Retrospectives. Have you ever heard that term before? I had not until just recently because I think it’s more of a term from the business/computer world. We reflect all the time. It’s built into our human nature. But sometimes we need to sit down and intentionally think retrospectively.
Retrospective: To take a look back at events that have already taken place.
People like to say we “learn by experience.” Is that really true? Think of a yo-yo dieter, or the person who has been married three or four times, or the last time you had a “discussion” with your child over the exact same thing done incorrectly. If we learned by experience, perhaps we wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. But we do. At least I do.
Enter in Retrospective Thinking:
When in the middle of something that seems like it is failing, or at the end of a successful project, ask yourself some questions.
1) What’s working well? What is it that I don’t want to forget?
2) What can be done differently?
3) What can I learn from this experience?
4) What puzzles me? What solutions do I need to find?
You could ask these questions about anything – Vacation Bible School, Awana or a church function, middle school, homeschooling your child, a garden, home improvement, or some personal goal like losing weight, or putting aside time for Bible reading every day.
Pretend with me for a minute. If someone walked up to you and asked, “How are things going with X?” (You put in whatever “X” is for you.) What would gush out of your mouth telling this person how wonderful it was going? Those words are probably what you consider to be success for that issue. So for example:
“Hey FFS! How is your weight loss going?”
“It’s going SO well! I’m losing about 2 pounds a week. I’m eating healthier, my clothes are fitting better, and I am exercising at least 30 minutes a day.”
Therefore…for me to be successful in my weight loss, then I want to see myself losing 2 pounds a week, eating healthier than I am now, my clothes fitting better, and exercising 30 minutes a day. It’s easy for us to be critical of ourselves, so it’s important to start off in a positive manner. And then when a hard day comes, and success is not met, then there is something measurable that can get you back on track.
Make a Timeline:
Seriously. Draw a quick timeline of the path you took to get to where you are today. This could be milestones, or significant events. How did those events make you feel? Angry? Frustrated? Embarrassed? (Circle those events in red.) Happy? (Mark those in blue.) Challenged? (Circle these in green.) Now take a look. When did things start to go wrong? or did everything fall into place?
Keep an Artifact and Give Appreciation:
After making your timeline, think about an object that reminds you of one of the events. Sometimes it can be a fun thing. Sometimes bittersweet. Do you have the item easy to find? Do you have a picture your daughter drew when she was 5 and then again at 8? Can you see the development? Perhaps a person comes to mind. Is there someone you need to thank for giving you encouragement during a tough time? We are so blessed and we forget that. In the midst of strife and adversity we need to be reminded of the blessings that come from rough times.
In the days of the Exodus, God had the Israelites place markers for remembrance. As the people marched across the Jordan on dry land, each tribe was told to place a stone in the middle of the river as a marker so the people would remember God’s greatness. Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joshua…all of these great men of God built alters of stone which would then help the people, and themselves, to remember God’s goodness.
We need to do the same thing. What markers do you have in your life? What event do you need to think about and learn from? Perhaps you need to sketch out a timeline and see God’s hand on you over the years. Have your family join in on the timeline and then stand back and watch God work. Discuss what you see as a family. You may learn something about your spouse and kids that you never considered.
Spend some time thinking Retrospectively. Then tell someone one thing you learned about yourself.