When I was sixteen I landed my first job working as a lifeguard at the local leisure centre. I was trying to decide what I was going to do for money now that I was ‘all grown up’, and it was only when my dad suggested taking a lifeguard course that I became intrigued.
I have never been one for the norm and knew straight away I wasn’t going to work in retail or the local supermarket. So, after a £250 payout from my savings and an eagerness to learn, I signed up and dived right in (pun intended).
Two weeks later I was working part-time alongside my studies and had already worked enough hours to make back the initial investment.
Money well spent.
After a year, I graduated from school and planned on working full-time at the pool to save enough money to move abroad.
The realities of full-time work led to strenuous work hours I did not see coming; it was something I could handle, but would rather have avoided. The main burden was waking at 4am on a Saturday morning to lifeguard swim club, who would come in at 5am.
During those times, I was always early. I would use the 10 or 15 minutes of my time before my shift to reflect on big decisions, my current predicament and what lay ahead of me. I remember during the winter months, I would drive into the carpark and switch off the ignition and just sit in my car listening the song ‘Promise’ by Ben Howard over and over, contemplating whether I was on the right path or whether I needed to make changes to certain areas of my life in order to be the best version of myself.
Without this time, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Although I was admittedly young and more lost than I like to remember, it did teach me the importance of consciousness. Without those weekly 10 minutes, I would just blur through each day, not recognising certain feelings, adapting to changing situations and reflecting on goals.
This time was extremely valuable to me and if it taught me anything, it was that I needed to be more open minded and less judgemental.
Nowadays, I like to believe I don’t judge half as much as many people do, and I’m willing to try new things more easily because I am conscious and aware of the implications.
When Malcolm Gladwell speaks of the 10,000 hours goal, he states that everyone needs to go through a phase of complete practice, where nothing but consistent learning takes place, which prepares you for bigger things in the future.
This is the case for reflection, it is a skill that takes practice. My 4am reflection routine was my practice, and today I am able to be more conscious of my actions and decisions, understanding how it will affect the bigger picture in my life.