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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

Many world champion athletes, business people, and spiritual teachers all cite self-reflection as an essential key to success. This is also true for ‘everyday people’ who are fulfilled and happy with their lives.

So why is self-reflection so important? I’m going to tell you why self-reflection matters to you and how you can do it to lead a more successful and fulfilling life.

What Is Self-Reflection?

Self-reflection 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.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing triathlete Craig (Crowie) Alexander speak at a conference in Sydney, Australia. Craig is a five-time Ironman World Champion and all around inspiring human being. One of the things he emphasized was the amount of time he took for self-reflection and the impact that had on his confidence and performance.

After each race, he and his team would reflect to understand what went well and what could be improved for next time. They picked apart every tiny detail, from the shape of his helmet, to when he took a salt tablet, to his emotional state throughout the race.

In practice, he did the same. The time he took to stop and reflect on all the details of his performances shaved seconds off his racing time, which was often the difference between winning – or not.

Now you might be thinking, of course he did! That’s his job. But, what if after every race he just kept moving? What if he never stopped to think about what he could do differently? Seems crazy, right?

Yet that’s what many of us do with the very thing that’s most important – 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.

You may have heard the saying:

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“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again but expecting different results.”

Yet that is what so many of us do – continue on through life doing the same things and wondering why we aren’t getting a different outcome.

When a project or something doesn’t go well at work, what do you do? You take a moment to step back and see what went wrong and what you could do differently next time. The same should be true with life, yet we don’t often take time to reflect. Why not?

I’ve heard many reasons over the years. Maybe you feel you don’t have time and there is just too much else on your plate. Or maybe you don’t have the energy. You’re tired and feel like it’s just one more thing to do. Perhaps you don’t realize the significant and how it can positively transform your life. Or maybe you just feel like it’s too hard. Many of my clients feel they don’t know where to start or what to consider.

This is often why people hire a coach or consultant. To provide time and space they aren’t giving themselves. To ask the right questions and give space for the answers.

The good news is, you don’t need to hire anyone to reap the enormous benefits of self-reflection. All it requires is awareness, commitment and dedicating time.

The Importance of Self-Reflection

Many people find doing self-reflection difficult or troublesome. They don’t understand why they need it, and they don’t see the benefits doing self-reflection. Why is self-reflection important for you? Here I will reveal the benefits of self-reflection:

Improve Self-Awareness

It’s essential to understand yourself at a deeper level. Self-awareness and a little soul searching is critical to success in all areas of life.

Taking time for self-reflection about life 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.

Provide 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 the piece of the puzzle. You become more open minded.

Ever hear the saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees”? This is an expression that highlights someone who is so involved in the details of a situation that they can’t see the whole picture.

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This is the benefit of self-reflection. You can zoom out and see the whole forest.

Allow 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 spend time to reflect on a situation, you can respond more thoughtfully and change your behavior for next time.

Early in my career, a boss made a recommendation about this very thing. He advised me to wait 24 hours before addressing something I was upset about. This forced time of self-reflection allowed me to take stock of my feelings and emotions. I was then better able to approach the situation or issue with a level head and greater perspective.

Facilitate a Deeper Level of Learning

Many studies share the common conclusion that self-reflection facilitates a deeper level of learning and understanding. It’s a critical part of the education process. I’ve found this to be true in my own work as a facilitator and trainer.

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. In fact, whenever I’m facilitating a group training and I introduce a new concept, I provide time for self-reflection about life. Even 5 minutes to integrate and think about what you’ve learned can make a critical difference.

Think about this for yourself. If, after you read this article, you move right on to the next thing, how much do you think you will remember?

However, if you read this article and take five minutes afterward to think about your learnings, how much more will you retain?

Improve 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 your confidence with increased knowledge and perspective.

Challenge 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.

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How to Self-Reflect (A Step-By-Step Guide)

Ok, so you understand the benefits and you’re ready to do get started? Here’s how:

The Process of Self-Reflection

This is a simple guide to the process of self-reflection:

  • 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.

