Reflection vs. Retention

We don’t think much about this.


It’s simple…we’re busy.

Very busy.

We have an alarm clock that yells at us when to get up.

We have showers to take, makeup or aftershave to slap on, tangled hair to tame; then throw on something that makes us look nice, presentable, and maybe professional; make a quick lunch, find the keys and cell phone, and hopefully have a few minutes for a quick bite for breakfast, and then?

Fight traffic to work.

Now if you have children, you know all too well that the above routine is what you wish your mornings would look like because you probably manage what is akin to a 3-ring circus; providing all goes well and smooth.

But life being what it is, it’s rarely smooth. There are all sorts of hiccups, glitches, and curveballs thrown at us along the way…and that’s before the day really begins.

I won’t bore you with what you already know that fills in the day from the time we leave home until the time we get back.

At the end of the day, we wonder if we’re sane at all.

But! We don’t have time to think about that, life is coming at us full speed.

Later, we might numb our minds on the couch with a TV program, video game, or get sucked into the vortex of the internet with whatever it is that steals our time…probably Facebook.



Just to lay there and worry—about everything.

Thus, the circle of life continues and one day we will die and another generation will raise up and after a short time, they forget about us and move on.

Ugh. That sounds depressing. I’m not trying to be, it’s just how it works.

We’re born, we live, we die.

Hence, why I’m always harping about living in the now. Forgiving ourselves and others, and figuring a way to break free from debt and live and enjoy life.


Consider the following:

Retention versus Reflection.

The etymology of Retention comes from Latin, retinere, which means to hold back. The idea of this is that it denotes the power to retain.

On the other hand…

Reflection comes from the Latin word, reflectere, which means the act of bending back. One modern definition: throw back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.

A great way of thinking about the difference between the two words is to think about the functions of a greenhouse versus that of a mirror.

A greenhouse absorbs the rays of the sun and retains its energy. Unless you cool your greenhouse it will destroy every living green plant in there.

However, a mirror only reflects the energy, thus nothing on the inside will be destroyed.


I’ve lived a life where I’ve held onto toxic energy like a greenhouse retains the energy of the sun. Things heat up and it can turn explosive.

Then numb myself at the end of the day with alcohol and video games to take the edge off. Who’s got the time for reflection?

Hence…I NEVER…

  1. Learned from the current situations I faced.
  2. Understood why I made the same mistakes over and over; be it a relationship, work, or whatever.
  3. Knew what it was that created the same vicious cycle in my life and why I found myself in the same place, flat on my stomach with my face in the mud: stuck!

I didn’t understand reflecting on life, only the retention…

Constantly wondering why life wasn’t changing but of course not really doing anything about changing life because honestly, I didn’t know what exactly to change.


“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret Wheatley


Reflection is a learned thing.

  • First, I had to come to a place of acceptance and realize I can’t change the past. Sounds cliché-ish, I know.

This can be tough because this is right where we begin the negative reruns and we seethe in the heat of the past.

Emotions can be powerful guides when encountering people and situations. And yes, they can also lead us astray. Hence, why it’s so important to slow up each day and reflect upon the past 24 hours.

  • Secondly, The power of Shhhh. We are so inundated with so much noise from every media outlet imaginable. It really is hard to shut all our devices off and sit still and listen to what’s going on inside of us. But, this is a powerful practice we can do a little bit every day that allows us to reflect.
  • Thirdly, journal. I’ve mentioned this before, but this is where you and I get to sort out our reflections. It’s a wonderful place where you can finally speak your mind about those reflections and not fear what others think.


Reflect on your writings. Patterns in life will emerge and you’ll say to yourself, “Aha!”

It’s so much easier to make adjustments in life when you can finally see a pattern that repeats. 

  • Then? Be brutally honest with yourself. I saw certain patterns that always seemed to surface in my life at certain moments. I needed to strip away all the excuses and blaming: I’m too old to change, or it’s this person’s fault, or that situation’s fault, or I’m not lucky enough.

Once I saw that I was too sensitive and got my feelers hurt too easily, and co-dependent, and a few other things, then I was able to adjust the way I viewed life, which led to other changes, positive changes, that today I’m so grateful for.


I don’t have all the answers to life. No one does.

It’s your life and no one else’s. That means the things you face, situations before you, people near you, are unique to you.

Yet, we all can take time to reflect and let go of the retention.

I’ll be honest, it takes some effort to unplug from the noise we’re used to, but…

Reflection is one of the greatest teachers.

Knowledge is simply a passing on of information but reflection helps us take our knowledge, life experience, and education and coalesce it into a thing called wisdom.

Photo by Scott Webb

Posted by Christian Martin Jr.