At Inome, our favorite tool for developing self-awareness is reflection. The goal of reflection is to create meaning from an experience and increase our understanding of how we, as individuals, relate to the world and ourselves. Reflection can shift our perspective and lead to learning and change. This is why thoughtful and careful reflection is a form of personal growth.
In previous posts, we’ve talked about four questions you need to ask yourself when you reflect on an experience: how did I feel, what did I need, how did I behave, and what did I learn? These questions have three important roles in the process of reflection. The first is that it will help you make sense of your experience with regard to self and learn from it. Second, as you keep reflecting, the patterns of your answers to these questions will help you understand who you are and develop self-awareness. And finally sticking to these questions keep your mind on track as you reflect.
When reflecting, though, It’s easy to get distracted or caught up in overthinking and overanalyzing your experience. Here are the rules to make your reflection practices go a bit more smoothly.
Be an impartial observer
The more attached you are to a specific interpretation of an experience, the harder it is to learn from it. In order to learn from it, you need to consider the situation from the perspective of an impartial observer. It might even help to ask the questions about yourself in the third person, to gain a little more distance. How did the experience make Emily feel? What did Emily need in the experience?
Self-compassion is absolutely critical to effective reflection. Self-compassion doesn’t mean that you don’t gauge whether or not your actions were a good idea. But as you weigh your actions, there’s no need to berate yourself for mistakes. Just by reflecting, you are already growing and improving, so give yourself a little support! Be a good friend to yourself — you can be bluntly honest while simultaneously being kind and supportive.
Learn a lesson and let go
Remember the goal of the reflection is to analyze your thoughts, make meaning of your experience, learn something about yourself and move on. It’s not about ruminating on your past experiences. Let your reflection practice include permission to let go of experiences that have been nagging you.