“Wisdom is the ability to recognize, and the inclination to choose, the highest and best goal, and the surest means of attaining it.” ~ J. I. Packer

Most of us would prefer to be wise, rather than foolish. The Bible and other sacred texts urge you to pursue wisdom more than wealth, health, or almost anything else.

OK, so how do we do that?

Reflection is part of the standard practice that secular and spiritual guides recommend. The U.S. military, the PayPal mafia, Warren Bennis, and the book of Proverbs all encourage and admonish people to reflect.

OK, so how do we do that?

Reflection is simple. Select a time and place when you can be alone, with no distractions. Then think.

OK, so how do we do that?

Doug Conant was the CEO who reversed the fortunes of the Campbell Soup Company. Regular reflection has been part of his life for decades. Here’s what he does.

“I think about five things: my family, my work, my community, my faith, and my personal well-being. I think about how I’m doing with each of these things, what’s working, what isn’t, what I need to change.”

You may prefer something more structured. Here’s a list of topics I use to stimulate my thinking.

* Awareness: What happened?
* Evaluation: How did that work out for you?
* Curiosity: What might have happened? What other alternatives were there?
* Speculation: if I had done something different would I have gotten a different result?  What if I had a different attitude? What if I did things in a different order?
* Planning like a chess master. Perhaps if I did A, they might do Z.  Maybe if I did B, they might do Y. Suppose I do C, they might do X. Which one seems best? Some wise people even role-play upcoming high impact situations.
* Think about what you’ll do next time
* If you’re a praying person, then for heaven’s sake, ask for divine wisdom.

When something significant happens, make a few notes to jog your memory later. Then write what happened and your perceptions about what could have been different in your journal.

Journaling Improves Reflection

My hunch is that many people who reflect journal, and my hunch is most people who journal reflect. While you’re writing, you’re thinking. “Boy, that was such a dumb …” or “I actually got it right that time,” or “Maybe I should do it differently.” By journaling, you end up reflecting.

When you write down your thoughts and feelings, you can stumble on them again, deliberately or accidentally. When you journal and then return, in two weeks or three years, you’ll notice patterns and recurring themes.

The act of writing helps, too. Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos sums up this benefit best:

“When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.”

You won’t become wise quickly. It’s a lifetime quest. Reflection will help you along the way. Journaling will make your reflection more effective.

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Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.