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Practicing Reflection

December 1, 2020 @ 10:33 am CST

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About this episode

(Season 1, Episode 6)

In this episode, Jessica and Bob take some time to reflect on 2020 and look forward to 2021, sharing some of the questions they find most helpful for reflection and their answers to those questions.

Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Jen Chilek, for her help with our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing.

You can stay in touch with us and connect with our Practicing Connection community by subscribing to our email list.  Subscribe now.


  • Radicalizing Education, Stephen D. Brookfield and John D. Holst
  • Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  • Grit, Angela Duckworth
  • Questions for reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the new year
    • Questions answered on the show:
      • Which of your personal strengths turned out to be most helpful to you this year?
      • What future change did you lay the foundation for this year?
      • If there were absolutely no limits, what would you choose to do in the next year?
      • What lessons did you learn or insights did you gain this year?
      • What is giving you energy? Zapping it?
      • What limiting beliefs are holding you back? What are they holding you back from? What’s one thing you can do in the coming year to move forward?
    • Additional questions we curated:
      • What new things did you discover about yourself this year?
      • What was your biggest breakthrough this year?
      • What’s one way in which your view of the world changed this year?
      • What is one way you want to embody your beliefs and values in the coming year?
      • What thought, wish, or dream have you been holding close but are ready to share in the coming year? 
      • What roles did you play? What relationships are connected to those roles? How did you feel about each?
      • What new relationships did you begin this year? 
      • How will you stay connected to existing important relationships as you cultivate the new ones?



Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in the rapidly changing world. To start our conversation, here are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch.

Bob Bertsch: Hey, welcome. Thanks for joining us on the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast. Today, Jessica and I decided with the end of the year coming up, to come up with some questions that we could use to reflect back on what has been a pretty eventful year for everyone and also some questions to help us look forward to 2021 as well. Both Jessica and I do a lot of facilitation work, and so coming up with these questions and powerful questions that can prompt us to reflect and to think more deeply is something that’s really important to both of us.

I hope I’m speaking for both of us, Jessica, that personally, we both find it helpful as a way to prompt that kind of thinking. What we’re going to do is just share some of these questions with you, but also with each other, and give you our answers and our thinking behind these questions. Hopefully, you can find something in the episode today that will be helpful to you. What do you think, Jessica, you ready to do this?

Jessica Beckendorf: I am so ready. Yes, you were speaking for me also.

Bob: All right. Good, I covered my bases. Thank you. I’ll start with one of my questions. This is a question that I thought was really good for reflecting this year, particularly. I’ll just share the question with you. Here it is. Which of your personal strengths turned out to be most helpful to you this year? I really thought it was a good question for this particular year because a lot of us have had to draw on all kinds of different strengths of ourselves and others to deal with everything that we’ve been dealing with throughout the pandemic. When I think about this answer for myself, I don’t know if I know the exact word I want to use and maybe just adaptability or maybe my willingness to go with the flow.

It’s funny to pull back the curtain a little bit on the podcast, we were just talking about as we prepared for this episode, should we just wing it or plan things out? I tend to be a wing person, [chuckles] I tend to lead that way. It doesn’t always work out great. Sometimes, I wish I was much more prepared, but the ability to be willing to do that this year has been super helpful in dealing with all the uncertainty and the rapid changes that we’ve been facing.

That’s not to say that I didn’t ever get upset or frustrated or sad like many people have about what we’ve been dealing with across the globe, but I felt pretty adaptable about it and willing to like, “Hey, let’s just try it. Let’s get through this part and see if we can get to the other side.” That’s my– I’ll call it adaptability. I decided that’s going to be my personal strength that helped me out most this year.

Jessica: What a great strength. I would say for myself, I have the same strength of being able to adapt to different situations. I attribute a lot of that to you being a military kid, I had to adapt to my environment, every couple of years. I know, that doesn’t just happen to military kids. It’s, all kinds of people move every couple of years and as a kid, I had to adapt to new schools and new homes, new neighborhoods, new cities, new environment. There’s that but I’d like to add for me, I have this resourcefulness that doesn’t allow me to completely interrupt what I really want to do.

