Sometimes, I’m accused of being “abstract.” That is, people think that when I say things like, “You have the answers you need inside of you,” I’m being all new-age and non-specific. But I’m not. The simple fact is that we have what we need, some of us never really learned how to draw out those answers. I guess that’s why I believe so much in reflective writing. I know that if a person names what they want (and why they want it), reflect upon what they want, and then develop a plan and act on it in order to get what they want, people can be truly successful and healthy.
In the “business” world, agencies do that process all the time, they just don’t call it reflective writing or use the “name, reflect, act” formula. For example, whenever an agency within the state of New Mexico wants to implement a new software system, that agency must draft a project charter that describes the new software, the agency’s rationale for wanting the new software, the sofware’s “return on investment.” From there, the agency must submit the charter for approval and then, if approved, it must then develop a comprehensive project management plan that describes, in detail, how the project will flow from start to finish. This plan lists all resources needed and how those resources will be used. THe agency may never have thought that it was “reflectively writing,” but it had to look at its current situation and recognized that it needed some change.
On a another scale, my wife and I have decided that the time has come to landscape our backyard. We’d like to eat outside and enjoy the cool evening air and have a space that is as inviting as any room inside of our house. We haven’t fully vetted the design elements we’d like to include, but we at least know that our current backyard configuration doesn’t really serve our purposes. That is, we know that our backyard needs to change. Now, it’s a matter of determining what it is we’d like to build, why we want to build it as such, and then develop the plan and act on the plan to build it. There’s NOTHING abstract about that process — it’s the EXACT same process as the “name, reflect, and act” process I recommend for reflective writing.
If someone wants to change something about herself, but doesn’t know why or how to do it, she isn’t going to end up doing anything. Because I spend so much time talking with people about substance abuse, it seems as though that they want some “magic bullet” to eliminate their problems. But the reality is that unless they reflect upon the substance use and learn the core reason behind their use, people really CAN’T change anything. It isn’t abstract, at all. If we don’t know where we are and where we’d like to go, we can NEVER come up with a way to get there. It’s not easy to do, but knowing our current state and the future state we’d like to achieve is a necessary prerequisite to making healthy changes.