Ironically, even though things slowed down considerably during the Covid crisis, many of us have returned to living our lives the way we did prior to the pandemic: we rush through the day.
Trying to get things done quickly, so we can attend to the next task or person that requires our attention and energy.
When we eventually step off the treadmill of constant busy-ness, only a few of us engage in self-reflection and activities that really help us recuperate from the exasperation, stress, as well as mental and emotional overwhelm. Some people take a break over the weekend, go for a spa treatment, veg in front of the TV, or hang out with friends.
Yet, few will take their attention inside. At least long enough to reflect on their mental, emotional and physical well-being. Never mind how their actions (and reactions) are making their life less enjoyable.
And, for those of you who are meditators, I hear you. Yes, when you meditate you bring your focus and attention inside. (If you don’t know how to meditate yet, have a look at the Energy, Focus and Calm: Receive Your Custom-Fit Meditation Practice VIP Day and reap the rewards.)
In this instance, I’m referring to bringing your attention to your inner world, to reflect upon yourself.
The truth is self-reflection seems to be a dying practice. Some people either feel they don’t have the time, or that it’s a waste of time. While others are afraid to take a good, long, hard look at themselves. This is a mistake, because there is so much to be gained by examining yourself, your past and present.
Self-reflection provides many advantages that can make your life easier:
You learn about yourself.
- Becoming more self-aware, has not become common practice yet. Some people say they are too busy, or at least they think they are. Others would prefer to distract themselves rather than spend one second in self-reflection. Yet, when you know yourself, you tend to make better plans for yourself because you’re acutely aware of what motivates you, what you want and don’t want for yourself and your life. You consciously utilize your strengths and abilities, comfortably express who you are and consequently, live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
- The good news is you can improve your daily experiences by taking a few minutes at the end of each day to review your day – the choices you made, the positives and negatives. You look at how you can make different choices when faced with similar situations in future. (Useful if you want to avoid experiencing certain unpleasant situations again!)
- Recognizing your weaknesses and choosing to deal with them is powerful. You will stop shooting yourself in the foot over and over. Spare yourself the agitation, frustration and despair – acknowledge your weaknesses, accept them and actively engage with them to dissolve them.
You learn from your past.
- If you look at the biggest mistakes you’ve made in your life, you’ll find they’re surprisingly similar. You may have either spent money you couldn’t afford, got involved with someone you shouldn’t, or made poor decisions to get away from stressful situations.
- If you’ve never taken the time to review these mistakes, and made adjustments, you will have repeated them.
- Reviewing the past also helps you identify what has worked, so you can advantageously repeat those actions for your benefit and that of others.
You learn to take (more) thoughtful action in future.
- Many people are very action oriented and avoid “wasting” time on thinking too much. (Often because they’re driven by the adage, ‘Time is money.’) Rather than just jumping in with both feet, it can be incredibly helpful to spend some time thinking and strategizing. In the medium and long term, you’ll save yourself a lot of time. Why? Because you won’t have to redo certain tasks because they weren’t planned properly in the first place.
- Furthermore, spare yourself the frustration of falling short of your goals, because you did not notice certain things you would have seen, had you given yourself sufficient time to plan and think things through properly.
Here is a six-step process to aid your self-reflection, as you examine your past and present:
1. What happened?
Describe the event to yourself.
2. What was I thinking and feeling? What was I thinking at the time? What did I think afterwards?
“I was stressed and failing. I felt a sense of relief when I first dropped out, but then I felt a sense of dread and felt lost.”
3. What was good or bad about the experience?
“I gained free time and my stress was relieved. But now I don’t have a plan for my future and my job prospects are much more limited.”
4. How does this affect the various parts of my life? What does it say about me?
“My personal and career development is stifled. My significant other is upset with me and is threatening to leave. My parents kicked me out of the house and told me to find a job. This suggests that I am impulsive and handle stress poorly. I also don’t ask for help when I need to.”
5. What else could I have done?
“Talked to a friend. Spoken to my professors. Sought professional help. Lightened my course load.”
6. If this happened again, how would I handle it?
“I would acknowledge the problem I’m facing, instead of run from it. I will ask for help and get the assistance and guidance I need. Now, I will consider the long-term implications of what I’m about to do, instead of just the short-term ones.”
Self-reflection is a hugely beneficial self-development tool that’s easy to learn and practice. Imagine really getting to know yourself to leverage your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, and avoid repeating mistakes.
See the value in learning from your past and present. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day and practice focused self-reflection using the six-step process.
Trust me, you’ll become an even better version of yourself. You’ll function more at your optimum. You’ll express more of who you are.
Your joy will intensify. Your income will increase. Your relationships will improve.
Your life will become easier.