Let me give an example of what I mean. The pandemic has kept us physically distanced and away from other people, people we love, people we want to hang out with, our co-workers, for many of us, obviously, not for all of us. My favorite thing to do is meet new people. I could have very easily just said, “Well, I guess I can’t do that.” Yet, I didn’t want to stop doing that. Rather than still trying to go out into public and travel and do all these things that maybe we shouldn’t be doing right now, I found other ways to meet people.

I’ve been having some really rich conversations and new relationships that I really treasure have been coming out of the woodwork [chuckles] because I’ve been digging and looking for them and finding other ways to meet with people and to meet people. That would be my other one. I see your adaptability and would like to tack on resourcefulness.

Bob: Yes, resourcefulness, that’s what I was thinking. There’s a term that Angela Duckworth has used and I can’t put the tip of my tongue on it right now, but “stick-to-itiveness,” whatever. Maybe stubbornness might be a good one. I’m just not going to accept the status quo, I’m going to find a way. I definitely appreciate that about you, Jessica, and agree that’s definitely one of your strengths. Do you have a question you want to share, have us think about?

Jessica: I do. One of my favorite questions– Actually, I feel like I cheated on this one a little bit, Bob, because it came from a calendar that I use, every single week, and there’s also a monthly review of lessons that you’ve learned or insights that you gained. Believe it or not, there are lessons that you can learn and insights you can gain every single week because every week, I have things to write in those spots.

I would like to ask, what lessons did you learn or insights did you gain this year? The things that popped up for me were the theme of validation kept coming up over and over and over in my past notes from this year. It kept coming up in the context of how connected I feel to people that take the time to see me and how connected I feel to people when I take the time to see them and validate them.

Then it also came up in the context of balancing, balancing the– [chuckles] I don’t know, I’m going to jokingly call it the desperate need for validation because that is definitely something that I think can be hard for me that I do need to hear a lot of validation from people. I know that about myself so it actually helps me to not need it quite as much, but balancing the need for validation with a healthy understanding of my need for validation, if that makes sense. That was one of the themes.

I think the other major theme on that was this idea of being overextended, came up over and over and over again. As I was reflecting on all of the questions that I’ve reflected on, I kept feeling this need to separate before pandemic and after pandemic or during pandemic. I don’t know if you felt that way too.

Bob: Yes. I was commenting on that with a colleague just earlier about having a hard time just even thinking back as you’re reflecting on, for me, reflecting on the past year. Just trying to remember anything that happened before March was difficult. I was like, “Did that happen in 2020 or was that last year?” Whatever, it’s like a whole different era of life that, I don’t know, I seem disconnected from a little bit. I definitely feel that about the pre-pandemic, during pandemic separation.

Jessica: I think that one of the things that was interesting about this is, there were a bunch of things I noticed that stayed the same no matter what. This idea of overwhelm, I was overwhelmed when I look back at my notes, and, frankly, I’m really grateful that I have built this habit, and I’m glad that this calendar makes me think about it because I was able to then look back and see what I was writing before the pandemic and everything I’ve written since and it feels like there’s a whole bunch of things that haven’t changed.

Overwhelm, I was overwhelmed before this was declared a pandemic, and I would say worse so, during this pandemic, but that was still a theme, and it’s still a theme that hasn’t gone away, and frankly, I don’t know what to do about it, but here’s something I learned over the course of the last several months. I’m not alone in that. So many people are overextended, and I think just extending as much grace [laughs] to them and to yourself as possible, and just understand that many, many people, probably most people, are overwhelmed, and you’re not alone. I wrote a note to myself, “Stop apologizing for this.”

Bob: As I think about your question, Jessica, I think one of the things that has been really important in terms of what I learned or an insight that I had this year, is that there are some things that I’ve viewed as values-neutral, that I think I’ve been dissuaded that there is such a thing. Part of this was a book that I read called Radicalizing Learning and learning is something that we might think about as, oh, it’s values-neutral. It’s just a good thing. Learning is good, it doesn’t have to have any particular direction, and that book by Stephen Brookfield really dissuaded me of that, that we have to define what we’re striving towards.

