“Mary pondered all these things in her heart.”
For some reason I have always thought of New Year’s Eve as a transition day from the last year to the next. This year was different. It occurred to me that New Year’s Eve is the last day of the year. Don’t laugh. It’s obvious I know. But oh well.
And what do we normally do when we complete something—a project, a career, a vacation, a concert, whatever? We “think about it.” Was is profitable or fun or rewarding, or was it a bummer?
Reflection and Pondering
The first few days of the new year is our traditional time of thinking forward about exciting plans for the coming year. Before we plan the new year, however, I think it’s important to ponder and evaluate the past year first. What did you learn? What excited you and what sucked? Failure to reflect can easily result in repeating the very same things you were not happy about the previous year.
Reflection with an open mind just might be the beginning of deep wisdom!
I’m fond of a comment made of Mary shortly following the birth of her son, Jesus. She was confronted by shepherds (who saw thousands of angels) and kings and prophets, all proclaiming that her son would grow to be inordinately special—a gift from God, himself. The book then says, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
From that one sentence I find two suggestions for following up on occurrences that impact your life: 1) Store those things in your heart and mind for further review, and (2) then ponder them or “think about them”
Mastering the Art of Pondering
Mastering the art of pondering (or reflecting) provides food for your soul. It is your opportunity to gain wisdom and consider how best you want to live your life. Yet, unless you are very intentional about it, adequate reflection won’t happen
Do you think it’s possible that your days are so busy you can’t even find the time to do such a thing as pondering or reflecting? Especially when you have a demanding job, kids, social commitments; and I’m not even talking about shopping and making dinner and cleaning house and OMG, a thousand other things.
A few solutions come to mind.
- If you like to write, then it’s time to break out that journal (or grab a blank document on your computer) and just start writing. Sometimes I even use a flip chart so I can write and draw at the same time.
- Tell stories. If you’re sure you have an interested audience then tell the cool story of the exciting event you recently experienced. Oh, be sure to employ the age-old story-telling technique of exaggeration—just a little to make the story even more fun.
- Take you own retreat to ponder. Four hours in nature or in your study or anywhere. Just sit and think. Maybe take a little Moleskine (note taking book) and just jot down some rambling thoughts.
Who Has the Time to Ponder?
I seriously doubt that meaningful life can exist without reflection. The significant difference-makers on this planet (and in history) live in a world of thought. In fact it was a quite regular practice just 100 years ago. No TV, no movies, no phones. Wow, what did they do? Guess what? They were amazing letter writers. In the 17th, 18th, and 19TH centuries letter writing was the only means of communication for the new glut of literary people. And what do you think was in those letters? Thoughts. Thoughts about life, the universe, and everything. They were ponderers.
We, on the other hand, are doers. Let’s “get ‘er done” kind of people. And we often feel empty as a result. Constant ”doing” without some kind of reflection about the meaning and value of our actions can take us down a path of emptiness and frustration.
Fortunately (or not) for me, I am haunted with the gift or curse of “ponderation” (great new word, huh?). I’m always thinking about something—past events, future hopes, and all sorts of strange and creative ideas. But I also devote significant time reading and thinking about my actions and my character traits (or lack of). Sometimes I probably think too much, although right now I can’t think of a particular time. Guess I’m doomed to think too much.
Ok, enough trying to make my point. Let’s jump into some solution.
In consulting with corporations I have used a little exercise that is all about pondering and planning. It’s so simple, yet highly effective. We just call it: “Continue, Start, Stop.”
Continue, Start, Stop
- To begin with, I suggest you spend some time reflecting on your last year. Think about things like family, relationships, career, kids, church, social networks, personal behavior (character), and the like. You may even want to jot down a few categories and then consider the following instructions.
- Draw out three columns. Title them Continue, Start, and Stop.
- In the first column write down those activities and behaviors you would like to Continue doing because you find them of value.
- In the second column describe 3-5 things you would like to Start to add meaning, adventure or awe to your life.
- In order for you to have the time to Start new things and Continue others you will certainly need to Stop some of your activities. This column is also the place you might write some behaviors you feel you need to change.
This short exercise will add insight into what you consider to be most meaningful in your life. Please keep only the most important changes. I have found that if you improve on only 3-5 aspects of our life in the period of a year, you will end 2016 as a successful person.
A rich life is, most likely, discovered in the ways in which we traverse the more ordinary, everyday roads.
Master Your Busy Life with Simple,
But Powerful Changes
Photo courtesy of rdonar at istockphoto