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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.

        10 Powerful Ways to Be More Confident 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

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        Published on November 20, 2019

        14 Personal Goals for a Better You Next Year

        14 Personal Goals for a Better You Next Year

        Personal goal setting starts with having a destination in mind.

        If you don’t know where you’re going, why bother moving forward? You’ll just get more lost or find yourself back where you started again.

        “If you don’t know where you’re going, every road will take you there.”- Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland

        You have to have a destination of who you want to become in order to get there.

        Personal goals will be easier to make if you know where you want to go.

        You must start with how to get there and break down the steps. These steps must be realistic.

        That doesn’t mean you can’t dream big; in fact,

        “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars.”

        Dream big no matter what but be realistic at the same time. Be open to detours, too.

        According to Action for Happiness[1], ways to make goals include deciding on goals, writing steps down, telling someone about it and plan out each step.

        Here I will outline 14 personal goals that can help you become a better you:

        1. Live Authentically

        You don’t have time to be living your life as someone else. All you can do is be yourself. You must choose to be who you really are. That’s the best way to live.

        Being yourself is not easy though. It requires dedication to your values and dreams. You won’t be able to be authentic without losing your fear of what others think of you.

        There’s only one way to be successful in this life and it’s if you do it for the right reasons. It’s if you choose yourself. It’s not until you find that you will be free.

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        Get inspired by my other article: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

        2. Take Time for You in Self-Care Prioritization

        Self-care is not something you should take for granted. Often, we don’t prioritize it well enough. Some examples include finding time for yourself, do things that make you feel good. Get dietary advice to eat healthy and exercise to improve your health.

        Take a break. Go outside. Relax. Read a book or watch a good movie with someone you love. It’s about rewarding yourself with your joys and hobbies.

        You can find more examples here: 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit

        Self-care is not selfish. It’s important to find time for yourself so that you CAN give more of yourself to the areas of life you need to. You deserve it. You are worth it. Remember that.

        3. Don’t Take Things Personally

        The less you are concerned with others, the more you can focus on doing what matters most to you. What others say does not reflect the real you. It is just their perception, which may not be the full picture or the truth.

        People who try to hurt you are not happy.

        “Happy people don’t try to bring other people down.” – Anonymous.

        That’s why it’s just not worth holding on to their words.

        When you refuse to take things personally, it’s because you know who you are.

        4: Decide What You Stand for

        4. Decide to Be Who You Are Meant to Be

        Look for things you are passionate about. Advocate to make yourself and others heard. Join groups that support your beliefs.

        “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”- Anonymous.

        So, decide what you value and what you stand for. Then, you can do anything.

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        Take a look at this guide if you aren’t sure what you’re passionate about: How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life

        5. Find the Silver Lining

        Find happiness in any situation by finding the silver lining. You can decide to be happy because of the good you find. You must choose to look at the good.

        People often think about the bad first, and they dwell on it. It’s human nature, but if you can look for the good or the silver lining, you will be happier for it.

        You can learn from any situation or use any situation to better yourself or humanity. Take that and you will overcome it all.

        6. Do Something Good for Someone

        Instead of just focusing on your problems, do good for someone. It will not only take your mind off what problems you have, but also help you see that you are capable of doing good — right, you still have things to offer.

        There are many opportunities to do good. Volunteering, checking on a friend or family member, get involved in a project that serves your community, etc.

        The more good you do, the better you will feel.

        7. Practice Daily Positive Self Talk

        Every day is a new day. The way you talk to yourself is how you can ensure you build resilience and endurance through any challenge.

        Here are some positive self talk examples:

        “Things may have not gone my way but I can see the good in the situation still.”

        “At least I am alive. I have my health, my abilities and the opportunities to use what I have for good.”

        “I am worthwhile.”

        “I can do it.”

        Even more here: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

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        The more you practice positive self talk, the more you will overcome and accomplish.

        8. Surrender, When Necessary

        When you surrender, you give in to the current rather than fight against it. It means you value inner peace most of all. You don’t sacrifice your inner peace for anything. You know your worth, and you are willing to see how a situation unfolds. You don’t try to force solutions either.

        Instead of forcing solutions, you allow the best ones to come forth. You also know how to use what you have. You don’t fight against your situation. You instead use it.

        When you surrender, you are accepting what is. This makes it easier to move forward.

        9. Ask for Help in One Area of Your Life

        We are often taught that needing help is a sign of weakness but it is actually a sign of strength. It’s developing skills that you might not be as well versed in. It’s developing mentor/mentee relationships to help you succeed.

        Success is subjective to every individual. When you are developing yourself, you need others’ input. You need help to be who you are meant to be.

        There is no shame in asking for help. Asking for help instead opens doors for you that you may not have been able to open yourself.

        10. Never Stop Learning

        Learning is meant to be lifelong. You can follow your interests, and everything is a “Internet Search Engine” away. But how to really commit to this? Take another class, sign up for a workshop, read books on the subject of interest, develop new hobbies…

        In Success Magazine,[2] Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich suggests 3 techniques to never stop learning:

        “1. Embrace the Mind of a Child.
        2. Put yourself in the hands of a trusted teacher.
        3. Read, read, read.” Overall, be responsible for your own growth in life.

        You are never too old to learn something new. Start today.

        11. Set Boundaries and Say No When Appropriate

        Having boundaries can feel uncomfortable because we are telling others what we do not accept. It is also necessary for healthy relationships. You will use them to protect yourself, your heart and your mind.

        No one can make you do anything. If you are uncomfortable with something, you have a right to say no. Those who truly care about you will not be offended. You are also setting the bar high, or setting an example for others who are too scared to have boundaries too.

        You will make better choices if you have better boundaries: How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

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        12. Follow Your Gut

        Trust your instincts. They are trying to tell you what to trust in.

        You may not want to do something but feel pressured to do it. Your gut is the one speaking to you, telling you not to do it if you don’t want to. It can save you from many things, for example preventing you from making poor choices.

        When you follow your gut, you preserve your interests and secure yourself.

        13. Do What You Love

        Are you doing what you love? You must choose what you can’t live without. Don’t sacrifice that for anything. Life is too short.

        Your best also comes out when you are doing what you love. You can give more, do more if you’re happy with what you are doing.

        So, do what you love. Don’t question it: Why You Should Always Do What You Love (And How to Do It)

        14. Appreciate What You Have

        Good Deeds Day defines gratitude as,[3]

        “Gratitude allows us to recognize good in our lives. Focusing and appreciating the good in our lives constantly reminds us about the great things all around us… Gratitude allows us to see that the sources of that good are usually close by. Practicing gratitude allows us to recognize those who bring goodness into our lives and humbles us in order to give credit to those we are grateful for.”

        At the end of the day, you need to recognize what you do have rather than focusing on what you don’t have. You must choose gratitude as your attitude in order to live a happier, better life. You will win then.

        Counting your blessings everyday will help you bring in more blessings. You are limitless. You will overcome more too if you have that positive perspective.

        Appreciating what you have starts with the simple things in life. Recognize what’s working. Find your reason to hold on. And then change the world.

        Here’re 32 Things You Should Be Grateful For if you need some reminders.

        Final Thoughts

        Goal setting is about finding what will better yourself and lead you to happiness. You will find peace with yourself when you are on the right path.

        You have to make the decision to make the best of everything, and you have to remember what really matters. Your goals will shape you for the rest of your life.

        Good luck!

        More About Goals Setting

        Featured photo credit: Anika Huizinga via unsplash.com

        Reference

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