It takes effort to look back on things we’ve done with intentionality. And at times it seems like a waste of time – we’re living in the now. Being present with those around us, doing what we’re doing now, is a good ting! But looking back can serve an important purpose. Evaluating our actions and behaviour can help us make better decisions in the future, and minimise the chance of repeating silly mistakes. This is most readily obvious for me when trying to improve my ultimate frisbee playing skills, but is just as useful for improving my writing and communication.
I’ve played sport of some kind or other since I was about five years old. It started with cricket and soccer, expanded to include racket sports (first tennis, then badminton, then squash), and eventually evolved to include ultimate (frisbee). My life has included a lot of ultimate since then. Like many younglings, it took a while for me to understand there was more to this sport idea than running the fun activity of running around after the ball/disc/shuttle. As I got older, I coupled this awareness with a newfound love of problem solving, and realised it was an effective strategy for getting better at playing each sport.
The next step involved analysing why something did or didn’t work, and figuring out how to do more of the good more often. Some examples:
- Dropped a simple catch while wicket-keeping: How was my footwork? Were both gloves positioned well? Was it really a simple catch?
- Missed a save while goalkeeping: Was my weight on my toes ready to move? Or had I already committed, leaving an opening for the striker? Do I need to improve practice diving effectively?
- A forehand tanked into the ground (works for racket sports and ultimate): Was my arm motion smooth? Did I connect/release at the appropriate time? How was my footwork?
These are individual skills. Some I can work to improve on my own. Others I know the problem but will require help from someone with more experience to find a solution.
There are also team strategies and tactics to work on within each sport!
- Opposition scored a point in ultimate: Were we all in correct position for our structure? Did we each know what our role was? Did we almost force a turnover?
- Turned the disc/ball over: Was the pass the best choice? Did we have players in the best positions to provide options?
- How did we play overall? Maybe we played well, but our opposition was better on that particular day.
Knowing how we react when under pressure in game situations will help us better reflect on that past performance. We can answer honestly when talking things through. This will be tough, requiring thinking about past mistakes, poor decisions, and technical skills which are not at the level we want.
Identify the problem. Plan a solution. Implement.
This process works for writing too. Write the story/poem/song:
- Are there parts which don’t quite fit? If so, what about them doesn’t fit?
- Edit to improve? Or file elsewhere for use in a future piece?
- Was writing to practice skills or to publish?
Drafting a story, or a poem, or a song is the first step. Editing it, refining it, reshaping it is where the magic happens. I’m finding this more each day as I edit my book manuscript, Balance of Honour. One particular scene I thought was destined for the editing room floor. But, with a few minor tweaks it became an integral emotional moment.
The same process can be used when thinking about effectiveness of communication. A big part of paid employment can be communicating effectively to get work done. If a certain interaction didn’t go well it can help to figure out why.
- Did the meeting have a clearly defined purpose? Did all parties know what this was?
- Was there sufficient time for everyone to speak?
- Were all parties listening to, and hearing, what was being said?
Remember, it’s not only about the words we say, but also showing respect with body language and tone.
We can glean useful knowledge from every situation. Even if that’s as simple as telling ourselves, “That didn’t work. Next time I’ll try something different.”
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Is communication with others something you find easy? Stressful? Productive? A time sink?
Do you evaluate decisions you’ve made and actions you’ve taken?
How can you improve these processes?
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We each have our gifts, and it is a blessing to share them with one another. I pray you feel encouraged to share your beautiful gifts this coming week.