The Reflective Life

A new workshop for Princeton students seeking to live life well

Workshop No. 1

Members of Workshop No. 1 share a basic ambition: to get a better sense of how we should spend our lives. 

We start from the premise that each of us has a unique contribution to make to others, following from our unique combination of personal qualities and capacities.  By deepening our self-understanding, expanding our exposure to other people, and holding each other accountable to the changes we want to make in our lives, we can build toward a lasting sense of purpose.

The Workshop has two parts, designed to get us thinking both about the big picture of our lives and small adjustments that we can make over the next few months.


1.     Weekly group meetings

In weekly group meetings, individuals will take turns making brief presentations on their lives, after which we’ll debate how to approach different issues and opportunities.  Presentations will have three stages:   

  • People will start with basic biographical information and an overview of their interests. 
  • The heart of the presentations is the second part: identifying the one or two projects, activities, or experiences over the past few years that were most exciting.
  • Which of your personal qualities, capacities, and values did each of those experiences draw on? 
  • Can you think of how you might find your way to similar experiences now, over the coming summer, or after graduating from Princeton?
  • Since building fulfilling lives not only entails making good on our unique personal qualities and capacities but also overcoming our fears, presenters will then reflect on a few more questions: What are you most afraid of about life after Princeton?  How has that fear developed over time?  How could you imagine someone trying to overcome it?

After a presentation is done, members will ask follow-up questions, with the goal of getting presenters thinking about issues in new ways.  Out of these questions a conversation will emerge among the group about the different approaches we take to resolving our uncertainties and making good on opportunities. 


2.     Small groups 

The Workshop aspires to be a place where we make practical improvements to our lives while holding each other accountable to living by those improvements.  To that end, there will be an optional second component to the Workshop: small groups that meet every other week, where you can talk through a specific change that you want to make in your life with another Workshop participant and Alec, the group’s organizer. 

First, we’ll reflect on our lives—our schoolwork, the state of our friendships, our career plans, our relationships with family members, our romantic life, and our extracurriculars—and then we’ll identify something that we want to change in one of those areas.  What are the various ways that we might do so?  Which of those options seems best?  What’s keeping us from doing it?  How can we get around those obstacles?  After we’ve identified an adjustment to an area of our lives and a plan for making it, we’ll meet every other week to hold each other accountable and to talk through any issues.  No one is going to have the answers for anyone else, but we’ll be partners in trying to find our way to them.

What could these small groups give us that we don’t get in friendships?  We wouldn’t be constrained by the expectations and histories of friendships.  We wouldn’t need to “force” conversations into meaningful territory.  We wouldn’t face the risk of losing a relationship by saying embarrassing things.  And, lastly, there wouldn’t be any guilt in “dumping” problems on the friend.  Simply put, we will be open-minded partners in building toward better lives.

Alec Gewirtz.jpg

If you’re interested in the possibility of participating in Workshop No. 1, just drop me an email (at or message me on Facebook.  We’ll have an info session on February 10, after which you can decide on whether you want to join.