At Inome, our favorite tool to develop self-awareness is a daily habit of reflection. Reflection is more than simply reviewing an experience in your mind, like watching a video clip on repeat. It’s about analyzing the situation so that you can learn about yourself and move on.
Like most habits, you should start small. Each day, pick an experience that you had that day and reflect on it. If you’re not sure what to reflect on, think about whatever sparked the most emotion in you throughout the day. It could be a compliment from a stranger, an argument with your partner, or a really boring meeting.
Here are 4 things that you should answer when you reflect:
1. How did the experience make me feel?
It’s usually easy to identify your high-level emotions: happy, sad, angry, excited, or a combination of these. But try to push yourself to think a little deeper. What were your exact feelings? Were you angry because you were scared or embarrassed? Were you happy because you felt loved or appreciated? Studies show that the more accurately you can identify and label your emotions, the better you can regulate them.
2. What did I need in the experience?
All of our feelings stem from basic human needs. Recognizing your needs goes a long way in understanding what truly motivates you and explains your feelings and behaviors. By identifying your needs, you can also better process your feelings and communicate your perspective of the experience to others.
3. How would I describe myself in the experience?
Think about your behavior from the perspective of a third party. How would an impartial viewer describe you? Often in the midst of a situation — especially in negative, emotional experiences — we can’t clearly see how we are behaving. This is particularly the case if we feel the need to defend our behavior. But when we step back and reflect, we can view our behavior from another perspective.
4. What can I learn from the experience?
Whether the experience is negative or positive, we can usually learn something new about ourselves and how we interact with the world around us. Consider whether you would behave differently in similar situations in the future. Or whether it’s an experience that you would like to avoid or duplicate going forward.
For example, say that you got frustrated in a meeting at work today and snapped at a coworker. Afterwards, while reflecting on that experience you ask yourself the following questions:
- How did I feel? Sure, you were annoyed, but dig deeper. Maybe you felt ignored because your coworker was talking over you. Or you felt anxious because you had time-sensitive tasks that you needed to complete instead of being in a meeting.
- What did I need? Perhaps the meeting had no agenda or your coworker wasn’t listening to you. You might say that you needed organization and to be respected.
- How did I behave? If you snapped at a coworker, you might say that you were impatient and rude.
- What can I learn? What might be able to change? Can you encourage an agenda in meetings? Could you enforce some rules around not talking over colleagues? If this is a repeat experience, you might also learn that when your needs for organization and respect aren’t met, you feel anxious and ignored, and you become impatient and rude.
The more you reflect, the easier it will become to answer these questions. You’ll find that you have a better understanding of why you enjoy some experiences more than others and which needs are particularly important to you. You’ll be able to communicate better with others and see win-win solutions to disagreements.
All you have to do is create the reflection habit. Just spend 5 minutes a day reflecting on one experience and ask yourself: how did I feel, what did I need, how did I behave, and what did I learn.