Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Power of Reflection

Reflection is the practice is looking back on a period of time in your life and giving it serious consideration. You look at the situation from several different angles, asking yourself key questions to decide if you are fully satisfied with the outcome.

Once you have discerned your level of satisfaction you can then make key step in taking a new direction in your life; reflection empowers you to make positive changes based on solid information.

Sitting with yourself is difficult because it requires you to rehash some unpleasant events. Disappointments or failures may be as bitter a pill to swallow as they were the first time you experienced them, however, as is the usual way of being human, we tend to remember events as more dramatic than they have been.

Often an argument with a friend in which I may have felt quite justified at the time, can suddenly seem terribly petty when I honestly evaluate both sides of the story.

 Reflection proves time and time again to be an invaluable tool for seeing past events in an unbiased manner.

Additionally, when we review a month or a quarter of the year our summation of the events is often heavily influenced by what can most readily be remembered. Other lesser, but perhaps even more meaningful events are eclipsed by the more emotionally charged experiences. Careful consideration can being this back to balance.

Further, it is far too easy to lean either to the extremes of blaming everyone for your misfortunes or harshly criticizing yourself for your mistakes.

Building up the practice of reflection allows one to break an incident down to the bare bones and when you are able to see the cause and effect of each action you can then have each party or event carry its true weight.

It is prudent to note that the point of reflection is not always to make a change. In some cases reflection leads you to the conclusion that everything is working fine and that you can keep it as is. This is an equally important thing to know, as you can give yourself a much needed 'pat on the back' for the good job that you have been doing.

I apply the habit of reflection in five main areas of my life: Finances, Work, Relationships, Personal Growth and Spirituality.

The questions I ask myself in each situation are not the same but the underlying answer I am hoping to get is that I am contented with how I am doing in each area or that I  have a plan on how to reach that contentment which is unfolding.

For each person the process will be different. I will try to get you started by listing some questions that have helped me to get down to the root of the issue:

  • What went right today (this month etc) ?
  • How would I rate this event from 1-10?
  • What am I responsible for in this situation?
  • How can I improve in this skill (area)?
  • If I had a chance to do it again, what would I change?
  • Am I feeling fulfilled?
  • Have I given the best of myself?
  • I am being fair to him or her?
  • If I put myself in the other person's shoes, what would I have done?
  • Did I achieve what I set out to do?
  • What is my tolerance for setbacks and obstacles?
  • What can I learn from this event (person)?
  • Am I happy with how I am spending my time (money, resources)?
  • Is this situation adding to me or draining me?
  • What can I do to make me feel more empowered and less swept up in the tide?
  • Did my planning work out, or did I miss a key step?
  • What is no longer serving my purpose?
  • How did I not show up for myself in this situation?
  • Why did I end up feeling overwhelmed (bored, out of energy etc)?
  • Who do I need to thank for their help?
  • What things can I be grateful for?
  • What skills did I use to help resolve this situation?

Here are a few habits that pair well with reflection and on their own can help you to shift your life into a better place. Used together, they create a formidable tool box of self-mastery:

1) Journalling

This is a useful form of not only clearing the clutter from your mind, but also in helping you to organize your thoughts and put together plans. It is an essential stage in turning dreams into reality. Journalling helps with reflection by providing data to be analysed; this is invaluable as we often forget nuances of an event and journalling can help in that area.

2) Meditation

Meditation can help you to clear your mind and allow your thoughts to settle themselves. I have found that some of my best ideas have come to me after a period of meditation. The quietness of my mind afterwards allows me to be able to put aside excess emotion and view things in an unbiased way. 

3) Planner or Diary

Keeping a planner or diary is great for keeping you organized. It will also provide a form of record keeping of what happened over the course of the week or time period under review. It will be even more useful if you update the planner with what actually occurred in a day, versus what had been the plan.
You will be able to notice what appointments ran over time and where you can allow increased flexibility in the future. You can also notice if you need to schedule time for self-care and rest.

4)To-Do Lists

Most people do a to-do list and then throw it away. However keeping your to-do lists will help you to see what tasks you are simply moving forward and which ones you do in a timely manner.
Making a to-do list can keep you from feeling lost in the middle of the day when you have a lot to do, but no clear idea on how to get started. 

5) Gratitude Round-Up

Taking time out to note what you are grateful for can lift your mood. Often we lose sight of the things that we have now that enrich our life, and also of the people around us who offer constant support and love.
This practice is especially excellent at the end of a monthly review; I feel very abundant when I look back on all of the great things that happened me and the ways that my loved ones made me feel special.

Lastly, if you make a habit of starting your day by setting out the most important task you need to get done and making sure that you do it,  a brief reflection on how that task unfolded at the end of the day will do wonders in improving your productivity over time.

Reflection is no quick fix to the problems of sustaining motivation, but gradually it can transform several key areas of your life.

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