“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards” — Steve Jobs
It was May 2007. I was pursuing the Master of Business Administration and got placed with one of the leading banks of India. Everything was going as per the plan which includes studying from a reputed college, then do an MBA, and land a high-paying job.
What’s strange was that I couldn’t detect a tinge of happiness or even a sense of accomplishment even after this feat. Something didn’t feel right and in the hearts of hearts, I knew I wasn’t happy.
Having no one to talk to, one fine day, I sat down and started contemplating and jotting down my thoughts in my journal. The day was no less than an epiphany for me. It was quite a realization as I learned about the key to a happier and successful life — self-reflection.
What is self-reflection?
Simply put, self-reflection is an act or a process where you disconnect from the world and introspect your actions, thoughts, priorities, and aspirations to become a better human being.
To some, it might seem like a regular day-dreaming session but in my opinion, it is one of the best ways to learn about yourself. If performed correctly and regularly, self-reflection can help you grow — both professionally and personally and enrich your life by leaps and bounds.
Why is self-reflection important?
Throughout our daily lives, we are always thinking about something or the otherㅡ relationships, a mysterious co-worker, the latest gadget that launched recently, how to be a better son, how to get a promotion and….. what not?
It’s ironic that we put so much thought and energy on other things and forget to apply this concept to ourselves. Our personal growth would only elevate if we take out some time regularly to examine our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
There are many wildly successful businessmen, sportspersons, world-class leaders that delve into the process of reviewing their thoughts and actions to maximize their potential. Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, triathlete and World Champion Craig (Crowie) Alexander are a few to name.
I’m sure the following points would clear the air regarding the importance of self-reflection:
- Provides a different point of view
Oftentimes, things don’t go as per the plan. It’s life — things won’t always happen as per your convenience. There’s no point of beating yourself or wasting your time cribbing about it.
Let’s assume that a project or campaign didn’t go well at work. How would you handle the situation? You, along with your team members would arrange a meeting to analyze what went wrong and what could be done differently the next time. Likewise, when something unlikely happens in life, take a moment to reflect in silence. I’m sure a new perspective and understanding would answer your questions and lessen your worries.
- Keeps you focused on the bigger picture
Sometimes, we get so stuck in the minute details and intricacies that we lose focus on the bigger picture. And, the whole purpose of introspection is to see if what you’re doing right now is in sync with your vision and long-term goals or not.
When you self-reflect, you are directing your brain to prioritize tasks that would actually add value and provide a solid outcome. As a result, you focus on the essentials and eliminate the non-essential things from your life.
- Improves self-awareness
Too many people don’t achieve success because they don’t know what success means to them. Success, being an ambiguous term, is related to self-awareness. The more self-aware you would be, the more you know about your priorities. And, the more you know, the easier it would be to chase them.
American businessman, keynote speaker and the author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen Covey said, “Self-awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, motives, history, scripts, actions, habits and tendencies.”
- Prepares you to face your fears
Too many people are not living their dreams because they are living their fears. This stops them from being successful and becoming a better version of themselves.
Whether it’s the fear of being judged, failure, or something else, self-reflection helps you acknowledge it and eventually come up with the best way to handle it.
- Allows you to make well-thought decisions
Most of us, at least once, would have said or done something that we would like to take back. It’s human to let anger take over in the heat of the moment without foreseeing its repercussions. However, when you take time to reflect or introspect a situation, you intend to act more thoughtfully in the future.
When you self-reflect, you see it all — good or bad, and that’s the beauty of it. If you have to take an important decision or something demands your reaction, wait for at least 24 hours. This time would allow you to reflect and approach the situation with better perspective.
- Challenges your assumptions
Oftentimes, we believe and endorse our version of the truth — which might or might not be the actual truth. In reality, these are our assumptions and preconceived notions about that particular thing. It’s not wrong to have opinions or notions but it’s necessary to know the real truth.
When you self-reflect on such thoughts, you view things without any bias or facade and ponder over the validity of such beliefs. To become successful or happier in life, it’s important to challenge your assumptions and see things the way they are.
A step-by-step guide to self-reflect
By now, you might have an idea of what actually self-reflection is and why is it required to live a happier life. It means we should discuss how to practice this art and become a better human being.
The way I self-reflect is quite simple and straightforward. It’s a four-step process where I:
- Find a quiet place and sit
- Close my eyes and picture a major event that happened
- Silently visualize the event as a third-person
- Analyze my actions — right or wrong, and good or bad
You can think about anything that happened at home or office and start reflecting and identifying changes that you might need to make.
Here are some questions that you can ponder to make increase its effectiveness;
- What do I stand for?
- What are my core values, goals, and expectations of myself and life?
- Am I doing things that are adding value to my life — personal and professional?
- Am I making the most of my talents, skills, and strengths?
- What are the key areas I need to work on?
- What could I have done better today?
- Are there any beliefs or thoughts that are limiting me?
- Where do I see myself a few years down the line?
- Am I at my best right now?
- What are the three things or skills that I need to learn to be my best version?
Last few thoughts
Self-reflection is a powerful and liberating experience that helps you expand your horizons, get a better understanding, and reach your full potential. If it is something that doesn’t come naturally to you, then with little practice and persistence, you can become more happy.
Keep reflecting and keep growing!
Vartika Kashyap is the Marketing Manager at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2017. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.