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Last Updated on October 30, 2018

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:

Improves 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.

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 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.

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 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.

Facilitates 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?

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 your confidence with increased knowledge and perspective.

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.

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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. The first is to 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. 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 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.

    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?

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        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.

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        Last Updated on May 21, 2019

        How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

        How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

        For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

        If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

        Example 1

        You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

        You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

        In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

        Example 2

        You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

        People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

        You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

        Example 3

        You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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        The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

        Example 4

        You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

        Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

        If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

        Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

        • Understand your own communication style
        • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
        • Communicate with precision and care
        • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

        1. Understand Your Communication Style

        To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

        In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

        Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

        2. Learn Others Communication Styles

        Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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        If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

        “How do you prefer to receive information?”

        This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

        To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

        3. Exercise Precision and Care

        A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

        On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

        Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

        I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

        I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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        In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

        The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

        Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

        4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

        Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

        In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

        “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

        Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

        Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

        It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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        It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

        It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

        Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

        Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

        The Bottom Line

        When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

        I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

        More Articles About Effective Communication

        Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

        Reference

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