Don't Forget to Remember

By Jared Kirkwood

"The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates

How many days of your life can you actually remember? In the scope of the thousands of days you have lived, our memories are limited to only the significant ones. If life is a journey that happens one step at a time, I believe that each step is significant in its own way. There is always something to learn, a new interest to study, a new friendship to foster. Yet without reflection, we are robbing the benefits of self-examination to see how we've grown from life’s experiences. 

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shows how our culture has made us believe that accomplishments produce happiness in our life, when exactly the opposite is true. The endless pursuit of accomplishments often leads us to experience negative feelings, exactly the opposite of what we were chasing the first place. “Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our motivation and ability to accomplish goals…When our brains constantly scan for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and optimism,” says Achor.

Life is a sequence of experiences, both positive and negative. Rather than allow the circumstances to determine our feelings, we hold the power to define whether an experience is positive or negative in the way we grow. Those who develop the skill of self-reflection unlock hidden learning from everything that comes in life. 

One suggestion Achor gives is to consider making a list each day of the things you are grateful for. The practice of examining your life for the positive will trigger your brain to find happiness in things you may not have previously expected. I do this each day. I open my journal and write down everything I did the day prior, then make a list of the things I am grateful for. Often times I am surprised at what I am grateful for, because just yesterday it was a difficult circumstance that I wished never happened. But today, I am grateful for the ways I grew. The self-reflection led to appreciation.

A journey is one step at a time, and you won’t remember each step. Why not take the time to appreciate the step for what it is? Take a few minutes to write down yesterday’s experiences and then a short list of what you are grateful for. You just might find how happy and appreciative you are when the exercise is complete.

Jared Kirkwood is the Chief Talent Officer of The YouSchool. He wakes up everyday to unlock the potential in students, after a few cups of coffee. He is married with two kids, plays Fantasy Golf, and watches the Bachelor religiously. Follow him @JaredKirkwood