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Wednesday, March 31, 2021



Self-reflection may feel like the latest new thing, but the concept is nearly as old as time itself. Way back in Ancient Greece, Socrates told his executioners that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” While that statement may be a bit extreme - life is life, after all, and always worth living - examining your beliefs, your attitudes and your actions, is a vital part of personal change and growth. What exactly is self-reflection and how does it help you achieve your goals for personal growth?

Remembering the past - and more importantly, analyzing it for patterns - is the way that we learn. When a football coach sits down with his players to watch last week’s game, he is not doing it for entertainment. He uses it as an opportunity to point out how each player’s actions and patterns contributed to a win or a loss, and to recommend changes to strategy so that the players improve their performance in the next game.

The post-mortem is not confined to sports, of course. In a poetry slam, for example, performers often watch videos of their own performances to see places where their delivery could be better or to take note of where the audience reacted in an unexpected way to their words or gestures. There is even an actual tool to help athletes and other performers make the most of their self-reflection. Reflecting on your actions and attitudes is one of the most effective ways to identify areas where you need to change, recognize places where you have grown and keep you moving forward to achieve your personal growth goals.

Let us start with this understanding: the purpose of self-reflection is not to beat yourself up for being a bad person. The point is to examine how well you are meeting your goals, recognize where you are in comparison to where you were, and mark your progress toward where you want to be.

Here is the first exercise in self-reflection to get you started on your way to a more examined life. These questions will help you set a baseline, recognizing where you are and what you need to be happy, successful and fulfilled.

Before you start answering them through, think about the ways you learn best. Write out things in long hand in your journal which helps you really focus and think about the answers before you write them down. Your mileage may vary - maybe you do your best thinking out loud. In that case, use a voice recorder app on your phone. Whatever works best for you is right for you.

  1. What are your strengths? Make note of the things you do well, the things that make you proud of yourself.
  2. What are your weaknesses? Note your personality traits or personal habits that you think make you less effective.
  3. What makes you happy? Write down the things in your life, big or small, that bring you joy.
  4. What are the things that dim your joy? Write down the things that bring you stress, anxiety or otherwise make you less happy.
  5. What changes would you like to make in your life?

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