A new year, a time for renewal and change. Many people make New Year Resolutions, a promise to change a habit, to self-improvement. However, I prefer self-reflection. I believe it’s important to routinely take a moment and review personal milestones and core values.
By definition, self-reflection is the act of examining introspectively. The willingness to learn more about how one behaves, their purpose in life, and essence.
This isn’t easy to do. It took me awhile to wrap my head around how someone would ask themselves about themselves. But I understood after thinking about it over a period of time, that it’s about asking myself questions to better understand how I behave, my reactions, and how I think. I approach this by dividing self-reflection into two groups. The micro-level that focuses on personal activities and goals, and the macro-level for my core values. Both types serve a specific purpose, but they each provide valuable insight for me to grow and understand myself better.
Self-Reflection, the Micro-Level
One of my personal beliefs is to be healthy. Thankfully, this is achievable in a number of ways. My favorite activities are running and body weight exercises. Each year I find enjoyment measuring my distance, time, weight, and progress. Then, I compare it to previous years.
However, I must be mindful and realistic at all times. Although this was a year of improvements for average pace and distance, there will be a time that my body can’t beat my past self. That is inevitable and thus my measure of success will change. My goal for the past few years has been to run more miles, but my future self may look to time or consistency over distance.
I see these assessments as practical logistical analysis. However, self-reflection is more about my feelings, thoughts, and emotions.
- How do I feel about my progress or achievement?
- Am I happy, disappointment, or neutral?
- Why do I feel that way?
- Can anything be improved?
- Should the focus change?
- Is this worth repeating?
Through a little thought and self-reflection, I can contemplate how I feel about what I’m doing and why. By asking myself questions throughout the process, I am aware of the entire experience instead of racing to the the finish line (OK, pun intended). Since my existence is finite, I strive to spend my time on experiences that provide meaning to me.
Self-Reflection, the Macro-Level
Self-reflection on a macro-level is challenging. It relates to important questions about beliefs and behaviors. How do I ask myself “what is the meaning of life”? After failing with open-ended questions, I thought long about my behaviors and beliefs. In time, I defined questions that challenge my core values and allow me to contemplate how I approach life.
- Am I staying healthy and treating my body with respect? Exercise and maintain a sensible and balanced diet. It’s OK to splurge occasionally, but not too often.
- Am I spending time on important relationships? Foster important relationships and be present. Remove the toxic ones.
- Am I continuing to learn new skills and engage in activities I feel passionate about? Always be willing to experiment and try new things. Experiences are better then material possessions. If something piques my interest, then dig in and master it.
- Am I growing as a person, learning from my mistakes, and moving forward? There are no mistakes, only lessons. Lessons that can help later.
- Am I putting my best foot forward with everything I do? Give as much effort as possible, whatever it is. Put in my heart and soul, and do my best.
These questions form the foundation of my life. My list isn’t set in stone, and it may change over time. Sometimes, I focus on one of these questions. Other times, all of them. Regardless, they makes me think and question my motives and behaviors without judging myself. It leads to deeper understanding, and how I think and react to situations both in and out of my control. It helps me assess whether my current situation is best, or should I consider change. These thoughts take time to understand. Thankfully, there isn’t a deadline. So I can take as much time as I need.
Self-reflection is a process to understand what we do, why we do it, and how we think and feel about our place in the world. No one wants to waste time on something that doesn’t provide meaning to their life. Experiences give us the opportunities to grow as a person.
So reflect often, and ask important questions both at a micro-level and macro-level. Beliefs and thoughts may change over time, and that’s OK. Self-reflection opens the mind and heart. Now, I challenge you to try it. All it takes is some quiet thinking. Who knows, you may learn something about yourself.