Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And while this is certainly true, self-reflection is not an easy thing to practice. Living in an incredibly fast-paced world where our mobile phones are constantly buzzing paying attention to your own emotions, decisions, and behaviours has become a lost thought.

Researchers have found that self-reflection holds the power to improve understanding of the context you work in; transform perspectives and helps in staying positive.

But what exactly is self-reflection? And what are the ways to practice it?

This article will help you understand the what, why, and how of self-reflection.
Simply put, self-reflection is the process of diving deep into your thoughts and emotions and motivations and determining the great, “Why?” behind them. It is taking the time to think about, meditate on, evaluate, and give serious thought to your behaviours, thoughts, attitudes and desires.

Practicing self-reflection takes discipline and intentionality and a lack of it causes us to simply keep running, trying to keep up with things even if things aren’t going well. The key is that if we won’t grow from our experiences, if we don’t understand them, evaluate them and make changes based on what we’ve learned. We won’t be able to predict outcomes or solve problems effectively.

Moreover, self-reflection is not just restricted to our failures but successes too. Reflection is not just about dwelling on the negative things. Reflecting on our positive experiences can teach us what works well in a specific situation and allows us to examine potential transference to other situations.

The Benefits of Self-Reflection
Nevertheless, there are numerous wonderful benefits of self-reflection and we should all make time for it. Here are some of the benefits:

  • It allows you to gain perspective
    Self-reflection allows you to take a step back and gain perspective on what matters and what can be ignored. It allows you to process and achieve clarity on things gone by.
  • Develops learning and understanding
    Self-reflection enables us to evaluate and process what we’ve experienced and gain a deeper understanding of life. It allows us to ponder the meaning of our circumstances, emotions, and motivations.
  • It makes you more efficient
    Most of the time we’re in a reactive mode, we don’t take the time to consider our actions and words but just react to the situation we are in.

Personal reflection allows you to consider the consequences of your words and actions and enables you to consider the best, most effective, most helpful way to act in a given situation.

Self-reflection doesn’t require any rules and shouldn’t require much time. Moreover, it doesn’t have to happen daily; however, one should try to cultivate self-reflection as a habit and practice it regularly. 

Now the question is how to cultivate the habit of Real-Time Self-Reflection?

There are a number of times when self-reflection is helpful. Initially, you don’t have to go through all of the questions or take hours to do it but just take a few minutes each day, usually towards the end of the day and recall about the things that happened. Focus on what has been on your mind that particular day and analyse the ways you could have made the situation more favourable for yourself.

Once you slowly develop this habit, you can practice self-reflection as an end of month personal review and end of year personal review activity.

In other words, look back over the previous days and months and analyse your life. This practice will provide you with a helpful perspective and ensure that you are living life to the fullest.

Keeping a reflection diary or journal is another great way to start!

Maintaining a diary or journal not just serves as a record of personal reflections but helps you review your reflections from the past and add new ones. One should keep the diary somewhere easy to locate and spend a few minutes at the beginning or end of each day recording his/her thoughts.

Moreover, create an environment conducive to relaxation and deeper thinking. You might choose to listen to soft music, light a candle, take a bath or follow some other technique to relax and focus on your thoughts.

The only key here is to be consistent to gain the full benefits of reflection. So, try to reflect daily, even if only for five minutes.

Spending time in nature
The benefits of spending time in nature are well documented. Nature relaxes people, increases positive moods and facilitates a calm state of reflection. Researchers have documented both cognitive and emotional benefits to spending time in nature. So spend time in nature, drawing both personal solace and vision for new works of art.

Many successful people attribute their productivity in part to time spent meditating. You can meditate solo or as a group. You can use the focus that meditation provides to channel your thoughts towards reflection once you are done. You can listen to music, use guided meditation, or look for a quiet area and engage in your own reflective meditation. The choice is totally yours!

Remember when we fail to reflect on our lives, we lose perspective, get caught up in things that don’t matter, and often lose sight of the things that are most important. Socrates was right when he said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living so don’t live an unexamined life. Practice self-reflection today. The keys to effective adoption of a self-reflective practice are that it be voluntary and that the benefits are clear. Try a variety of methods to facilitate self-reflection until you find one that works for you.