Nowadays it’s becoming harder and harder to take a break. We constantly receive messages on our phones and internet and are online 24/7. Add long working hours and demanding social lives on top of that and before you know it, a lot of time has passed and you’ve just been running along in the threadmill, without pausing to take a breath.
No wonder mindfulness and meditation have become very popular lately. But while mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment and aware of what’s going on around you, self-reflection is about pausing to take a step back. You look at yourself from a distance in an objective, non-judgmental way to learn about yourself. You focus your attention on what’s happening in your life and how you’re feeling. You observe, process and learn from it.
Why you should take time to reflect
Self-reflection is a great way to get to know yourself better and it’s closely tied to personal development. Self-reflection will increase your self-awareness, which is critical when realising positive changes in your life. Most of the time we’re so focused on reaching a certain goal but we forget to assess what our starting point is. If you don’t know where you currently are, how are you going to get to where you want to be?
Besides increasing your self-awareness, self-reflection can also help you process your thoughts and feelings and put things in perspective. It’s a great way to look back and see where you’ve come from, which helps to create a positive mindset and feel proud of yourself!
How to practice the art of self-reflection
You can practice self-reflection in many ways and there’s no right or wrong. I’ve always done it in a fairly unstructured way. I would do it during random moments when I had time to think, or by talking to someone and sometimes I wasn’t even realising I was doing it! Recently I’ve started to get into the habit of reflecting more consciously, because I felt that I would get a lot more out of it if I would do it this way.
I’ve been following a couple of easy steps that have helped me to reflect more consciously on a regular basis.
Be clear on your goal and use powerful questions to trigger yourself
Do you want to reflect on your actions and feelings at work, at home or do you prefer to look at it holistically? Your choice depends on your goal: what do you want to get out of the self-reflection? Learn more about yourself as a person in general? Improve your performance at work? Start a new habit?
Once you’re clear on what you want to get out of the self-reflection practice, it’s time to think about questions you can ask yourself. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
How did I feel today?
What did I learn today?
How did I treat others?
Am I using my time wisely?
Am I living true to myself?
What am I most proud of?
Am I putting enough effort into my relationships?
Am I letting matters that are out of my control stress me out?
Am I achieving the goals that I’ve set for myself?
Am I still growing?
Am I taking care of myself?
What was the most important thing I did today?
How can I contribute more to society/the environment/…
Find a way of reflecting that works for you
The better you like the way you reflect, the higher the chances are that you’ll actually do it and get the benefits from it. Journaling is a much-used way to practice self-reflection, but if you’re not much of a writer this will probably not as effective to you. If you like to talk to a friend, colleague, your partner or your dog, then go for it! As you probably already guessed, I love writing and use the Day One app [insert link] to write down my reflections. For me, writing is the most effective way as it helps me to sort out my thoughts when I see them black on white.
Schedule time to reflect
I used to resent planning because it made me feel trapped and inflexible, but now I’m getting to a point where scheduling helps me to adopt new habits. Because it’s there I don’t have to think about whether I should do it or not. The effect is even stronger when you tie it to something that you already do, for example before breakfast or after dinner.
You have better chances at success when you start a new habit with manageable steps. For example, instead of setting a goal of reflecting every day for an hour, start with 10 minutes every day or an hour a week. Once you’ve mastered that, add a little bit more.
What matters is that you do it, not how you do it. You’ve done all the prep work, so now it’s time to get in there and just try it. Over to you!
Why do you want to begin with self-reflection? What works for you to get started?