Have you ever looked at an old photo – one that you took or one that you were in – and experienced sadness? The sadness could be because you wished for those days again. Or the sadness could be because the ‘old you’ had no idea what was coming around the bend.

I find that reflecting in this way can be a useful exercise. How have you changed since the photo was taken? We all show physical signs of aging, but how have you changed internally? Do you hold the same values and beliefs? Do you carry the same dreams? Do you feel the same sense of self, or has it shifted? Do you feel mostly different, or mostly the same, and in what ways? What memories are triggered?

This is a photo of my dog Bobo, taken by me before I had children. I had forgotten how she matched the fall leaves so perfectly, often camouflaged in them if you squinted your eyes. I had forgotten how she looked at me so intently and constantly, her ears frizzed up and curly. She was a young dog in the photo, not the bag of bones I remember more clearly, the rickety elderly dog who stayed by my side so faithfully for so long. In the photo, I could almost remember myself behind the camera. So young, so very young, a full quarter of a century ago, young and scrawny and my hair wispy and much blonder than it is now. I was young and innocent of life, then, and my young self was marching straight into Life with a capital L. Happiness was ahead, I don’t forget those happy times, but sadness and loss also loomed. And through it all Bobo remained at my side, I am remembering now. She lay her head on my knees and she was my old faithful dog.

Finding that photo triggered memories and pulled me into reflection. We so often are on autopilot, racing through life. With increased reflection comes increased self knowledge. And with increased self knowledge comes increased intentionality about life choices.