I am currently reading Valerie Tiberius, The Reflective Life: Living Wisely With Our Limits. Dr. Tiberius is a philosopher at University of Minnesota, and she has written a very nice, very accessible book about how we combine direct experience, reflection, and value commitments to create a satisfying life. One of the important emphases in her book is that, while reflection is an important part of living a satisfying life, sometimes it is important not to be reflective but to unselfconsciously enjoy the direct experience of what we are doing. That experience, in turn, informs our choices about what we value and what we want to reflect about.
Tiberius talks about our value commitments as ideals we have chosen and to which we have committed ourselves. The benefit of reflection is in making sure that our everyday choices are congruent with the values to which we are committed. As a result of this reflection, we may change our value commitments or we may change our choices or we may decide they are congruent with each other. This congruence leads to an experience of our lives as meaningful and authentic.
The interesting thing about philosophy is that, while it seems extremely conceptual and academic, in fact, it address the implicit concerns that make for a satisfying life. Tiberius incorporates the findings from positive psychology in looking at how people can live their lives being reflective and also knowing when not to be reflective. Her work integrates psychology and philosophy in a way that helps us think about our real life and not some abstract idea of what our life ought to be like or would be like under some ideal circumstance. As someone said, life doesn’t always give you time to think: It comes at you point-blank. Taking the time to be reflective about what is important to us helps us become oriented in our lives. Then when we don’t have time to think, our pre-constructed clarity is already in place.