I Despise Reflection (or, Why I Decided to Start Running)

I shared in my blog about “Trying” (https://annmarieklotz.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/one-word-2012-continuing-to-evolve-and-ready-to-try/) that I recently decided to start running.  While it’s true that this is my year to attempt all of the things that scare me just a little bit, there is more to the story as to why I decided to start running. 

I (cover your ears, my contemplative, processing friends) despise reflection.  I acknowledge that this is not a popular thing to say, especially in higher education.  Every “best practice” document from our professional organizations discusses the need for “reflective practitioners.”  It is absolutely imperative to have people around you who excel at this in your organization.  You know, the folks who say “let’s unpack this issue a bit more.”  Meanwhile, I want to pack up the backpack and move on to the next thing already.  A work day for me means production, crossing off “to-do” lists and having tangible evidence of a successful day.  Thinking deeply, processing at any great length, pondering about the “what ifs” and working on the 10 year strategic plan are just not skills that I naturally possess. 

Call it impatience, “Activator” strength, or just my general need to keep things moving along, but I have always been like this.  Which has always served me well…about 97% percent of the time.  In our roles as students leaders, entry and mid-level professionals my mode of operation made sense.  Entry level folks deal with juggling multiple things at once and this suited my style perfectly.  Even at mid-level, my job is to keep the department moving forward, ensuring that we meet our departmental objectives—all of which are conducive to my “execute and move on” philosophy.

But now, as I delve in to the writing stage of my doctoral process and take on a new professional role where I will lead a unit, a new skill set is required.  I can fight against it or I can lean into it, and I am opting to do the latter…as uncomfortable as it may be.

In my doctoral work, I am called to be the academic expert on my particular topic which means really getting into the literature and knowing it backwards and forward.  It requires thinking about how it fits in a historical and modern-day context.  It isn’t about a checklist, it’s about creating a new body of knowledge.  New body of knowledge?  That wasn’t on my daily to-do list.  But it is now.  Reflection and contemplation are required. 

In my new position, I will be asked to construct a sustainable model of leadership for our professional staff that benefits our residential students.  This isn’t like planning RA training, folks.  It requires a deep understanding of the context of the university, the geographical area (totally new to me) and the needs of the incoming freshman class.  Vision, careful planning and a willingness to make incremental change is necessary to ensure that we get it right. 

Insert running.  Despite the fact that I had to dust off an old pair of tennis shoes in the back of my closet and buy my first pair of shorts since 1995 I have found this time to be incredibly valuable.  In the last 30 days I have logged 63 miles and have been thinking about the kind of researcher I want to be and the kind of leader I hope to become.  It requires me (4 times a week for 30-40 minutes) to spend time with myself and think about the big picture.   It’s a process—one I’m willing to go through because at the end of it I hope to emerge with a stronger skill set, create new research for our field and ensure the success of my new department.  It is just the beginning stages for me, but I am hopeful that this new lifestyle change will help me in a variety of ways. 

Do I love reflection?  Nope.  But do I enjoy the opportunity to become a better version of myself to serve others and our field?  Without a doubt.


About annmarieklotz

I write about all things education, personal & professional development and growth. Once is a question, twice is a discussion and three times is a blog post! Born and raised in Detroit Michigan but currently calling the Pacific Northwest home. I work at Oregon State University and belong to a fantastic community of higher ed professionals around the globe! Lover of theater and the arts. Live your best life!
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17 Responses to I Despise Reflection (or, Why I Decided to Start Running)

  1. Thank you so much for writing this! As much as I enjoy reflection, running and physical activity continues to hone this skill for me. I hope that our peers realize how helpful this can be by reading your post!

  2. courtney says:

    Ann Marie,

    I’m so happy that you’ve found running to be a sacred and reflective time for you. It’s also knocking an outstanding workout for your heart out of the park, so I hope your Activator doesn’t feel too cheated (;
    I’m proud of you!


  3. Tim Lade says:

    Of the many things that I admire in you, I think the fact that you can admit you don’t like something that is viewed sometimes as being the very foundation of our work is really awesome. I think you are going to make a fantastic edition to our little corner of the profession!

  4. Gage Paine says:

    There are many different ways to practice reflection and ‘naval gazing’ is only one of them. I suspect you have always learned from your experiences as you moved through your checklist and, in my opinion, that’s what reflection as a professional practice is all about. By the way, seems to me that blogging is a form of reflection, isn’t it? 🙂

  5. Jorg says:

    I am not the greatest fan of it either and our graduate program teaches students much of it 🙂 I think SA professionals ought to be much more interested in data and evidence (that something we do works or not), rather than figuring out how we feel about something. Thinking is great, don’t get me wrong, but too much thinking without action is not so great.

    • I do think there needs to be a good balance. One of the most important things we can do is to hire strong teams who can provide both the facts and figures and the reflective practice. Thanks so much for reading!

  6. Deb Schmidt-Rogers says:

    As a person who lives to reflect, and as your supervisor for 3.5 more hours I think this new reflective practice might just change your life. Seriously!

  7. genarstack says:

    Great post AMK. Good luck to you with all of your new endeavors!

  8. Jeff Lail says:

    I’m curious how many of our colleagues would say this describes them: “A work day for me means production, crossing off “to-do” lists and having tangible evidence of a successful day. Thinking deeply, processing at any great length, pondering about the “what ifs” and working on the 10 year strategic plan are just not skills that I naturally possess. “

  9. Pingback: “And I Would Walk (RUN!) 500 Miles” | Sean Eddington

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