Learning is not values-neutral, if you’re learning about something that’s destructive to society or destructive to others, then, that learning can’t be positive, and there’s so many things, and I think my learning about this was deepened following the George Floyd murder, and the protests around that. It’s just so many things, especially as a white man growing up and existing in American society. So many things I just take for granted and take as values-neutral, and they’re not. The systems and structures and things that we think about that way.

That’s been just something that’s been really a big change for me and adjusting to this past year, and then I’ll reflect on and try and be cognizant of going forward that even, maybe the things that we cherish most or many of us cherish about our society and our country, even those things are not values-neutral, they don’t automatically have a positive effect for everyone, and may even be destructive in some ways. That was my big insight from this year.

Jessica: Well, let’s go into another one of your questions, Bob. I’m excited about this.

Bob: Okay. Here’s my next one. What future change did you lay the foundation for this year? I like the question too because it’s not just about accomplishment, success, failure, or what did I get done this past year, what were my successes, or anything like that? It speaks to the fact that all of this change, personal, professional, community change is on a continuum, and that we have to keep doing the work moving forward. That question really spoke to me about maybe I didn’t meet a goal or accomplish a certain thing this year, but I’m doing work to lay a foundation for future change.

100% honestly, I’m not sure what that change is for me. I think it’s something to do with being able to more authentically represent what I believe in more aspects of my life, and I appreciate you as a collaborator, Jessica, and our audience for maybe indulging that a little bit today, of being able to speak a little bit about what I value and what I believe, and bring that part of me to this work in the podcast. Hopefully, what I’ve laid the foundation for this past year is to bring that to more aspects of my work and my life. That’s the change that I hope I’ve laid the foundation for this year.

Jessica: That is big. It’s something that I have also struggled with in the past, and I would say I’m probably in a similar situation but a little bit differently, and that what I’ve been laying the foundation for [laughs] was actually understanding my strengths and my values so much more than I have in the past that I think it’s laying the foundation for me to believe in my own strengths and to believe in my ability to share about what I believe in and what I think and what I value. It’s a little different than what you said but similar, and I do think that that is a huge foundation I’ve been laying.

It’s been on my mind a lot and there’s this feeling of a blockage [laughs] that I can’t describe it any other way. I’m not really sure, but I was feeling blocked before where I’m not feeling so blocked now. I’m believing even in myself more and I know, this isn’t a therapy session or anything like that, but I really am, I’m getting it. I’m understanding where my strengths are, and I’m understanding where I can apply them best, I’m understanding how I can apply them in ways that will help me move the needle in the world in the way that I would like to start seeing it moved, and I can actually start publicly committing to that.

Not that I don’t do that already, but I mostly have been doing it through my work, and given that sense of overwhelm I brought up a little bit ago, I haven’t really spent a lot of time publicly sharing as much but it’s something that I’d felt so blocked on for so long, and now I don’t. I’m excited to see where I take that next year.

Bob: I’m excited to see where you take that, I think I see that a little bit. I think I’ve been able as your collaborator to see that happening a little bit and it’s exciting. What’s your next question for us?

Jessica: This is one of my favorite questions. What is giving you energy or zapping it or sapping it? However, you want to put that.


Bob: I like zapping it.

Jessica: I do too. [laughs]

Bob: It’s more sci-fi.


Jessica: Yes, what is giving you energy or what is zapping it? I like to think this way. I started doing a reflection exercise based on the book Designing Your Life, and they have you take a look at the activities you’ve done over the past couple of weeks and assign sort of a is this giving you energy? Are you feeling engaged when you do it? They don’t have you look at what’s giving you energy and what’s zapping it but I changed this activity to an end of year reflection so that I could start to understand more about what I maybe need to start backing off from or saying no to as well as saying yes too more often.

