Unlike animals, we humans have developed brains so that we are aware of ourselves. Self-awareness brings with it a significant advantage: the ability to reflect on ourselves, the past, the future, and the world in which we live. And although this ability of self-reflection has a lot of benefits, sometimes it can turn into something unhealthy. We can go from a beneficial self-reflection to rumination, that is, get “trapped” in an endless string of thoughts that can give rise to anxiety or depression.

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Self-reflection is part of the process of self-introspection that is done by looking back and reflecting on different things that have happened in life, such as experiences, habits, and decisions. Self-reflection can help you live a better life in the future.

Practicing self-reflection can open up the opportunity for you to see the important things in every situation you’ve ever been through. When done regularly and in the right way, self-reflection can make your life healthier, more balanced, and happier.

What Is Self-Reflection practice And How It Can Help You have a more balanced life?

Self-reflection is like looking in a mirror and simply describing what you see. It’s a way to evaluate yourself, your ways of working, being, and how you learn. To simply say “reflection” is to think about something. It’s about taking a step back and thinking over your life, behavior, and beliefs.

A few years ago, I heard triathlete Craig (Crowie) Alexander speak at a conference in Sydney, Australia. Craig is a five-time Ironman World Champion and an inspirational man. One of the things he emphasized was the amount of time he took for self-reflection and the impact it had on his confidence and performance.

After each race, he and his team reflected to understand what went well and what could be improved for next time. They picked out every tiny detail, from the shape of his helmet to the way he took a salt tablet, to his emotional state throughout the race. These results of self-reflection were often the difference between winning or not.

As you can see, self-reflection can be used in many aspects of life and can bring many benefits.

What happens when you don’t reflect or don’t practice self-reflection?

We keep moving, push ourselves, and we do not stop to reflect. In this way we stay in jobs that (literally) kill us, relationships that sap our energy, and circumstances that leave us stressed, unhappy, frustrated, and tired.

We keep running on the treadmill of life thinking we have no time to waste. So we keep moving to keep up. But all too often, we crash and burn. This happens because the only way to keep up with the pace of life is just to STOP and reflect. To get out of the lane and reflect on what works and what doesn’t. To identify what you need to keep and what needs to be changed.

When a project or something goes wrong at work, what do you do? You take a moment, step back and see what went wrong or needs to improve. In this way, you know next time what to do differently. The same should be true of life, yet we often don’t take the time to reflect. Why not?

This is why people hire a coach or consultant. To give time and space that they don’t give themselves. Learn how to ask the right questions and provide space for answers. To help them regularly practice self-reflection on different aspects of life.

The good news is that you don’t have to hire anyone to reap the enormous benefits of self-reflection. All it requires is awareness, commitment, and reserve some time.

Writing in a journal is a practice that can help you reserve some time for practicing self-reflection and awareness. WRITE technique can help you practice self-reflection and can be learned in the article: How to write in a journal using the WRITE technique

The importance of self-reflection when trying to improve or balance your life

Many people find self-reflection difficult or upsetting. They don’t understand what they need and don’t see the benefits of doing self-reflection. Why is self-reflection important to you?

Taking time for self-reflection, and thinking about life, leads to greater self-awareness. This leads to continuous self-improvement. Additionally, having a strong sense of self improves your confidence and self-esteem.

Self-reflection allows you to better understand a situation or an action and see things from a different point of view. When you step back from a situation, you gain a new understanding. You can see the whole picture, not just the puzzle piece. You become more open-minded.

Many studies share the common conclusion that self-reflection helps achieve a deeper level of learning and understanding. It is an important part of the education process. I have found this to be true in many aspects of my life and also for other people I’ve interacted with.

Know that choosing to look at a part of life with curiosity can help you see even better different perspectives over that event or action. In the article Why curiosity is so important and how does it help our personal development? I’ve explained even better how curiosity can help us grow.

Here are some of the benefits of practicing self-reflection

1. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of the self or points to improve

This you can use to develop your strengths into concrete skills. While knowing the shortcomings, you can know your limitations in doing something.

Understanding ourselves on a deeper level is essential. Self-awareness and soul-searching are essential to success in all areas of life. This can be the key to success and continuous improvement and growth from a personal and professional point of view.

2. Practicing self-reflection can provide perspective

Self-reflection allows you to understand actions and events from your life and see things from a different point of view. When you step back from a situation, you gain a new understanding. You can see the whole picture, not just the puzzle piece. You become more open-minded.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees”? This is an expression that highlights someone who is so involved in the details of a situation that they cannot see the whole picture.

This is a benefit of self-reflection: You can zoom out and see the whole forest.

3. Self-reflection can help you take well-thought actions instead of impulsive reaction

Have you ever said or done something that you wish you could take back? When you react, you don’t think about the possible ramifications of your actions. However, when you take time to reflect on a situation, you can respond more carefully and change your behavior for next time.

Early in my career, my superior made a recommendation about this. He advised me to wait 24 hours before addressing anything I was upset about. This forced time of self-reflection allowed me to weigh my feelings and emotions. I was then better able to approach the situation or problem with a level head and greater perspective.

4. Facilitate a deeper level of learning

Many studies share the common conclusion: self-reflection helps obtain a deeper level of learning and understanding. It is a critical part of the education process. I have found this to be true in my own work as an instructor.

When people are given time to reflect, digest, and integrate, they are better able to make abstract connections as well as retain and remember information. Think about it for yourself. If, after reading this article, you go straight to the next thing, how much do you think you’ll remember?

However, if you read this article and take five minutes afterward to think about your teachings, how much will you retain?

5. Self-reflection can help you improve your confidence level

When you reflect, you will better understand what is working and what is not. In turn, this allows you to make better decisions and change your actions.

Each time you improve, it helps build your confidence with increased knowledge and insight. By learning and processing information from your life about yourself, you learn your high points and can use them to your advantage.

The simplified process of self-reflection in order to obtain its benefits

This is a simple guide to the self-reflection process:

  1. STOP: Take a step back from life or a certain situation.
  2. LOOK: Identify and gain insight into what you notice and see.
  3. LISTEN: Listen to your inner guide, the innate wisdom that rises when you give it time and space to come out.
  4. ACT: Identify the steps you need to take to adjust, change or improve.

Helpful questions to ask yourself in the self-reflection practice

Here are some questions you can ask yourself in the self-reflection process:

  • How do I generally feel about this area of my life? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would I rate my level of satisfaction and success?
  • What works? What doesn’t work?
  • Why do I want more – or less?
  • What are my achievements/gains/successes? (People often pay attention to what’s wrong or didn’t work – it’s just as important to focus on what’s going right!)
  • What do I want? What are my hopes or goals for that part of my life?
  • What am I thankful for?
  • How would I improve this area of my life? What actions can I take?

Final thoughts about the self-reflection process

If practicing self-reflection on a regular basis isn’t a part of your life right now, this is your wake-up call. It’s time to take a step back and get off the treadmill of life. It’s time to practice self-reflection and get all the benefits it can offer.

Every step you take next is perfect. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do this. It’s just what works for you.

If I’ve learned anything from interacting with different kinds of people over the years, different things work for different people. There is no one right approach to self-reflection, just as there is no one right approach to life.

So how are you going to get started?