Value of Reflection

Reflection is clearly valuable but isn’t necessarily valued. Leah Weiss

What does valuing reflection look like for you?

I remember the excitement of getting my first camera. I must have been ten or eleven and under the Christmas tree sat a Kodak Disk camera - one that I didn’t have to borrow from my parents or share with my brothers. The new technology (which didn’t last long) made the camera really small and easy to carry places. And it auto-advanced which was a magical new feature. I saved my allowance to be able to pay for the disks and to develop them. Sending off the disk would begin a week of waiting and anticipating the moment I would get the envelope back and finally get to see those 15 precious images. 

Needless to say, those pictures didn’t gain attention other than from my other almost-teen age (and therefore often self-absorbed) friends. But they did start a life-long love of photography. There’s always been something magical to me about being able to capture a moment and revisit it - the people, place, mood, experience. 

I’ve had lots of cameras since that Kodak Disk, but recently upgraded to a higher powered digital SLR. The new camera combined with recent travels to new places has helped me reconnect with my love of exploring a place through the lens of a camera. I find that I see differently when I have my camera. It slows me down to really look around and be mindful of light, patterns, shapes, etc. 

Because of bigger storage space and knowing that I can later delete images that I don’t like, the digital camera allows for more freedom to play. At the end of a trip, I may end up with hundreds of images. That’s great for many reasons, but it can also be overwhelming. Like many modern “conveniences,” it speeds life up. When shooting with film, I used to be more deliberative and reflective in the moment of taking the picture, “Is this one I really want on film?” That slowed me down and I had a more curated set of images to look at when I returned home.

After several back-to-back trips, I have a few thousand pictures sitting in a folder on my computer. The process of going through them will take time. As I start to look through them, it brings me joy to revisit the place and see the captured beauty. In some cases, I see something new that I hadn’t seen before. The process is valuable. But when push comes to shove and I have a long to-do list, this can fall to the bottom (or off) of the list. 

I need the lily pads pictured here to remind me of the value of reflection. In this image, the top half feels visually busy and chaotic like many days can feel. But the reflection provides a clearer, calmer view. It’s a powerful reminder that reflection provides immeasurable value in the clarity that it provides. Even if your workplace doesn’t value reflection as Leah Weiss suggests in her book How We Work (I’ve worked in a few like that), you have the power to incorporate it for yourself.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It may be a pause to assess my next steps instead of reacting to the last thing that crossed my desk or came into my inbox. Or taking time after completing a project and before rushing into the next to ask: what worked? what would I do differently next time? Or knowing that if I take fifteen minutes each morning to go through and reflect on recent images instead of wasting time on social media, I’ll start the day happier. What could be more valuable?