March 24, 2013


A former Jesuit seminarian, later a finance guy, recommends the practice of examen. This is a habit I want to develop. It looks like it would prevent how-in-the-world-did-my-day-get-so-out-of-control syndrome.

The English word examine roughly conveys the concept: to examine your day and take stock. With apologies to my spiritual father Ignatius, I often refer to it more colloquially as a "mental pit stop." I recommend two of them daily — one at midday, for example, and one at the end of the day — completely dedicating at least five minutes to each one. (Sorry, multi-taskers — listening to sports radio, texting, or listening to cell phone messages would not qualify for completely dedicated.)
During those few minutes, do three things. First, remind yourself why you are grateful as a human being. Second, lift your horizon for a moment. Call to mind some crucial personal objective, or your deepest sense of purpose, or the values you stand for. Third, mentally review the last few hours and extract some insight that might help in the next few hours. If you were agitated, what was going on inside you? If you were distracted and unproductive, why? Those who are spiritually inclined might also reflect on how God (or a higher power) was present in the people and challenges you encountered over the last few hours.
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