Man meditating

Why Wellness Managers Need to Spend More Time on Omphaloskepsis

No, it’s not the prevention of the omphalo virus. Omphaloskepsis is the contemplation of one’s navel as an aid to meditation. And while it’s a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, the larger point is that wellness professionals don’t spend enough time in quiet reflection.

Why does it matter?

Because to be the best version of your professional and personal self, there’s almost nothing more beneficial than purposeful reflection and introspection. Several studies suggest everything from enhanced productivity to reduced stress and improved job satisfaction. And while we all understand the benefits of meditation — a close cousin to reflection — we often put ourselves last in line for the same services we recommend to others.

To be clear, reflection is more than just slowing down to think carefully. It’s ritual that gives your brain time to consider ideas, beliefs, decisions, interactions, and attitude. The routine pause in your day gives your mind space to learn and grow beyond where it was yesterday.

Intuitively, we know reflection is good for us. So why don’t we do it? Some (but certainly not all) reasons include:

  • Not sure where to start. Left alone with our thoughts our minds can bounce around like a bingo machine, creating random ideas leading nowhere.
  • The process is uncomfortable. Sitting still doesn’t sit well with some. We’ve a bias toward getting on with the next thing, not mulling the day’s events. And what will others think of our idleness?
  • The results are uncomfortable. Truly examining ourselves can make us uneasy. We like to avoid that when we can, not make it a regular part of our day.

If you’re thinking you’d like to give daily reflection a try, here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Identify the time, place, and tools. For some, the final 15 minutes of the work day work well. Others wait until they’re on the bus or train. And some prefer to reflect over a glass of wine at home. Consider getting a journal to capture your eureka (and mundane) moments. The process of brain to hand to paper seems to deepen the experience. And it’s particularly enlightening to go back weeks or months after an entry to see how you’ve changed.
  • Come up with a few set questions you can ask every day. What went right today and why? What went wrong? What could I have done differently/better?
  • Cut yourself some slack. There’s no “right” way to do this. So if you miss a day or 2, or come up empty handed from time to time, that’s okay. But like any habit, it takes effort to start — sometimes, a great amount of effort. Don’t shy away from it because it’s hard. Good things are often hard.

A thought on coaches… they offer real value in helping people navigate the issues in a career and in life. But I think it’s a mistake to substitute coaches — whether a professional or a trusted friend — for reflection. To achieve the full benefits of reflection, you need to do the heavy lifting yourself. Consistently.

Once reflection becomes part of your routine, there will no doubt be times when you want to seek the counsel of others to help you move forward. But the process of wrestling with something that’s difficult before you start soliciting help can be enormously beneficial over time. The greatest value is often in the struggle, so don’t deny yourself that opportunity.




Di Stefano, Giada and Gino, Francesca and Pisano, Gary P. and Staats, Bradley R., Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning (June 14, 2016). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 14-093.


Dean WitherspoonDean Witherspoon
Chief collaborator, nudger, tinkerer; leads the most inventive team creating well-being and sustainable living programs. Reach out if you’d like to talk about employee well-being, emotional fitness, or eco-friendly living.