Courtney Spence on How Reflection Informs Personal Growth

In Chapter 3 of 19 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive Courtney Spence answers "What Role Does Reflection Play in Your Personal Growth?"  Spence notes how life lessons do not happen in the moment and, instead, how they happen when you take time to reflect on that moment.  She details how she revisits her childhood journaling experiences and brings that back to present to be more conscious of having a reflective process in her life.  Courtney Spence returns to Capture Your Flag for her Year 3 interview.  As Founder and Executive Director, Spence leads non-profit Students of the World to empower college students to use film, photography, and journalism to tell stories of global issues and the organizations working to address them.  Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: What role does reflection play in your personal growth?

Courtney Spence: So I heard this line a few months ago. I’ve used it in a couple of speeches, but, you know, they say that life lessons don’t happen in the moment, they happen when you take the time to reflect on that moment. So you can go through trials and tribulations, and celebrations and successes, but if you don’t actually stop to reflect on what happened, and why it happened, and who made it happen, and what did you learn from that. You really won’t take those lessons with you through the rest of your life. Or you won’t – you might take them with you for a year but not for 40.

So reflection for me is super important and it always has been, I mean I think back to the ways I got through my awkward years in middle school and high school, and the angst and the worry, I mean I go back to my house and –  my parent’s house, and I just have stacks and stacks of journals, and I recognize that for me in my teens and my early 20’s, when I was really searching for a path, journaling and reflection were a big part of that. Now granted sometimes it was about boys, a lot of the time it was about boys but that was a lot of what – you know? As a teenager, you’re struggling with, right? And it’s really something that I lost there for a while, as I was just going, going, going, I wasn’t reflecting, and I think that I found myself in situations where I couldn’t believe I was in that situation again, whether it was professionally or personally, and I’ve recognized that I need to go back to my roots, which is journaling and reflecting, and really writing it out. I mean I can think through things, but if I don’t have a pen and a paper to share it with or a friend to share it with, I really don’t process things as effectively as I want to. So reflection is key. Key.