What to Reflect On

There are two important components for self-reflection.

1. Reflect on YOU

This includes who you are and what you want for your life. This is the self-awareness piece we talked about earlier.

Many ancient philosophers from Aristotle to Socrates and Pythagoras touted the benefits of “knowing thyself”.

Here are some questions to ‘ponder’ when you reflect on 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? (after all, if you don’t know what you want, how do you expect to get there?)
  • When am I at my best?

2. 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 great tool that many coaches and those in the personal development space have used for years is called the “The Wheel of Life”. While the original wheel of life dates back to Buddhism, the modern wheel of life was created by Paul Meyer, a pioneer in the life coaching and self-improvement industry.[1]

    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.

    If you google ‘wheel of life’ you’ll get hundreds of different options to choose from. But here I recommend you the following examples. I prefer to use ones that have YOU or a space for YOU in the middle. I’ve also included a blank template where you can fill in the areas of your life which are most important to you right now.

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        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? (People often default to what’s wrong or hasn’t worked – it’s just as important to focus on what’s going right!)
        • 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?

        When to Self-Reflect

        The more you can make self-reflection a habit and part of your routine, the greater the impact will be. Below are some ideas to get you started. Identify which ones will work for you. Then grab your calendar or phone and schedule a reminder to make it happen!

        • New Years – There’s a reason New Years resolutions became a tradition. It’s a great time to reflect on the year that has passed and identify what you want (your intentions, goals, desires) in the year ahead.
        • Milestones – I have a friend that uses her birthday every year as a time for self-reflection. You can also choose an anniversary, the Spring equinox, a religious holiday or any date that has significance or importance to you.
        • Monthly or Weekly – Maybe you’d like to schedule time at the beginning of the month, or choose a day of the week, like Sunday to reflect on the week before.
        • Daily – A daily practice of self-reflection is probably one of the best ways to create a habit. I have many clients that like to get up early and reflect on the day before and the day ahead. Some prefer to journal in the evening before bed.
        • After an ‘Event’ – Just had a terrible work meeting? A bad interaction with your kids or spouse? Take a minute to step back and reflect on what happened. Doing this now will help you understand what happened and prevent future incidents similar to this one.
        • When You’re Off Track – Whenever you feel like you’re off track, unhappy, stressed or demotivated, it’s time to take a step back, reflect and regroup.

        Bonus Self-Reflection Tips

        Here are some extra tips for you to do self-reflection:

        • Grab a Journal – If you don’t have one, head to the store and find one you love. Writing has been proven to facilitate new levels of understanding and significantly reduce levels of stress. Moreover, when you see something, you are able to process it in a different way. And once it’s tangible, you then have a greater ability to tackle it, or let it go.
        • Schedule Time – Schedule uninterrupted time where you have space, feel quiet and can focus., whether that be 5 minutes a day or half a day once a quarter. If you think it’s just going to happen, it’s not. You have to do something to make it happen.
        • Accountability – Join a group, get a coach, find a buddy, tell your spouse – find someone to do this with. I was talking with a client of mine last week and she said the most valuable part of hiring me was the fact that she had someone she had to report back to weekly. It forced her to do the work that she wouldn’t have done otherwise on her own.
        • Be a fly on the wall – When you’re reflecting on something, especially relationships, it’s helpful to take the stance of a neutral observer. When you step back from a situation and view things as if you were a fly on the wall, it’s incredibly insightful. Try this with something in your life you’re having a hard time resolving. Take a step back and view the situation as if you were a fly on the wall, or as if you were watching the entire scene on a movie screen. Notice what you see, hear and feel about what you ‘observe’. It will give you a perspective that you hadn’t seen before!
        • Meditate – There are hundreds of studies that show the benefits of meditation. Something powerful happens when you don’t ‘think’ about something. Things bubble up. You have incredible, innate wisdom inside of you and meditation allows it to break through. Again, it’s just a matter of giving time and space to tap into it. Here is a simple guide to meditation: 5-Minute Guide to Meditation Anywhere at Anytime

        Final Thoughts

        If self-reflection isn’t a regular part of your life right now, this is your wake-up call. It’s time for you to take a step back. Time to hop off the treadmill of life. Time to reflect.

