This One Habit Will Change Your Life, Health and Career

I’m starting this post with the end in mind. The end of my beginning, that is.

In the preface of my new book, I hint at the life lessons I’ve learned and how they might serve you. An excerpt of the preface goes like this:

If you get something—a laugh, a new perspective, some extra paper to throw in the fireplace when you are done reading—then my stories and musings will have served their purpose.

If not, then I hope you’ll dig a little deeper and see if something, anything, in here doesn’t help you see the world a little differently from how you did before.

I am honored to share these anecdotes and reflections with you. They are close to my heart. Share them or burn them knowing that. Happy reading.

My actual journal entries are woven throughout Positively Altered, and they give you a glimpse into my thoughts during a time when my emotions were on full tilt.

You get to sift through my small and big reflective moments and decide for yourself if you would have faced adversity the same way.

According to Scientific American, the ability to reflect is not only the hallmark of what makes us human; it’s also considered a vital survival skill.

I had a diary in second grade, but my journaling took on a much more focused energy nine years ago when I needed a way to channel all my emotions after diagnosing myself with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Little did I know that journaling would be a lifeline to get me through the tough moments and a record of all that happened to me far beyond cancer—least of all a memoir.

What I’ve also discovered is that the habit of reflection isn’t only for our personal benefit; it’s an immensely powerful learning tool in the workplace too.

Employees who spent fifteen minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23 percent better after ten days than those who did not reflect!

What’s more, a UK study found that when people were prompted to use their commute to think about and plan for their day, they were happier, more productive, and less burned out.

My personal experience with the power of reflection is something that I also witness every day with patients.

My job, essentially, is helping patients reflect on their physical and mental behaviors so they can improve their well-being. It’s why I love what I do.

Put reflection to the test in your own life! Jennifer Porter of The Boda Group has some great ideas to get you started. Here are a few that resonate with me:

  1. Start small. Porter says that if an hour of reflection seems long, start with ten minutes and build from there. I journal when it moves me—some days twice a day, and other times a week may have gone by. Be forgiving of yourself, and respond to moments when you feel inspired.
  2. Be flexible. Porter emphasizes choosing a reflection process that matches your preferences. Some like to write or think; others like to talk. If you’re a talker, for example, consider a colleague with whom you can have a regular exchange or hire a coach.
  3. Schedule it…or listen for it. If you’re like me and it’s not on your calendar, it’s likely that it won’t happen. But with journaling or a planned reflection time, it might be different. If scheduling feels too regimented or what you write turns out contrived, try journaling or talking with someone when your brain is hanging onto a thought. In other words, find your flow when it works for you.

Reflection is an incredible tool that enhances your personal life, your well-being, and your performance at work if you let it.

Something I always do at the end of the day, which is a reflection in and of itself, is look back at all the decisions I made and take stock. When I get it right, I give myself a big mental high five. And yes, there are those days when I say, “Wow, this day felt like a train wreck.”

I first forgive myself for anything that doesn’t feel right. After all, they’re my decisions, so I answer only to myself. Then I tell myself that I get to wake up the next morning and start with a clean slate.

Allow yourself the gift of a new day after you’ve had a chance to reflect. These learning moments we gather from revisiting our thoughts and behaviors are the key to moving on to greater challenges, self-awareness, and life-changing results.

Dr. Cindy

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