“Self-Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success.” – Richard Carlson
“Who are you” is one of the more polite, derogatory chants commonly heard in football stadiums when opposition fans want to question the ability of their opposition team or selected players within that team. I regularly attend Premier league football games with my son and it is a chant we are very familiar with! Some dictionaries even suggest it may have been in common use in the mid 19th century in London, again as a means of insult to the person on the receiving end of the chant. So, in posing this question “Who are you…” not intended as a derogatory question or even a chant; however consider it as a means of provoking yourself to have a think about who you really are, or indeed who we, as humans really are and why it can be a source of great help and comfort in times of trial to know who we really are.
In these days of isolation and social distancing, the opportunity for self-reflection is greatly enhanced. On the one hand, increased self-reflection can become a useful positive enquiry that allows us to become more comfortable with who we really are at our core or essence. On the other hand, self-reflection can also become a vehicle by which we drive ourselves into a space of anxiety and worry and even recriminations about how we are perceived, or what we have achieved or even what we will become when normality or “new normality” is restored to our lives.
“Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed.” — Indra Devi
Why Does Self-Reflection Matter?
As the famous saying goes – “only in absolute darkness do you see the brightest of lights”. Setbacks, pain, traumas often challenge us and take us to our limits, which if crossed, can sometimes break. Many people will struggle to come out of such a situation and often fall into patterns of negativity and defeat. On the other hand, some people are able to focus their thoughts on what can be salvaged, how things can be turned around, they work on balancing and clearing their energies and start entertaining thoughts based upon what they want, instead of what they do not want. A higher degree of resilience increases the effectiveness of one’s response towards life’s difficulties. Having this ability to handle adversity also makes life more fulfilling.
Studies have shown that we can potentially re-wire our response to adversity, thereby overtime, increasing our EQ from low to high. This means, one can actually work on consciously developing this ability. People with high levels of EQ (emotional intelligence) perceive themselves as having more control and influence in adverse situations than those with lower EQs. Even in situations that seem overwhelming or out of their hands, those with high EQ invariably find or interpret some part of the situation to be under their control. People with low EQ usually give up. Those with high EQs hold themselves accountable for dealing with situations regardless of the cause, while the ones with lower EQs lapse into victimisation and helplessness. People with high EQs have the ability to feel “this too shall pass,” and go on. One with lower EQs believe there is no way out of these unsavoury situations.
On the other hand, people with higher EQs:
• Work out what they actually want from life – without working out what they want there is no way of getting closer to it.
• Understand their strengths in order to start-making proper use of them.
• Work on their weaknesses and at the very least mitigate the negative impact they have.
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret J. Wheatley
The power of reflection in personal growth
When you set some goals for yourself, in any area of life, you should be required to grow and stretch to achieve those goals. Personal growth is one of the most beautiful experiences in life. It is not always noticeable; at least until a great deal of time has passed and you have achieved several of your goals. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that personal growth happens in one big chunk. Personal growth is a daily ongoing process. By improving yourself just a little each day; the cumulative effects add up until you have made some really significant progress. If you want to be twice as good at something in 6 months’ time as you are today, you need to make some improvements today, tomorrow and each day that follows.
You will benefit from having a learning plan to help you identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes required, to become the person you want to be. You reflect upon yourself to identify these. In addition to this, on a daily basis, you will benefit reviewing your performance and identify things you can improve on. It’s not as difficult as it might sound. All you need to do is commit yourself to a little reflection at the end of the day and; ask yourself some key questions to identify areas for improvement. Not only will this help you to experience some personal growth each day; but you will also experience less stress during these trying times. Studies even show that self-reflection, be it meditation or otherwise, is a powerful method to reduce stress and enable people to make better decisions. A 2017 study by Gino et al. at Harvard Business School researching UK commuters also found a similar result when those who were prompted to use their commute to think about and plan for their day were happier, more productive, and less burned out than people who didn’t.
“Engaging in meditative self-reflection and gaining increased control of inner experiences provides a person with a sense of control over fear and trembling and the chaos of life.” —Kilroy J. Oldster
KEY AREAS OF SELF-REFLECTION
Each person has their own way of self-reflecting. For some, self-reflection is about letting their experiences, endeavours, encounters, or actions pass within their mind, form an opinion so they can learn from it.
More importantly, it is a way to uncover whether they are still on track or what needs to be done to refocus. It means accepting risk, be able to learn from failures or develop as a person.
Think about leading your life as opposed to life leading you.
Success & Struggles
Take a pen and a piece of paper out daily and journal as you self-reflect. In quiet solitude, reflect on your successes as you uncover what led to them. What was it you did which led to your success?
The same goes for struggles in your life; what led to this struggles? Most importantly, how can I overcome it in the future?
What are your personal and career goals? What do you want to achieve in 1, 3 and 5 years? What about other areas of our life? It is important to review and reflect upon both short-term and mid- term timeframes. Looking too far ahead can be a distraction since many things in your life can be influenced by many different factors.
Goals can include your career or business, your social life, improving your health, sports and fitness, even improving your mindset as the list could be endless.
Ask yourself the following question…
• Are the things you are doing right now likely to help you reach your goals?
Setting the time aside to self-reflect, reviewing your goals regularly as you evaluate whether these are still realistic and obtainable.
1. Ask Questions
“Self-reflection entails asking yourself questions about your values, assessing your strengths and failures, thinking about your perceptions and interactions with others, and imagining where you want to take your life in the future.” – Robert L. Rosen
Ask yourself: where I am right now, and where do I want to be. In other words, just to verbalise how far away I am from achieving my goal. Since we tend to set a lot of goals, but in the midst of making efforts and “swimming” to those goals, we actually lose them. So it’s important for us to identify that goal first and then keep on reminding ourselves.
2. Figure out the next steps
Now it’s important to ask yourself that some questions to help you identify next steps after understanding what’s going on. Again, these questions are to help you identify what to do next and you should already know the answer to the question if you actually carefully reflected on yourself.
“The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination… until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.” – Iyanla Vanzant
A core question you can ask yourself is that: “should I stay where I am?” Your question might also be “How should I work towards my goal?” Since the latter one is broader, so there’s more space for you to think of the answers and the next steps.
You might find this article useful on this topic: Apply Problem Solving To Yourself and Solve Your Own Problems.
3. Find the answers
“These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed.” – Ricky Martin
Now it comes down to the most important part after analysing all the factors – what should you do? Most of us have answers in mind, so what really matters is whether you are willing to make the effort required. Once you are aware of the answers, you can now develop a strategy, but what really matters is the implementation.
It is so easy to lose ourselves among all those distractions, but we still need to know our priorities. The implementation part is the most important. Instead of feeling demotivated and “unproductive” while having no idea of what you are doing, at least you now know where to start.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ― Melody Beattie
By harnessing the power of self-reflection, we can build ourselves into better humans and above all provide a compassionate society. That is what we are all likely to benefit from right now.
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