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

        If I’ve learned anything from working with thousands of clients over the years, different things work for different people. 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?

        More About Self-Reflection

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Paul J Meyer: Industry Pioneer

        More by this author

        Tracy Kennedy

        Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

        How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit 9 Mindset Shifts That Will Help You Live Your Dream Life How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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        1 Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make) 2 What Is Self-Actualization? 13 Traits of Self-Actualized People 3 How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life 4 What Is the Purpose of Life and What Should You Live For? 5 Midlife Crisis for Women: How It Makes You a Better Person

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        Last Updated on October 22, 2019

        Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make)

        Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make)

        You’re struggling to find this elusive thing called “happiness.” Most days, you feel either overwhelmed, anxious, angry, depressed, or flat. Or, maybe you experience quick shifts of mood.

        You can remember times when you were happy, but they seem distant, and your life circumstances are different now.

        But what if I told you that you can actually choose happiness? And, that it’s easier than you think?

        In this article, I’ll break down the basics of how you can lead a happier life, just by following a few basic principals. These are easy to implement in your own life, which means happiness is just around the corner!

        Ready to find out more about how and why happiness is a choice? Let’s dive in further to gain a deeper understanding.

        Happiness Isn’t an Idea, It’s an Experience

        The idea that happiness is a choice seems to be just that, an idea, and one that doesn’t apply to you. How can you choose to be happy when someone has treated you so badly, when circumstances beyond your control are bombarding you with pain?

        Many people feel this way.

        Each year, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network releases the World Happiness Report.

        This measures the overall happiness of different countries. The 2018 report finds that residents in Finland rank first place, while the residents in the United States are all the way behind in 18th place.

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        Despite the fact that Americans’ incomes have more than doubled since 1972, we’re not even in the top 10 of happiest countries.

        Understand the Easterlin Paradox

        Americans have continuously made more money, yet we’re not reporting an increase in happiness. This disparity between income and happiness is called the Easterlin Paradox.

        Chances are you see more money now than you ever have in your life, yet you’re still trapped in the paradox, struggling to understand why you’re unhappy.

        What explains the paradox?

        The answer to this question can help you understand what happiness is. Solving this dilemma seems complex — it is a paradox, after all. Yet the answer is a lot simpler than you might expect: happiness is a choice.

        It’s as Simple as Choosing Happiness

        Happiness is a state of being that you can seize, such as when a runner takes in air with her lungs. Each inhalation is essential, and with every inhalation, exhalation must follow.

        If happiness is a state of being, then you could say that happiness is simply an experience, or a set of experiences.

        Amanda Pinnock is a college student at Arizona State University who experienced this type of happiness without ever expecting it. To earn her degree in global health, she needed to do a study abroad program, but she was worried she was going to be disconnected from her group as a nontraditional student earning her degree online. [1]

        To her surprise, the other students in her group were inclusive and eager to connect. Then there were the locals in Fiji, the country she’d chosen for the program. They seemed to truly understand how happiness is a choice. According to Amanda:

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        “Fijians are probably the happiest and humblest people in the world. They welcomed us with open arms and made sure we were fed and had the accommodations we needed. It wasn’t until I talked further with the group leader and tour guide that I realized they were giving us more than what they have for themselves on a daily basis.”

        Plenty of Fijians don’t have running water, but Amanda noted that they felt they lacked for nothing. She says:

        “They live off the earth and they all help one another … They may not have had nearly as much money as an average American, but they are wealthy in their lives, and I think Americans can learn a lot from that. It really put into perspective what’s most important: family, loved ones and the environment.”

        For the Fijians Amanda encountered, happiness isn’t a concept, it’s the act of supporting each other.

        Happiness is the act of finding joy in everyday experiences with other people.

        Communities of people who give to each other and share the value of generosity, the value of love—a love which expects nothing in return—are the happiest.