Some of the things that I found, this is one of those pre-pandemic and during pandemic ones because I will say that before the pandemic something that gave me so much energy was performing for live audiences. I’ve performed improv. I have done a minuscule amount of stand up. I was just starting to do open mics. I’d only done like three of them before the pandemic [laughs] and I was looking forward to trying to do more. I had done a roast and it was a lot of fun. Not only was it fun, though, it gave me so much energy to perform for a live audience. I’m still performing online, but it’s not the same and I love it still, and I’m not going to give it up but it’s totally different and it doesn’t give me the energy that it used to, for sure.

Now, what’s been giving me energy is when– I’ve noticed that when I have time for thinking, writing, and creative projects, or just being able to be creative a little bit, it gives me so much energy. I can work until 2:00 in the morning on something like that and not even realize that that much time has gone by. Taking classes have always given me energy, and I’ve had the opportunity to take more classes since the pandemic started because everyone went online. Suddenly, it wasn’t having to pay for the registration for the class, and then also having to travel and get a hotel room or Airbnb for several nights. Now, I get to take the class from home, which means I get to learn more.

That’s the kind of stuff that’s really been feeding me. Then, I mentioned this a little earlier, the fact that I’ve been able to continue to meet new people. You can network remotely, you can network with people that you’ve never met before when it’s all virtual. I’ve found that to be true, and it’s been feeding my soul. What’s been zapping my energy is– This feels awful but in order for me to enjoy connecting with people, someone has to coordinate it. Sometimes, the reason why I have social connections that are so few and far between is that coordinating, getting together, zaps my energy. [laughs]

It’s a really terrible spot to be in because I don’t like to coordinate the get-togethers but I do like to get together. That zaps my energy and then, frankly, the overwhelm, having way too much on my plate. Even though it’s pretty much all been good stuff, it gets to a tipping point where it’s not so good anymore. I start to feel I have no freedom, even though I love the stuff I’m working on. It’s a weird spot to be in. [laughs]

Bob: I feel that one definitely. This is a great question. What’s giving me energy is conversation of almost any kind. [chuckles] I guess maybe this speaks to the isolation of the pandemic and the importance of social support. Especially small group, or one-on-one conversations, obviously, that’s a large part of what we do on the podcast. This work gives me all kinds of energy, but yes, just other conversations as well. That’s been really important in keeping me energized.

This is one where maybe a little too aligned on in terms of the zapping, I won’t go too deep on what zapping my energy with being overcommitted. Like you were talking about, Jessica, I’m just overcapacity, and where it really zaps my energy is if I let my mind go to the list. The list of all the things and not even the list of things that I should be working on today, but the list of things that I need to keep in mind going forward.

“This has to be done, and this has to be done, and I haven’t paid enough attention to this thing.” That’s something that I had been trying to deal with and the more overcapacity I get, the less I am dealing with it. I had been trying to deal with it by practicing meditation, just training my mind to not fall into those traps of obsessing over the things, and letting those lists run through my head and zap my energy.

That’s the curse of being over-committed, right? Then you’re like, “I don’t have time for meditation. No, I can’t do it.” I have to get back to making time for that, training my mind to not go down that road, and hopefully, I can have more energy to address all the overcapacity stuff. We’re doing the thing that I think both of us have mentioned before that we shouldn’t do, which is talk about how busy we are because everybody’s busy. We get it, everyone’s busy, but we’re busy too is what we’re saying. This is how we’re trying to deal with it.

Jessica: I think the difference is, a lot of people say, don’t glorify busy. Our society glorifies being busy and I have tried so hard– I actually feel the opposite about being busy. I’m tired of being busy. I don’t want to be busy. I’m not glorifying it. No, that’s not true. I want to be busy, but I don’t want to be over busy. [laughs] I feel almost a little shame about being overextended. In part, I feel like there’s a weakness there in not being able to say no, there’s an ego issue. Somebody asks me to do something, and they’re like, “We really would like someone with your skills.” I’m like, “Oh, did you just compliment me?” [laughs]

Bob: I’m guilty of that one.

