forward? Shouldn’t we be studying for our next exam, constantly scanning our friends’ activity on Snapchat, juggling weekend plans and lab time? To some extent sure, if you can. But consider; when was the last time you had an amazing new idea while multi-tasking your way through the day tethered to a screen? We need quiet, unplugged, reflective moments to consider if what we are doing is producing the results we want.

From classrooms to boardrooms, using reflection to fuel innovative and creative thought is gaining popularity and proving its value. Entering the new year, carve out time at either end of the day or week for reflection. Use what you discover to generate fresh ideas and map out new paths. Quiet the noise, get clear and digest the raw material of life. You’ll like what you discover.

 - Eli Shostak

Eli Shostak, Lecturer of Adventure Education at FLC

Eli is a Lecturer of Adventure Education at FLC with expertise in mindful leadership, expedition planning and leadership, and tons of experience leading others in finding the personal and interpersonal benefits of exploring wild spaces.