“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” Dr Seuss
This week I spent time at my desk reflecting on the last twelve months. It has been a challenging year. More challenging than most. Is it possible that there have been lessons learnt and that there are new, better decisions to be made?
There is a wise quote, accredited to various people, that says, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is bitterest.” Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, make a different choice.”
As I close out the year and start to reflect on the new year, I have actively made time to do point number one in the quote – spend time in reflection. Jen, the blog writer on a website called Aim Happy, had some insightful thoughts on self-reflection. She says:
“Introspection is the opposite of self-rejection. The loving gaze we grant ourselves will free us and lift everyone. It can be painful sometimes, though, when we start looking within for creative solutions to our problems. Shining the light on the disowned parts of our shadow is not easy, but there are no short cuts to any place worth going.
Reflection is a gift for your spirit: it allows deeper parts of who you are to come forth and be discovered, and it also enables you to create yourself anew. You begin the process seeking to find out who you are, and then you discover that you play a role in the creation of who you want to be.
Positive self-reflection is a balance of who you see yourself as now, and who you see beyond this current situation.”
Margaret J. Wheatley said, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”
The work of Japanese painter Hokusai spanned many years before his death in 1849 at age 89. But toward the end of his life, the artist dismissed as nothing all the work he had done before age 50. It was only after he reached 70 that he felt he was turning out anything worthy of note. On his deathbed Hokusai lamented, “If heaven had granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter.”
I have time now, not just to reflect, but also to document my goals for next year, both personal and business, and I will face the new year with a degree of preparedness and optimism. An article by online business guru, Myrko Thum, simply packages the process I am going through, and I thought that his self-reflection process would be valuable for you too:
1. Get into the right state and environment. Itis helpful to have all our attention on the reflection process, so find a time and a place where you will not have distractions and other issues crying for your attention. Quieting the noise in our lives for a moment, is critical to being able hear when the silence speaks.
2. Ask the right questions. Start by asking yourself the questions that are on your mind; the questions that express inner conflict. Good questions are usually the ones that bring your topic to the point by asking “How can I …”.
Some examples of questions could look like this:
“How can I make more time for what is important to me?”
“How can I get more energy?”
“How do I capitalise on that opportunity I am facing?”
“How do I solve this critical problem?”
3. Be 100% truthful with yourself. This can be the hardest part of the process. We tend to be good at being soft on ourselves and not digging deep enough to find real solutions. This truth may be unpleasant or even scary, but it is the foundation on which you build for the future.
The Greek philosopher, Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” William Shakespeare said, “This above all; to thine own self be true.” Quite simply, nothing will change until you are completely honest with yourself.
4. Attain clarity. Analyse the situation by writing down your thoughts and coming to a solution. That’s the whole idea of reflecting; getting to the core of the matter and by reaching an “Aha-Moment”. This is the realization of a new quality, an insight that came out of the reflection process, a solution you had not seen before, that gives you a better perspective on the issue at hand.
5. Make a decision and commit to it. The realization of new insights alone will have a very little impact. It will require action. Maybe it means you must stop something, or to intensify something. Maybe if requires a change of direction or an investment of time in a new opportunity. Whatever decisions you have made require implementation. Arnold Glasow said, “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” St. Augustine said, “God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails.”
So, even though the need for a break may be evident for you, include some time for self-reflection. The new year will bring its own challenges and will demand growth in all of us. Anthony Robbins said, “There is a powerful driving force inside every human being that, once unleashed, can make any vision, dream, or desire a reality.” Prepare well for the new year and unlock a new reality that will challenge you but could well catapult you forward towards the life you want for yourself.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and insights with us about your experience of self-reflection.
* Antony Jennings is Managing Partner of Zifundise Training and Consulting, a people development company based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.