A few years ago I began a new role within my company, which I knew was going to demand 50-60 hours of work per week. On top of that, I had committed to being more present within my family. All of this, combined with a need to maintain all domains of fitness, led me to believe I had no discretionary time to invest.
Immediately after declaring that I had no remaining capacity, my family and I concluded that this was the perfect time to adopt an energetic puppy. This did concern me a little though. I knew this would mean additional responsibilities and time commitments for me—time I was convinced I did not have. Nonetheless, we decided to visit a puppy from a nearby breeder, simply to see if it would be a good fit. As you might have guessed, the puppy came home with us.
I quickly discovered that puppies need to be walked. A lot. While I knew my family would do some of the dog walkings, I also knew that I would be responsible for the “one-hour nightly stroll”. I could feel a sense of panic as I couldn’t figure out how I was going to fit a daily 60-minute walk into my schedule. I reluctantly shoehorned these walks into my nightly routine—the last activity of my day before heading to bed.
At first, I resented this intrusion into my tightly packed schedule. However, after a few days of this routine, I realized these dog walks were one of the most valuable periods of my day.
My day job presented novel problems, many of which demanded creative solutions. All day, my mind would take in new concepts and new information, with little to no time to sort through and make any sense of it. In short, I wasn’t meaningfully reflecting.
In his foundational work, Kolb1 stresses that reflection is a necessary stage of learning. These stages of learning are described below:
- Experience: During this stage, it is important to be present-in-the-moment to fully take in, via your 5-senses, all that is occuring.
- Theory & Conceptualization: This stage comprises the process of generalizing your observations into logically sound theories. It’s also where you confer with established theory.
- Experimentation: This stage is about testing what has been learned so far to ensure that the next time you have a similar experience you can make the most informed decisions and react accordingly.
- Reflection: Occurring both during and in between each stage, reflection involves recording, as objectively as possible, what you were thinking and feeling. During reflection, you explore things from as many perspectives as possible.
Regarding reflection: I didn’t realize I needed it until I started doing it during my dog walks. As American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey once said,
“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Prior to the arrival of our new puppy, I had never programmed reflection into my routine. Therefore, I was never truly giving my mind an opportunity to reflect upon my daily upload of information. That all changed when I started walking my dog every night. For 60 minutes each day, my mind was unencumbered and free to naturally ruminate. The result? Disparate ideas began to fuse together into original and creative ideas. I also began drawing insights from things heard earlier in the day that I otherwise would have missed. In other words, taking the time to reflect on the day’s experiences allowed me to draw meaning from it all.
“Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success.”
I walk my dog daily. I do this because it’s important for our dog. But it’s also key for my intellectual growth. I fiercely protect this block of time in my schedule as it represents my period for dedicated reflection.
Do you purposely take the time to reflect? Could you combine reflection with another activity in your life?
Written by Anthony Robb
Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams.
- Kolb, David A., and Alice Y. Kolb. 2013. “Kolb Learning Style Inventory 4.0.” Experience Based Learning Systems. https://learningfromexperience.com/index.html