We do this every quarter and will share our next list (What We Learned in Summer) on Friday, August 30. If you are drawn to reflection but aren’t sure where to start, I’ve created an entire self-paced, online class to help you reflect on your life. Learn more and enroll in Discern + Decide right here.
Now on to the list! FYI Where books are shared in this post I use my affiliate links.
Welcome to What We Learned, where we pause to reflect on the past season before we move ahead into the future. “It’s not the experience that brings transformation,”says author and teacher Jan Johnson, “it’s our reflection upon our experience.”
If that’s true (and I’m convinced it is) then it’s vital we establish intentional time to reflect on our lives. Reflection is part of my daily and weekly routine, but once a quarter I like to share some of my list and invite you to share yours.
At the end of this post, you’re invited to link up to your own list of what you learned this quarter – be it silly, serious, sacred, or just plain useful. I like to share a mix of all of those.
Here are 10 things I learned this spring in no particular order:
1. Let Bri McKoy boss you about what to order at Starbucks.
Bri is my go-to person for recommending things I need in my life but didn’t know it until she told me. Like this Starbucks order: Iced Grande Starbucks Doubleshot. 1 pump classic. Heavy cream instead of 2% milk.
I’ve modified this slightly as I like the world a bit sweeter than she does (2 pumps classic or 3 if I’m feeling fierce) but the rest is just right.
2. I’m getting worse at email, phone calls, and follow up.
When I perused my to-do lists from the past 3 months, I recognized a pattern that I can no longer ignore. The items that remain consistently un-checked from my to-do lists are ones that involve an email, a phone call, or some kind of follow up.
I’m not sure if this means I need to delegate more, care less, or if it means I need to be a better grown up.
On the one hand, it’s important to me to be available to people, make appointments, and respond. On the other hand, a lot of the email in my inbox is really just someone else’s agenda for me.
It’s complicated is what I’m saying. I need to read more Cal Newport.
3. Get the 850 foot view as often as possible.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, the last two years have been some of the most full years of my life. Busy, is what I’m saying. I’ve been busy.
When I was in New York to record the audio version of The Next Right Thing, I had a lot of extra time in between things. So on a Friday morning, I booked the fast elevator up to the Top of the Rock right when it opened and was the first one there.
For a few minutes, I was alone 850 feet above a city of 8 million people.
And I remembered, even if only briefly, that above the hum of the daily grind, there is a bigger picture. Even though I can’t always see it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
4. I was right about book launch teams.
They do still work.
If you don’t know what a book launch team is, it’s basically a bunch of people who agree to help you spread the word about a new book before and after it comes out.
These days they say book launch teams are changing and don’t have the impact they did years ago.
To that? I said watch us prove them wrong. And we did. Here are just a few of them:
This team helped us launch The Next Right Thing all the way to #5 on Amazon (Of all books! On all Amazon!), #7 on the Publishers Weekly Bestseller List, #6 on the Publishers Weekly Religious Non-Fiction List for April, #8 on the April ECPA Bestseller List.
Top 10 all around! What a gift.
- Grab a copy of The Next Right Thing for a graduate, new parent, newlywed couple, or anyone in the middle of a life transition.
5. Simple mantras help me remember what’s important.
By “mantra” I simply mean a short, easy to remember phrase that brings me back to center. I’ve just spend the last two years with do the next right thing. That’s a mindset that has become a life-saver for me when I start to spin out. This spring I’ve learned another one:
“Do what you know. Use what you have. Finish what you started.” — Myquillyn Smith
My sister said these three short sentences in a conversation we had for the podcast and ever since then I’ve been applying it to everything: my work, my closet organization, my meal plan. It really is solid, universal advice for when you feel stuck, uncertain, or overwhelmed.
6. I learned how to wash my face.
I mean I’ve known how to wash my face and have done it for years. But after listening to episode14 of 10 Things to Tell You with Laura Tremaine, I feel like I finally understand some of the gaps in my own skincare routine. Highly recommend this conversation!
7. Seeing my book in an airport for the first time was as exciting as I hoped it would be.
If you follow me on instagram, you know I’ve been documenting airports sightings in my stories over the past month. When readers and/or podcast listeners travel, they duck into airport bookstores and look for The Next Right Thing.
When they see it, they snap a photo and tag me and I’m collecting them all in my Instagram highlights because I’m giddy about this airport thing and I’m not even sorry about it.
- Find me on instagram @emilypfreeman and next time you’re in an airport, snap a photo and tag me and I’ll add it to my highlights. We’re up to 54 sightings so far!
8. Writing is still the way I process the world.
On Tuesday March 12, 2019, fifty people in six different states were accused by the Department of Justice of playing a part in a major college admission scandal. For weeks I couldn’t get it off my mind. Finally, I sat down and wrote my way through some of my thoughts about it and it became both a podcast episode and a blog post and I was able to move on from it.
After a decade of being a working writer, I’m glad to know writing is still the way I process the world.
- Listen to Episode 75: Tell the Truth
- Read Why I Can’t Get That College Admissions Scandal Off My Mind
9. What to do when things end.
A few weeks ago I finally graduated with my Masters in Spiritual Formation and Leadership. When I came home, I spent some time reflecting on the essentials of closure. From that I came up with 3: put a period on the experience, don’t let the stuff outweigh the sacred, and look for hints of your next right thing in your last right thing.
10. Be a hometown tourist at least once a quarter.
We’ll be traveling some this summer so over spring break we decided to stay home, take a half a day, and head downtown with the kids for lunch, coffee, and an afternoon walk in the middle of the week. It was one of my favorite days of spring this year.