Jessica: I feel that there’s a weakness there, and I know that being able to– In my head, it’s like, you’re doing it all wrong, and that’s what I keep telling myself and it’s not helpful. It’s definitely not helpful. One of the things I’ve worked on is at least trying to communicate better and trying not to even talk very much about being busy outside of conversations like this. I’ve really just tried to take everything in stride as much as possible, and I’ve really just thought to myself over and over again, “Everyone is busy. Many people, not everyone, but many people are as busy as you are. Just keep going.”

Bob: I got one more for us. This is one that’s a little bit more about looking ahead, I think. If there were absolutely no limits, what would you choose to do in the next year? This idea of getting rid of the limits, all of the reasons why not, right?

Jessica: Does this include COVID?

Bob: I need money. How am I going to make a living? What about the pandemic? Whatever, all those excuses, but if there were no limits, what would you choose to do in the next year? Just talking about all the energy I have gotten from conversation this year, I think that’s something I would recommit myself towards. Obviously, with you, Jessica, doing Practicing Connection in a Complex World, I care about how people connect, and if you’ve listened to past episodes, you’ve heard us talk about building community through relationship and working toward positive change that way.

I haven’t been able to commit myself to that kind of work, of co-creating things with others, to make positive change in the world. With no limits, I would just do that. I would just, whether it was in small groups, or in larger projects, just go out and co-create with people to bring about positive change. I do want to mention about this, that– I mentioned some of the external limits of how to make a living right now, the limitations in gatherings and things like that with the pandemic going on, but there’s internal limitations too.

It’s just like my level of comfort for doing that, my fear of potentially putting myself out there and just telling people that I want to work with them to bring about a particular change. I think it’s important to think about those limits as well, but that’s my answer to what I would choose to do if I could next year.

Jessica: Wow, this question is always really hard for me and I’ll say why, just in case there’s someone out there that has a similar issue. I used to feel like answering a question like this, even though it was self-imposed, would pigeonhole me [laughs] into a specific goal, which is very silly, but a real thing that used to happen. Questions like this are often difficult for me to answer. However, I think if there were absolutely no limits, including limiting beliefs, I’m going to add that for my version of the question, I would choose to do more publicly for one thing.

What I mean by that is whether that means I would try to become a YouTube star, I don’t know exactly what that means, but I would want to share more of my creativity outwardly. I don’t do a lot of that anymore. I love it so much. That’s one thing. The other thing I am choosing to do in the next year I’ll say that is, I have got to figure out how to stay connected to my existing really important relationships, people I really love as I cultivate new ones because I shared a little bit ago, I love meeting new people and creating new relationships and that’s a hard balance for me because I do have existing relationships that are really important to me and people that I really love. The more you spread yourself thin, of course, the harder it is to continue to stay connected. That’s my two things for that question.

Bob: Awesome. You’ve got one last question or as I’m looking at our shared notes, maybe a set of questions for us.

Jessica: Yes. It is a set of questions. They are meant to go together. I’ll give you an example of how I answered them to maybe help you see where I was going with it. The questions are, what limiting beliefs are holding you back? What are they holding you back from? What’s one thing you can do in the coming year to move forward? Those are all really big questions. I’ll just give you an example of one of the things I reflected on for this.

I have more than one limiting belief [laughs] but the one that I’ll share today is one that we’ve talked about before. I have a pretty terrible imposter syndrome issue. I just feel like as soon as I start sharing that everyone will see that I don’t really know everything, which is really funny because to me, when you’re sharing in that way, it really is about learning. I think I’ve said this before, Bob, learning is never wrong. Share to your heart’s content. [laughs] At least in the context that I’m talking about sharing, I’m looking at sharing for the purpose of connecting and learning.

If my limiting belief is holding me back from sharing, that’s a problem. It’s holding me back from sharing and it’s holding me back from– I should say it was holding me back because we talked about already how I’m feeling like this barrier is being lifted from me even as we’re talking. Honestly, I think it’s partly because we’ve been recording this podcast. Since we started to record this, and this is literally a way of sharing what you’re [laughs] thinking out with the world. Since that started to happen, this barrier has started to dissipate for me.

