To Move Forward, Look in the Mirror and Reflect

John Dewey, an American educator, philosopher, and pioneer in functional psychology once said, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.”


Much of the time we go through life moving from event to event without doing intentional work around learning and growth. Instead, let’s take the opportunity to pause, to slow down in order to speed up our well-being and performance.


As we near the end of 2022, you may be feeling satisfied with what you’ve accomplished related to running or walking this year. Maybe you set a new PR, tried a distance that once felt intimidating, or were consistent in your exercise routine. Likely, you want to keep the momentum going through the holidays and beyond.


On the other hand, maybe you’re cringing a bit when you think about your year. If you had to defer a race, lost sight of your goals, or missed the mark a time or two, perhaps you’re hoping to wipe the slate clean.


No matter the experience you had with running or walking this year, there’s something to gain from it – if you take the time to look in the mirror and reflect.


Reflection involves thinking about our experiences with thoughtful consideration in order to understand, learn, and take action. It’s an important mental tool as it helps us build self-awareness, uncover insights from our athletic experiences like training and racing, and determine where to direct our efforts moving forward. Through reflection, we shift from being outcome-focused to being more process-oriented, feel more control over our development and performance, and gain motivation and confidence to make changes.


One of the most powerful benefits I see when I lead clients in reflective exercises is that they feel a sense of closure. Without reflecting, many of us tend to hold onto the past, ruminating on what happened – especially when our performance didn’t live up to our expectations.


Through questioning, anyone can activate reflection. Try putting pen to paper and answering the following questions related to your running or walking this year:

  • How would you describe your year?
  • What were some of your best moments? How did you contribute to those?
  • What didn’t go as well as you’d hoped? Why?
  • Who supported you? How?
  • What did you discover about yourself?
  • What can you learn from these experiences?
  • Next year, what do you want to do again? What adjustments do you want to make?
  • Who do you want to support you moving forward? What role can they play?

By going through this process, you’ll be able to document your perspective of what happened throughout the year, why those experiences were important to you, and what you’d like to do next as we move into an opportunity for a fresh start.


When you’re finished, think about who you could share this with – a coach, a significant other, a teammate, a parent or caregiver, or a member of your athletic support team. Inviting others into your reflections can be a meaningful way to celebrate, receive support, and create accountability for what’s ahead. 


This content was originally featured in the November/December 2022 issue of Wingfoot Magazine.

By Abby Keenan, MS, CMPC


Abby is a mental performance coach located in Dacula, GA. She helps athletes improve themselves and their performance through mental skills. Interested in learning more and seeing if mental skills coaching would be a good fit for you? Schedule a free consultation.