Using personal reflection as a guide in your life and work
Personal reflection or self-reflection is a wonderful resource that we all have at our disposal. It can support us in all aspects of life, from working towards our personal and professional goals to making big life and work decisions. In fact, it’s such a versatile technique that it can be applied to almost any situation, giving us a fresh insight and helping us to grow.
Many of us use personal reflection without even thinking about it, for example, we may run through our past experiences to see what worked and what didn’t, reconsidering the circumstances, along with our thoughts and feelings, from a fresh perspective. While reflecting, it’s good to be mindful of the process and what we want to learn from it because without setting an intention, we could fall into the trap of playing the same situation over and over. This can hamper our learning and prevent us from letting go and moving on. As a guide, it’s useful to consider what we’re hoping to achieve before we get started, this will enable us to get the most from the process.
When we’re reflecting, it’s wise to explore our lives from a place of curiosity rather than criticism, being gentle with ourselves along the way. We all make mistakes in life and there will always be times when things don’t go to plan. How we’ll benefit most from our experiences – good and bad – is by considering what happened and using the lessons learnt as a motivation for change. By looking at our experiences from an objective rather than a subjective viewpoint, we can obtain a fresh perspective giving ourselves new insight and clarity.
Learn and take strength from your own experiences
As a coach, I use personal reflection a lot in my work. It enables my clients to take strength from their own lives and it can be a valuable motivator for change. For example, if a client is feeling overwhelmed and is looking for ways to improve their situation, we can reflect on a time when they didn’t feel this way. By unpicking what was happening and how it was different, we can uncover some solutions that have worked for them in the past. This enables them to learn and take strength from their own experiences, rather than trying to find the answers elsewhere. When it comes to our lives, no one knows us better than we know ourselves, and often when we look within we can find a solution.
When we look inward we can increase our self-awareness, helping us to understand ourselves and our preferences a whole lot better. This can be of great value when we’re faced with big life and work decisions because it helps us to choose the best route forward. By taking the time to evaluate what is happening in our lives, and in some cases, looking closely at specific events and situations, we can get to the heart of who we are and what makes us tick.
Personal reflection can also be used when we’re working towards a goal. The process can help us to review our progress and to identify any changes we need to make. It’s also a great motivator because when we reflect, we often find we’ve achieved a lot more than we thought we had. It can support us if we’re unsure of how to proceed and enable us to move forward with confidence.
Every one of us is learning, growing and evolving with every day that passes. If we begin to view our experiences as opportunities to discover who we are, we can start to view our lives from a place of discovery. This can encourage us to embrace new experiences because each one can help us to grow. When we welcome new challenges, we can build on our self-confidence, helping us to embrace the person we’re becoming.
Mindfulness and gratitude
When we become more aware of ourselves in our everyday lives we will inevitably be more present. This is because when we increase our awareness, we become more mindful of our surroundings and what we’re thinking and feeling. With a greater awareness of the present moment, our minds are less likely to wander or operate on autopilot. It’s easy to get caught up thinking about the past or future, so by observing our lives as they unfold, we will undoubtedly be more present.
Personal reflection can also help us to promote gratitude because it encourages us to value every moment. If we’re increasing our mindfulness and journaling our experiences, we will undoubtedly increase our awareness of the things we’re grateful for. In addition to this, with regular reflection, we are better placed to notice the things that are no longer working. This helps us to make any necessary changes creating time and space for the things that bring us joy.
Using personal reflection
To get started, you may wish to consider what insight you’re hoping to achieve. Once you have a starting point you could draft a few questions to reflect on. For example, imagine you’ve attended a work meeting and you felt you were unable to get your ideas across despite having fully prepared. To find out why things didn’t go as you’d hoped, you could objectively ask yourself the following questions: What happened during the meeting that prevented me from contributing? How did I respond to the situation? How did it make me feel? Why do I think that was? What have I learnt about myself? And finally, what, if anything, might I do differently next time?
Journaling or reflective writing is a great way to approach the questions, or you could talk them over with someone you trust. By reflecting on the situation, you will hopefully gain a deeper insight into what happened and be in a better place to make the changes you’d like to see happen. Remember it’s always best to approach personal reflection with compassion, exploring what happened with an open and curious mind. We’re all a work in progress and the mistakes we make are there to help us to grow.
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Five benefits to keeping a gratitude journal
How to utilise your life experience and transferable skills
As with everything I share here, please feel free to take the ideas that resonate with you. Thank you, as always, for stopping by. I hope you have a wonderful day. Until next time, I’ll see you over on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Parts of this text were originally published in issue 18 of Breathe magazine.