This idea that I’m an imposter and everyone’s going to know that I don’t know everything [laughs] or they’re all going to laugh at me. I don’t know what it is that was holding me back because now that I’ve been sharing, I realized that it was holding me back from really being able to learn what I want to learn and grow in ways that are harder to grow when you’re just holding it all to yourself.

One thing I can do in the coming year to move forward is I need to continue to share in different ways. Right now, I’m sharing through this podcast, but I think I need another way. I need to think about what that’s going to look like, but I’d like to do this in another way and in a way that energizes me. Like I said before, creative projects, writing, thinking, stuff like that.

Bob: This is a good set of questions. Great job. It has me thinking, definitely. I think my limiting belief that’s holding me back, I’m going to call it a fixation on fixing. Going into situations, looking for what needs to be fixed, and assuming that there is a way to fix them and that I’m the person to fix them. [chuckles] That’s my limiting belief. It’s definitely holding me back and I think it’s holding me back from letting things emerge and even learning things about other people and holding me back from being totally co-creative in the way that I want to be, and that I think is important to be moving forward.

How could I address that moving forward? Hopefully it’s just being more open to that, understanding that, accepting that I don’t have all the answers, that sometimes there aren’t any answers to have. Sometimes there’s not anything to be fixed. [chuckles] We had a conversation about that outside of the podcast, about assuming there was something to be fixed in a meeting that I went into. When someone said, “No things are good.” I was completely flustered and was like, “Oh my God.” I completely lost my ability to facilitate the meeting and Jessica came in and bailed me out big time.

I just assumed, hey, that something’s broken here. We’re here to– Jessica and I are here to figure out what to do about it. When people were like, “No, it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.” That really threw me off and I think that was that limiting belief, that fixation on trying to fix things all the time that was holding me back from– In that meeting, maybe, hopefully, it didn’t totally hold us back but in the context of that meeting, it could have held us back from really seeing all kinds of new and emerging possibilities, starting with the idea that, hey, things are pretty good, how can we tweak it here and there and improve things? Hopefully, I’m going to work on that next year, and hold me accountable.

Jessica: I will, I promise. I don’t think that it made the meeting any less meaningful. Just so you know. [chuckles]

Bob: Thanks. This has been really good. Thanks so much for sharing your questions and answers today.

Jessica: Same here. This was actually fun to go through. It’s getting easier and easier to share, I guess. [laughs] This was really exactly what I needed it to be and I’m looking forward to finding out what others think and if they go through some of the similar questions.

Bob: I hope that everyone who’s listening, takes a little bit at a time, whether it’s these questions or other questions that prompt your reflection and visioning forward to 2021, which I think everybody’s anxious to do [chuckles] to get past 2020 and look forward to 2021. Just take a little bit of time to do it. We want to thank you as always for joining us for the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast.

Jessica and I had come up with a few other questions. We’re going to put those in the show notes, and you can find those show notes and links to other things that we talked about including the books that we talked about today on the military families learning network website at, just click the podcast button and find Practicing Connection in a Complex World to find those show notes.

We usually end with gratitude and we do want to give our gratitude to Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for helping us with promotion and to Nathan Graham for composing and performing all the music that you hear on the podcast. I think we talked about it already, how much we enjoyed this, Jessica. Gratitude is coming from me to you. Thank you for this season of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. Thank you for being such a generous collaborator, great friend, helping me get through this year. I’m so looking forward to everything that we’re going to do together in the future.

Jessica: Thank you. Thank you so much, and gratitude back at you. I’ve I really enjoy working with you. This is some of the most rewarding parts of my work. Just being able to think about these themes and topics on the level that we’re able to do that. I feel very lucky, thank you.


Bob: Thanks to all our listeners as well. I hope that you’ll join us for the next episode, which, by the way, is coming up in February of 2021. We’re going to take January off, but we’ll be back, February 2021, with new episodes of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. In the meantime, happy holidays, happy new year, and keep practicing.

[00:40:11] [END OF AUDIO]


December 1, 2020
10:33 am CST
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