Making time for self-reflection isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. And the benefits can be huge.
“No matter how busy you are, you have time to step back and reflect,” said Joseph Badaracco, a Harvard Business School professor and the author of “Step Back: How To Bring the Art of Reflection into Your Busy Life.”
“Reflection is important because it is an all-purpose tool for working better and living better,” he said. He adds that the art of self-reflection clarifies what really matters and what needs to get done.
You can reflect on the big issues of your career and life, as well as small everyday matters that you want to get right.
Tips on reaping rewards from practicing self-reflection:
Fit Self-Reflection Into Your Life
You don’t have to be a perfectionist about self-reflection to benefit. “Find an approach that works pretty well for you most of the time,” Badaracco said. Ideally that’s something that fits into your schedule and that you enjoy.
He emphasizes reflection doesn’t have to involve extended periods of tranquillity and monklike solitary deliberation. “Almost no one has time for that,” he said.
Badaracco champions what he calls “mosaic” reflection. “This is creating your own personalized pattern of brief periods of reflection over the course of days or weeks,” he said.
Make Your Self-Reflection Time Count
Pay attention to how you think when you make the time for self-reflection. Badaracco suggests approaches proven to be valuable over centuries. Among them are “pondering” and “measuring up.”
Pondering means looking at an issue from different perspectives, Badaracco says. Do this instead of moving quickly to what you think is the right answer but is based on a limited perspective. And measuring up means taking a moment when you can before making a decision. Ask yourself what course of action will meet the standards others expect of you, and that you have set for yourself.
Say you want to take stock of decisions you usually make with your gut instinct.
Catalogue the last three times you followed your intuition, says Natalie Nixon, author of “The Creativity Leap: Unleash Curiosity, Improvisation, and Intuition at Work.”
Nixon says to ask yourself “what was the result?” Then also reflect on the consequences of not following your intuition. What was the outcome in those cases?
In this example, the evidence builds to either justify using intuition in your decision making or shows you shouldn’t be doing so.
Always write down results of your self-reflection. Think over what you learned about yourself. And be sure to journal about all of the times you’ve followed any particular course of action and what those results were.
Journaling about the way you have historically done things and made decisions becomes a memory bank, Nixon says.
Practice Lateral Thinking
Learn from sectors completely different from yours to spark creativity during your times of reflection, Nixon says.
Attend webinars or conferences in completely different industries, she adds. You’ll learn new approaches to similar problems. For example, if you work in the food industry, attend a webinar focused on the transportation or fashion industry.
Then in times of reflection, ask yourself what applies from other industries to yours that can be of benefit?
Change Your Self-Reflection Environment
Changing scenery can help with self-reflection. Moving from one room in your home to another, or to an outdoor setting qualifies as a different environment. But you can also go for something radically different too.
One idea: “Try floating,” Nixon wrote. “Floating centers” are popping up in cities all over the world. You step into a tank full of warm water with about 800 pounds of salt in it. When you lie down, you are “floating” on the top of the water.
“It’s completely dark and silent around you,” Nixon says. “You emerge more relaxed and attuned to your environment. It feels like an emotional tuneup.”
If floating seems a little too wild, don’t worry. The goal is to focus all your attention on your thinking, not on external concerns. Whether it’s floating or something similar, “sensory deprivation does wonders for sparking wondrous thinking,” Nixon said.
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