Dwelling vs. Doing

There is a fine line between reflection and dwelling.

Reflection is debriefing what has happened; gathering lessons from the experience for application in future situations (positive reflection will improve performance).

All dwelling starts as reflection…just not the positive kind. It focuses less on the actual facts of the situation and focuses heavily on the personal failings we often identify in ourselves as the method to evaluate our personal performance.

Here’s the main problem with dwelling (that I personally know all too well):


Seriously, we knock ourselves out of the fight…the fight doesn’t do it for us. In education we care deeply about our students, parents, and colleagues; this is a powerful aspect of our profession, we are all passionate about people and the development of others. Yet, it becomes easy for us dwell on mistakes we have made within those relationships.

Dwelling isolates us from support. Dwelling suffocates us from doing.

Dwelling becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because dwelling remember starts as reflection…reflection is gathering lessons from an experience for future application. What happens when the lessons we gather tear us down? What does that precipitate in future situations of similar context? I can promise it isn’t good…

So this all begs the question; how do we move past dwelling into doing?

Here are a few strategies that have worked for me before:

  1. Set micro goals: > Create a framework for daily success if we find ourselves in the dwelling funk…
  2. Get Doing…Anything: > Dwelling loves to catch us alone, it is when our mind is idle that it will strike most aggressively.
  3. Learn Where we Dwell: > We each have certain times when dwelling is most pronounced, mine is right before falling asleep, I can sense when I’m dwelling because my mind is restless…in those moments rather than dwelling for two hours trying to sleep, I’ve learned to get up read, journal, or brew some decaf coffee. I don’t go back till I know I’m going to immediately fall asleep.
  4. Seek Support: > We cannot be in this profession long-term being the lone ranger, gather others who will help keep our minds positive in perspective and actions.

We will all face times of dwelling…it is inevitable…we are in a profession that can consume the mind because our minds are relationally wired. Being proactive in confronting dwelling will yield positive outcomes not only for ourselves, but our students and others around us!

Remember when we feel ourselves dwelling…get up and start doing! Have a blessed Fall Friday! 😉 Thanks for reading!!


  1. Anthony, I love the suggestions you offer for when we find that we are lost in dwelling rather than reflection. I also find that it’s helpful to know when we don’t dwell, and for me that’s when I’m on a run or walk. Once I get going, my mind wanders, but it goes to good places. My breathing gets in line with my pace and there is a synergy between body, mind and soul that creates an important space for me. Thanks again for this post! Now, I’ve got to get out the door to the running trail!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anthony,
    Reading your blog was a good reminder of not letting “yesterday take up too much of today”. Establishing some sort of routine when we find ourselves dwelling is a great suggestion.

    Thanks for sharing,


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