The poet David Whyte tells a wonderful, albeit painful, story about himself. He was busy at work, running from one office to the next. He passed a conference room full of his colleagues who were about to start a meeting. He knew there was someone he needed to talk to, but he saw immediately that this person wasn’t among them. He put his head in the door before they could begin and in a very loud, urgent voice, said, “Has anyone seen David?” The group paused, and then quickly broke out in laughter.
He goes on to write:
I looked back at them blankly, the truth dawning as I looked. ‘Has anyone seen David’ might seem an innocuous question in most organizations, but I happened to be the only David who worked under that particular roof. I realized the forlorn and public stupidity of my request and forced myself, after a wide-eyed moment, to laugh with them. Inside, I was dying.
(David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea, published by Riverhead Books)
I laugh at David Whyte’s story, but in an uncomfortable, ‘that is hitting a little close to the bone’ kind of way. So many of us are moving so quickly, hustling through our days. Any time for reflection feels as if it is a luxury, something we do if a space opens up in our day.
But it is not a luxury. And research is beginning to help make the point. Most recently, Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School has been doing research on the importance of reflection. In one study she found that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of each day reflecting on what they learned were 22% more productive than those who did not take the time to reflect. All they did was think about their day, and try to synthesize or extract learning’s.
22% more productive is a good thing for sure. But it is not the only reason to reflect. Reflection provides the space for the thoughts and questions that contribute to our spiritual well-being. Questions like ‘What did I learn today?’ ‘Why did I respond the way I did?’ Where did I experience grace or God?’
Reflection is a necessity for the human spirit, like food or oxygen for our bodies. Can you find time for it today?