As we discussed last week, if we are going to be in the business of awarding gold stars, then we absolutely must pay attention to our own behavior and the behavior of others. However, sometimes we can't be as fully engaged in the moment as we would like to be for a variety of reasons. That's why we need the power of reflection.
Taking time to reflect will help us to understand when we’ve executed something well and will motivate us to improve when life doesn't go so well.
Reflection can also help us realize that we may have unintentionally overlooked the gold star behavior of others. It's valuable to notice this because then you have the option of taking action. Better late than never when it comes to appreciating the people you care about, right?
Reflection isn’t always an easy thing to do though. In today’s world, we are so busy doing, doing, doing, that it can be difficult to slow down enough to engage in introspection. Many people don’t do it at all. Or, if they do, it happens around the New Year holiday, and any insights that are gleaned are promptly forgotten soon thereafter.
For many people, the act of self-reflection (as opposed to reflecting on the behavior of others) is particularly hard. Part of the reason why we don’t engage in self-reflection is because it makes us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, especially if there are areas in our lives where things aren’t going as well as we would like.
But sometimes we need to do things that make us feel uncomfortable in order to grow. We can and should acknowledge how we feel, but those feelings shouldn’t stop us from moving forward.
If we don’t stop to reflect, we’ll never figure out what’s working and what’s not working in our lives or the reasons why. So we need to take the time to give careful and serious thought to our character, values, motives, and behavior. We need to think about the direction we want our lives to go in and the steps we need to take to get there.
There are no self-reflection rules though! You can take time to reflect once a day, once a week, once a month, or a few times a year. Just try to do it as regularly as you can, with as few interruptions as possible.
And self-reflection does not need to be incredibly complicated! You can begin with an easy practice and work yourself up to more complex practices if you want. Just thinking about three things that you are grateful for at the end of every day is a great place to start!
Many people like to get their thoughts out on paper when they reflect. Keeping a journal gives you the added benefit of being able to go back and review what you wrote at a later date to see if you are making progress toward your goals. If you are interested in having a place to record your reflections on all of the gold star moments in your life, please consider one of my Gold Star journals.**
For those of you who would like to have some structure for your written reflections, you can pick a subject to reflect on – career, family life, friendships, finances, and health are a few possible topics.
Then, you can ask yourself questions about the topic you have chosen, such as:
What is going well in this area of my life? What can I do to enhance what’s working to make it even better?
What’s not working so well in this area right now? What do I want to change in this area? What are some concrete, actionable steps I can take to make that change happen? What is in my control here and what isn’t?
You may have noticed that the above questions are worded as “what” questions instead of “why” questions. This is because some experts believe that asking why something isn’t working can lead you down the path of unproductive, negative thoughts.
Asking “why” may cause you to focus on your fears, shortcomings, or insecurities, rather than on a rational assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. As you're reflecting, try not to jump to conclusions. At the end of your self-reflection process, you should feel confident that the answers to your questions are accurate.
The questions listed above are big, broad ones that you won’t need to ask yourself every day. Reflecting on these important questions once a month or once every few months works best.
For a more frequent practice, you can simply reflect back on your day or your week – what went well, and what didn’t work so well? You can do this just by thinking about it or by writing it down.
This practice can help make you aware of things that you might want to work on changing or improving the following day or week. It might also help you realize that you did some things that you feel pretty darn good about. Either way, you get a gold star for taking the time to grow as a person!
As you can see, there are many ways to engage in self-reflection. The important thing is to pick a practice that resonates with you, one that you think you will be able to stick with on a regular basis. And, of course, you have to be honest with yourself, even if that makes you feel uncomfortable. You don’t need to share your reflections with anyone but yourself!
Do you already practice self-reflection on a regular basis? If so, let us know what works for you. If not, are you willing to start?
**If you click through any of the links on this page and make a purchase from Zazzle, I will receive two separate commissions: one for being the designer of the product and another for referring the sale to Zazzle.