        That’s why, according to the World Happiness Report, generosity and social support networks are two key factors that lead to happiness. [2]

        Every second you’re alive and conscious, you have choices to make. Amanda Pinnock chose to experience another culture even though she was worried about fitting in. She was happy to share the experience with the other students and the Fijians that welcomed them.

        Each day of your conscious existence you can choose to support others, to accept their support, to engage in activities that are good for you.

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        All of these acts will bring happiness. You can choose to trust others and do things that help them to trust you. You can choose to build up the community around you and be a part of it.

        The Art of Sisu Can Change You

        In Finland, famine wiped out 9 percent of the population during the 1860s —hardly an event that would engender happiness. The Finns have made a point of recovering by embracing a philosophy called sisu, which is a shared value of grit, determination, and rational action, even when life is painful.

        Sisu is also about powering through exercises that are challenging and uncomfortable, such as taking a swim in an ice-cold river, running a marathon, or biking to work in the rain. [3]

        According to This Is Finland, “Sisu is extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity … Sisu is embodied by people everywhere who defy the odds and hold on to hope when at first there seems to be none.”

        Sisu is simple: seize life, do it with courage, and build your courage by engaging with the world in challenging ways.

        Be Proactive in Your Happiness

        You can be happy by being proactive. People who choose to recover from addiction choose to take proactive steps toward recovery.

        You can think of choosing to be happy as choosing to recover from depression. As it turns out, exercise benefits recovery in a number of ways:

        • Exercise imitates the effect of drugs on your brain (or rather, drugs imitate the effect of exercise) by releasing endorphins.
        • Exercise helps you sleep better and increases feelings of well-being.
        • Exercise helps you cope with stress, structure your day, and improve your physical fitness.
        • This lines up very well with sisu, although sisu asks you to take it to another level and challenge yourself beyond your comfort level.

        Even if you don’t take it to that extent, start small and exercise on a regular basis, then build up to greater challenges. Work on making connections with other people based around your exercise routine.

        What the Buddhists Know

        Buddhism is particularly concerned with cultivating happiness through constant practice.

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        First, Buddhists acknowledge that existence lends itself to pain and mental dysfunction. This is the wear and tear of the world that comes from desiring and expecting what you don’t have.

        Buddhists follow a set of practices towards enlightenment:

        • Clear the mind of negative thoughts: Recognize negative thoughts, redirect them positively, and act on positive thoughts.
        • Practice mindfulness: Without applying judgment, contemplate how your body feels and pay attention to your breathing; pay attention to your own thoughts; pay attention to “phenomena” — the world around you.
        • Meditate and concentrate: Let random thoughts go while you’re sitting and concentrating on one single thing, such as the sound of water, your breathing, or a humming sound.
        • Have compassion: Personal happiness is directly related to the happiness of others. Contemplation of others and their suffering leads you to a place of true compassion, and compassion for others is a simple path towards happiness.

        Buddhists choose to live neither in the past or future.

        Thoughts of the past can bring brooding and depression, and thoughts of the future can bring anxiety. Contemplation of the present and compassion for others in the present can help alleviate depression and anxiety, freeing your mind to accept happiness.

        People choose many creeds, philosophies, and religions in the pursuit of happiness. In any situation, you can choose to concentrate on what makes you happy.

        You can choose to accept the most excruciating challenge as an opportunity to be good now and to create happiness.

        Make the Smart Choice of Happiness

        Happiness is finding joy in everyday experiences.

        When you choose to include other people in your happiness, then with it comes community—in both social networks and shared experiences.

        Happiness is the smart choice because deep down it’s what your being strives for; it’s what other people want, too.

        When we’re choosing happiness together, we’re choosing to care for each other, and the whole world opens up to infinite possibility.

        More About Happiness

        Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Arizona State University: Find Yourself by Getting Lost
        [2] World Happiness Report: World Happiness Report 2018
        [3] This is Finland: Sisu Begins Where Perseverance Ends

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