“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
I found myself feeling stagnate, idle, and unchallenged after three months of being back in Mount Pleasant. I felt like I was having the same conversations, participating in the same social outings, living the same week over and over again. Admittedly, I was bored, frustrated, and overwhelmingly in need of change, challenge, and newness. However, leaving to a far away place, getting on a plane to dive into adventure would not have dissolved my frustration. Traveling to a different physical place would not have led me to the answers I needed.
One day, I was having a conversation with my friend and colleague Jeremy Heinlein when we discovered a shared dampening of creativity and feelings of stagnation. We recognized it wasn’t rooted in our work. In fact, we both love our jobs, co-workers, and work environment. The Leadership Institute cultivates creativity, discovery, and a sense of journey and adventure through a variety of experiences. We recognized that our feelings of burnout were rooted in not doing what we loved to do as often as we needed. For Jeremy, he found that he had not been physically active through sports. For me, I hadn’t taken time to reflect on my experience. I was moving from one experience to the next without making meaning of the experiences.
Many of my experiences were new to me, provided me with challenge, and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t see the value or significance in my experiences until I took time to critically reflect on what I learned and how I was affected. In my journal, from one day to next, there is a stark contrast in emotion, voice, and energy. Before reflecting, I wrote, “I feel like I am going through the motions. More and more I find a need for change and newness.” The very next day, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on recent experiences and later that day I penned, “It takes stepping away in order to see the bigger picture. I hope I never lose sight of my goals and the value of working with people who appreciate me and challenge me to be better everyday.” It is easy to get lost in the daily details, which moves our gaze from the bigger picture. There is great value in reflection and it can lead to renewed passion. It is important to have experiences, but it is equally important to make meaning of what we experience and recognize how we’ve changed after the experience has concluded.
Here are several questions I use to guide my reflection (not an exhaustive list):
- What did I experience?
- Who influenced my experience?
- How did I feel during the experience? Why?
- Now that I’ve had this experience, what do I know or understand about myself?
- In what ways have I changed?
- What are the connections between my experience, my current work, and my future plans?