Lately I have been struck when talking to friends, how few of them give any time for self-reflection. To me it is invaluable tool as it allows me to think about what I have done in my work, my relationships, my social interaction and review its appropriateness and/or effectiveness and to bring challenge to myself. I can question myself in a positive way and think about whether I should carry on or whether there is some check or balance I should bring.
I recently had a conversation with my sister and as I thought about it I wondered whether I had done something to upset her. I can do things unknowingly so I approached her and asked her the question. As it happened I hadn’t but was relieved that I didn’t have to live with a sense of disquiet any longer.
It is obviously important to think about the work we do. Can we do it better? Could/should I change something? Whatever the many roles we live whether at home or at work, reflection is such an important part of our learning.
A few years ago recognising that I was depressed I took time to reflect about all the changes that were occurring in my life and whether I needed change. As often happens for me, someone gave me a book and that book helped me chart a course that took me eventually into studying for an MA in Screenwriting.
For me keeping a daily journal was incredibly helpful. I do think creating something that externalises our self-reflection is important. It allows us to look back on our journey and reflect on what we see.
Change can be so positive if we approach it well and give ourselves time to think. I have heard it said that to incorporate a complete sea-change in our lives takes about 7 years from inception to completion.
Reflective questions to ask ourselves:
- Strengths – What am I good at? What can I do well? We often can think of our weaknesses but struggle with our strengths. How can I use these more?
- Weaknesses – What are my weaknesses? Would I like to strengthen some of them?
- Skills – What skills do I have and what am I good at? What do I love to do that I have set aside for different reasons?
- Difficulties – Are there any difficulties at work or at home that affect me? Do I feel overburdened, stressed, lacking space in my life?
- Successes – What are the markers in my life that I like and am proud of?
- Happiness – Are there things that I am unhappy with or disappointed about? What makes me happy? What brings me joy?
- Keys – as I look at the different areas of my life are there any keys I can identify that would enhance it?
Self-reflection can feel difficult, a waste of time especially if we are ‘doing’ people. If it doesn’t come naturally to us then it might feel selfish or embarrassing. But practice helps enormously and can allow us to gently bring positive change into our lives.
- Be honest with ourselves. We can express what we feel any way we wish. We will be the only ones reading what we write or create.
- Maybe decide to separate different areas of our life. Reflect on them individually so we have a plan during our time of reflection.
- Do speak to others. If we discover things and are unsure what they mean do share with someone else. We are not meant to be alone trying to work things out. The company of a friend or two on the journeys we take are invaluable.
- Find a quiet place. Do have something to hand, ie a pen and paper, to map out thoughts.
- Do a breathing exercise. Inhale and exhale as many times as is comfortable. For every breath in, perhaps speak something out. It can be very helpful to speak out loud.
- Pour out your emotions. Allow ourselves to cry if we need to. Write down our feelings.
- There are so many truly helpful books to help us get perspective, understanding and self-revelation.
- Focus at times on the difficult things.
- Focus on events that happened and everything around them. How did we feel about them? How did we react and why?
- Learn to understand all perspectives of the situation. Maybe we were irrational at first; maybe we were right in our actions.
- Let go of any negative feelings or grudges we still hold. Try and understand our misery or anger it will help us grow and develop as a person.
- Return to the present with a fresh sense of perspective
- Practice thankfulness – having a thankful heart is wonderfully healing.
- Do something – what have we seen and understood? Is there something positive that we need to do? Be brave, be courageous.
As a God follower part of my self-reflection includes prayer, reading and meditation on the God who loves us beyond measure.