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The Power of Self-Reflection: Ten Questions You Should Ask Yourself

The Power of Self-Reflection: Ten Questions You Should Ask Yourself

To find yourself, lost and without purpose, wondering how you ended up where you are, is a scary thought. If you are not careful, not mindfully aware of where you are going, you could end up somewhere far from where you want to be. These are 10 helpful questions that we each ought to ask ourselves on a frequent basis. The power of self-reflection can serve to keep you in check, to keep you focused on self-improvement and ensure that you are as fulfilled as possible.

1. Am I using my time wisely?

“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

We all know time is precious. Our goal ought to be to use it in a way that isn’t counter-productive. For example, taking time to unwind and do nothing productive in particular could be beneficial for the mind and body. Finding yourself stuck in a job that offers a stable pay but fails to challenge you, make use of your skills, or provide some sense of value could be considered a substantial waste of time. Most of it is perception. The best way to evaluate this is to imagine yourself five or 10 years from now, looking back to where you are now, this could help you see what aspects in your life may be a waste of your time.

2. Am I taking anything for granted?

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your last misfortunes, of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens

There are countless blessings around each of us. Even at our lowest lows we may have the support of family or friends, a roof over our head or skills that we ought to take pride in. We’re naturally forward-looking, which may blind us to our present circumstances. We ought to take a moment every now and again to look at what we have around us and be grateful.

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3. Am I employing a healthy perspective?

“Perspective is as simple as answering this question: If I had five months to live would I experience this problem differently?” – Shannon Alder

Whether or not we’re happy, doing what’s right, or if we are successful is all about perspective. We may have the world at our fingertips yet find ourselves utterly empty. We can grow to hate our jobs simply because of one co-worker whom we cannot agree with, or be devastated over a dissolving relationship that had been detrimental to our well-being in the first place. Sometimes we’re so zoomed in on various issues that, when we step back or hear an outside perspective, we can view the issue in a completely different light. Try to adopt new perspectives when possible; a glass-half-full approach can mean a world of difference in regards to certain matters.

4. Am I living true to myself?

“A lot of the conflict you have in your life exists simply because you’re not living in alignment; you’re not be being true to yourself.” – Steve Maraboli

This may take years to fully discover, with many mistakes along the way, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s vital to figure out whether or not we’re deceiving ourselves, leading a life that is far from what we want it to be. We have complete control over what we do, but without consciously evaluating our actions and circumstances every now and again, we can let things spiral away–like the the corrupt politician or steroid-dependent athlete. Figure out what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you’re doing something that will cause you regret down the road, work yourself away from it.

5. Am I waking up in the morning ready to take on the day?

“Know that dreaming is a waste of sleeping time and energy if you don’t wake up to achieve them.” – Israelmore Ayivor

Or are you waking up with a sense of hopelessness? The first thought of the day is a massive indicator of your general level of happiness. We all have days that we don’t look forward to, but if you find yourself not wanting to get out of bed day after day, and if you know why that is, it’s time to take action.

6. Am I thinking negative thoughts before I fall asleep?

“Insomniacs know that there is something about the night. A darkness, an energy, a mystery that shrouds things. It hides things at the same time as it illuminates them. It is this thing that allows us to examine our thoughts in a way that we can’t during the day. It is this thing that brings truth and clarity.” – Courtney Cole

When we finally lay down to sleep is when we unplug from everything and finally achieve a measure of clarity, clarity that prompts reflection. Your last thoughts before falling asleep reveal a lot about what’s going on in your life. If they’re consistently negative, try to identify a pattern of what may be causing them and then seek to address the stressors.

7. Am I putting enough effort into my relationships?

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” – J.K. Rowling

Over time, we can begin to take our relationships for granted. Flames die out, naturally, and novelty wears off. In consequence, this requires constant effort to allow the relationships to grow. Moving away from family, for instance, requires lots of effort to stay connected and stay close. If you don’t want to find yourself losing various individuals in your life, make sure that you’re dedicated towards maintaining your relationships.

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8. Am I taking care of myself physically?

“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha

We have everything working against us as we get older–more work hours to put in, a family to take care off, decreased energy levels and a slowed metabolism, just to name a few. Our physical well-being can, in turn, be put on the back burner if we’re not aware. Keep an idea of where you want to be physically in the next few years and don’t let that image slip away from you.

9. Am I letting matters that are out of my control stress me out?

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” – Steve Maraboli

The biggest waste of effort we can make is to stress out about things that are outside of our realm of control. A completely unnecessary but inevitably common phenomenon that can ruin our days, our health, and our mental well-being. Make sure to continuously identify your stress factors and work towards eliminating any worries about things that you can’t control.

10. Am I achieving the goals that I’ve set for myself?

“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” – Rosa Luxemburg

This question is necessary to consider on a frequent basis. We all have a general vision of where we want to be in five or 10 years, but it’s a very obscure glimpse based around general accomplishments. PsychologyToday.com reports: “In life, people have many goals (e.g. exercise more, be a better spouse, save more money). However, goals often go unrealized because people lack self-awareness…Thus, to improve our chances of reaching our goals, we must remain aware of our current behavior.” It’s helpful to examine the visions of our future selves in close detail and break down everything that must be done in order to achieve them. Don’t solely focus on the where and what–account for the how.

Through frequent self-reflection, we can make sure that we’re on the right path. Lack of self-reflection can cause us to seem lost or without a purpose. Time flies by and without consciously evaluating our circumstances, we can let so many aspects of our lives slip away: our health, our relationships, our goals. It’s necessary for us to unplug for a few minutes every now and again, when possible, and address a variety of the questions, including those listed above.

“Whether it’s Buddhists engaging in meditation, alcoholics at AA meetings, or philosophers of the Enlightenment studying the texts of Immanuel Kant, being aware of ourselves is an essential step in self-improvement.” – Allen R. McConnell, www.psychologytoday.com

Featured photo credit: rearviewmirrow/greyerbab via mrg.bz

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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