Why you should self reflect

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the importance of self reflection. This has come to my mind because yesterday I was facilitating a class in the end of an undergraduate degree, which was using art therapy basically to help the students to reflect on the journey that they’d had over the last four years. And this got me thinking about the importance of reflection and why we don’t do it.

We tend to live really fast so one of the things that happened when I was speaking to those students at the end of their undergraduate degree was it made me think about me at the end of my undergraduate degree, and then all of the travel and all of the different things that I did from then to now and how some of those have just sort of stayed in my mind is nice trips abroad or things like that because I haven’t made the full time for self reflection.

And I’m a person who’s studied a lot, who has focused a lot on therapy taking a lot of people through different therapeutic processes and myself been through them, and I still haven’t processed all of that, for example my trip to Guatemala when I was 19, so it kind of seems like this is something that it’s not just me. Most of us don’t find the time to reflect on the important things in our life and even the everyday things.

So this is super important. This is basically why coaches exist and why I have clients, because otherwise if people just did this and we did this on a regular basis then coaches wouldn’t be necessary. And I wouldn’t maybe have quite so many clients. Anyway, I don’t want to not get clients but I do want to say that one of the questions people ask me is, oh, you know, how can I how can I do these processes without paying for a coach?

Well, essentially, what you need to do is to reflect. So, what is self reflection? It is basically just thinking deeply about our behaviours, our thoughts, our actions, our desires, our motivations, all of these things that kind of just happened to us and we don’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to. So, thinking deeply about those.

There are lots of different ways that we might go about self reflecting, for example, it might be a deep conversation with a friend or a coach or a therapist, or it might be just answering some questions that you pose to yourself in a written way. It might be that you make time for this when you go for a swim, or when you go for a walk in nature and there are a lot of people who have dogs take that time for self reflection, or even listening to different pieces of music.

So you need to find the kind of self reflection that fits for you. For me as an artist, I find this self reflection part that works for me is when I’m painting or drawing, but this isn’t a painting or drawing when I’m trying to achieve something where I’m trying to represent something, or where I’ve got a goal in mind it’s more trying to just put the paint down on the paper and see what happens have this kind of conversation with the work of art. I’ll come back to that in another video at some point.

But essentially, self reflection is just about asking yourself those difficult questions. So why do you even want to be more reflective what’s the point of it for me. There are three main things here firstly, you might want to make sense of things make sense of your life. Maybe not on a hugely macro perspective, although that can be one option to really think about where I am now where I’m going, what steps do I need to take? or am I on the right path right now? in a macro perspective or it can also be in a micro perspective, what was the sense in that conversation that I just had? or I’ve been feeling angry since yesterday since, since this interaction I had what’s going on there? What’s that dragging up what’s behind it. So, these are ideas around sensemaking.

The next one that you might want to think about is learning and experiencing so this idea that we just experienced things and then that’s it and that’s the bonus, you know, travel, see the world and that’s it. That isn’t it. The part that’s important is how we understand that what we learn from those trips and how we use that moving forward, how that makes us who we are.

So that would be the second one, the third one is about how to respond more efficiently. So if we know ourselves we’re more conscious of what’s actually happening to us, then we are able to respond more efficiently in the moment you have that option of taking the creative option or taking the reactive option. If we haven’t reflected on this, we have more of a chance of just taking the reactive option, which is not necessarily the best route.

So these are three reasons why you might want to use some self reflection. And you might be thinking right now okay this sounds good, but how am I going to start it. So, starting it is pretty simple. First of all, just choose the one that you like, choose the, The idea that you, the ones I mentioned earlier about maybe walking in nature, or asking yourself written questions or chatting with a friend or a coach or drawing or painting or creating or listening to music, pick one of those, the one which best suits you.

Set aside a time to do it. Make sure you’re not going okay well I’m going to spend suddenly an hour a day doing this self reflection, I think we probably all know from personal experience of starting to go back to the gym or meditation, that if you put a massive goal in every day it’s going to be really difficult to achieve. So, start with something like five or 10 minutes a day, or, you know 20 minutes a week, set aside that time block it in your calendar, and then just do it.

Okay, so there’s one thing that happens when you get all of this ready, is that you quite often we’ll come up against your own resistances. And this is something I see a lot in my clients and I can also see it in myself. Okay, so I’ll talk again a bit later on about resistances, but let me just mention the three that really come up in starting to self reflect, first of all is this idea of I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing so let’s not do it. And the way to get around that is to just ask yourself a really, really simple question like, you know, why did I do that thing yesterday, or what’s important to me about this person or this job or whatever else.

So, really small simple questions and go and take that question with you on your walk or to your painting or to your piece of music, and think about it. This space for thinking that we hardly ever allow ourselves to do another one that comes up a lot, and again I can see myself in this as well, is this idea that we need to have this pretension towards action we’re always doing things we’re doing, we’re more doing them being, and we’re moving things ahead we’re looking at the return on investment and really trying hard to make an impact to get the to do list done, and this really doesn’t fit into the to do list, because this is the long game, the long game is self reflection is understanding yourself and making these long term choices that are going to really change your life and your happiness. But that doesn’t affect whether you get the kids dinner on the table today, or whether you hand in that assignment that you have to for this afternoon, or whether your presentation is perfectly presented to the board.

The other one is, I don’t like the process that don’t enjoy it. I don’t find it stimulating, this is something that people who are extrovert find very hard to spend this time alone. If you hire a coach, maybe you don’t have to do it alone, or you get a friend to talk to about it, but generally this is kind of time alone with yourself. And if you’re not used to doing it that can be quite difficult. And the way we get over that is to just sort of accepted. I don’t like the process. Okay, I can still force myself to do it for five minutes a day, or for 20 minutes a week, like many other things I didn’t like doing my taxes but eventually I have to do them.

So these are kind of the ways to get over those resistances, the first thing is always to know what it is that you’re coming up against, and try and be conscious of it and move beyond it. Anyway, This is nothing particularly new. Socrates, way back when, said that an unexamined life is not worth living. And when you are examining your life when you are reflecting on your life. This is where you’re getting to the real juicy parts you’re recognising joy in those small moments, Or you’re recognising what you really want to do, and therefore recognising yourself. So, this is just something that I really think is going to add to everybody’s lives it’s going to make you a better leader, it’s going to make you a better person and it’s free, and really simple to do so, go and self reflect by.

Blog Post Photo by Pepe Reyes on Unsplash

About Katie Annice Carr

Creativity, Communication and Leadership facilitator, coach and consultant.