The practice of reflection, though it seems lackluster at first, is a good technique to learn from past situations, such as how we dealt with the start of quarantine this year and all the challenges it brought.
Reflection is the process of looking back on past situations and taking the time to explore the choices you made. A quality judgment can then be made on if, given the chance to handle the situation again, you would choose the same action or not. If not, then retrospection is used to determine strategies on how to avoid making the same mistake.
We as college students have a unique opportunity to take advantage of mistakes early in our careers by learning from them through reflection.
According to a study conducted by researchers Ju Hee Kim and Hye Sook Shin, nursing students who went through a self-reflection-based course, said they thought about their future less as an abstract idea after the course and discovered areas they needed to grow.
Looking back is necessary because it helps us apply what we've learned in our past to how we want to act in the future. Without taking time to make that connection, we are doomed to repeat our own mistakes.
According to a 2019 paper by Angela S. Prestia, reflection is an effective instrument for leaders to use as a form of self-care and for making good decisions. Spending time contemplating decisions you are proud of or learning how to prevent future failures can help with self-actualization because you are better informed on how you want yourself to act in similar situations.
By looking at the events of the latter half of last semester and this summer in retrospect, we can make decisions moving forward that are informed by where we’ve been and how we want to grow, on an individual, relational and societal level.
Self-reflection helps you get out of the cycle of blaming other people or circumstances and helps you see the role you played in how things panned out. In terms of the current situation, instead of blaming the coronavirus for how this year went, you can see where there were missed opportunities that you can better take advantage of in future situations.
Reflecting on relationships can help you notice positive aspects of past relationships that you can apply to future relationships. Take time to think about any friends you lost touch with over quarantine. Retrospection is giving yourself time to reevaluate complicated experiences, which makes it really useful in relationships where people have responsibilities to each other. The key thing is to determine what responsibility you had in the situation and to decide if, in the future, you should take similar actions or different ones.
There is also some contemplation to be done at the societal level looking back on this year so far. Many underlying problems, such as police brutality and the threat of eviction, got some much-deserved attention this summer. We need to think about what happened and really focus on what we can do to make a change, so we can make progress on these issues.
For example, we could make our communities better if everyone would put some time into considering their own implicit biases and make a more consistent effort to evaluate decisions before making them, to ensure they aren’t being informed by stereotypes or prejudice.
Although looking back at a situation as fraught as the pandemic and this summer is really uncomfortable, it's important to take this opportunity to make sense of our own reaction to the pandemic and our own contribution to the societal problems that received much needed attention this summer, so that in future times when we feel isolated, we know our tendencies and cannot fall into any of the same harmful patterns that we went through during this time.
Reflection can come in the form of journaling, walking or meditating. According to The Seattle Times, in 2017, 14.2% Americans said they meditated "at least once in the last year." Anything repetitive that allows you to safely take your mind off things while doing is a prime opportunity for retrospection — even your walk to class.
By reflecting on our actions over quarantine and into this semester, we can see a lot about ourselves and determine a better path forward.