This question may sound silly but I challenge you to really think about this. Too often we think we know ourselves well only to find out, others see us completely different. More importantly, we often try to hide or compensate for our challenges, again, only to find out that others see right through our disguise.

So how do we handle this?  How do we truly get to know ourselves fully and authentically? Well, there are a few ways, but the easiest and most readily available way is through self-reflection.

Self-Refection is defined as “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives.” It’s about taking a step back and reflecting on your life, behavior and beliefs. Most athletes are extremely good at this. They are expected to pick apart each detail, moment by moment, so they can fully understand what went well and what needs to be practiced or improved upon for next time. But what if athletes never did that? What if they never stopped to think about what they could do differently? Seems crazy, right?

Yet that’s what many of us do every single day of our lives.

What Happens When You Don’t Reflect?

We keep moving. We push through. We don’t stop to reflect. We stay in jobs that are (literally) killing us. Relationships that zap our energy. Circumstances that leave us stressed, unhappy, frustrated and tired.

We keep running on the treadmill of life thinking we don’t have time to waste. So, we keep moving in order to keep up. But too often, we just crash and burn. That’s because the only way to keep up with the pace of life is to STOP. To hop off the treadmill. To reflect on what’s working and what’s not. To identify what to keep and what needs to change.

6 Reasons Why Self-Reflection is Important

  1. Improves Self Awareness – Taking time for self-reflection leads to greater self-awareness which in turn leads to self-improvement. In addition, having a strong sense of self improves your confidence and level of self-esteem.
  2. Provides Perspective – Self-reflection allows you to understand and see things from a different point of view. When you take a step back from a situation, you gain a new understanding. You can see the whole picture, not just a piece of the puzzle.
  3. Allows You to Respond, Not React – Ever say or do something in the moment that you wish you could take back? When you react, you’re not thinking about the potential ramifications of your actions. However, when you take time to reflect on a situation, you can respond more thoughtfully and change your behavior for next time.
  4. Facilitates a Deeper Level of Learning – When people are given time to reflect, digest and integrate, they are better able to make abstract connections, as well as retain and recall information.
  5. Improves Confidence – When you reflect, you gain a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not. This in turn, allows you to make better decisions and change your actions. Each time you improve, it helps build confidence with increased knowledge and perspective.
  6. Challenges Your Assumptions – What you believe to be true is not always the truth. One of the best ways to tackle a limiting belief is to step back and debate the validity of that belief. Self-reflection allows you to challenge beliefs and assumptions that are getting in your way.

How to do Self-Reflection?

So now that you know the benefits of self-reflection, here’s a simple guide to the process.

STOP: Take a step back from life or a particular situation.

LOOK: Identify and get perspective on what you notice and see.

LISTEN: Listen to your inner guide, the innate wisdom that bubbles up when you give it time and space to emerge.

ACT: Identify the steps you need to take moving forward to adjust, change or improve.

Two Important Areas to Reflect On?

1. The first is to reflect on YOU. This includes who you are and what you want for your life. Here are some questions to help you.

  • What are my core values? What are the beliefs, guiding principles or ideas that are deeply important to me? What are my priorities?
  • What are my unique gifts, skills, strengths or talents?
  • What are the weaknesses or blind spots I need to watch out for?
  • Who do I want to be?
  • What energy do I want to bring to everything I do?
  • What is the impact or difference I want to make? How do I want to serve, contribute or add value?
  • What are my passions? What do I love? What gets me engaged, motivated and excited?
  • Are there any beliefs that I have that are limiting me?
  • What do I want for my life?
  • When am I at my best?

2. The second is to reflect on the areas of your life that are important to you.

This might include your relationships, home and family, career, health and well-being, finances, goals, spirituality and person growth, and fun and recreation. A tool that I use often with my clients is called the Wheel of Life

The purpose of the wheel is to look at areas of your life which are important to you. In each area, you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10. This gives you an idea of where you are in – or out of balance – and what areas you need to pay more attention to. It gives you perspective on the whole of your life.

Questions to ask yourself in self-reflection

Here are some questions to ask yourself in the self-reflection process:

  • How do I feel overall about this area of my life? On a scale of 1-10, how would I rate my levels of satisfaction and success?
  • What’s working? What’s not working?
  • What do I want more of – or less of?
  • What are my accomplishments/wins/successes?
  • What do I want? What are my hopes or goals?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • How would I improve this area of my life? What actions can I take?

Self-reflection can take part at any time: after an event, when you’re off track, daily, weekly, monthly, after you’ve reached certain milestones or around New Years.

Whichever step you take next is perfect. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do this. It’s only what works for you.

There’s no one size fits all approach to self-reflection, just like there’s no one size fits all approach to life.

So, how are you going to get started?