Learning from 2017: Why we should use self-reflection to audit our year

6 minute read

Selfreflection is the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and the
willingness to learn more about their fundamental nature, purpose and essence.

The key message here, is to regularly engage in self-reflection regarding where you are at in your life; how did you get there, are you happy, are you getting closer to your goals?

My self-reflection process involves:

  • Regularly journaling
  • Constantly revising my goals
  • Asking myself if what I’m doing now will get me to where I need to go
  • What did I engage in that did not work?
  • What worked well?
  • Am I happy? do my close friends and family think I’m happy?
  • What did I accomplish that I’m proud of?
  • What can I change now that will provide me with the greatest advantage?

A year in limbo

I have always been a keen and avid learner, but I feel like I tread a lot of water in 2017.  I remember something from The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone, along the lines of: “people only recognise about 10 percent of your development and improvement, so don’t be disheartened when you don’t get the recognition that you feel you deserve and don’t let this stop you from taking massive action in pursuing your goals.” I know many people who felt that they didn’t achieve what they wanted to this year because their managers didn’t recognise their new or improved skills. And, subsequently, they eased off on pursuing their new skills because they thought that it was a waste of time. Other peoples recognition should never be the deciding factor in guiding your focus and energy. 

2017 felt like it was the year that the rubber met the road for me. All the skills and learning that I undertook in business and creativity were put to the test. I really found out first hand if my amassed skills were empirical or if they were ephemeral in the arena of life. One big issue that I faced in 2017 was that I swamped myself with information content and just overcommitted to everything. 

Trapped in an information coma

We all want to be ahead of the competition. So, we read and take courses upon courses, stay up late and watch tutorials – we burn whatever energy we have for rationalising and critical thinking. Research shows that we only have limited willpower that can be used to make quality decisions per day – so we should be very selective with how we spend it. 

Information has become a kind of porn for our prefrontal cortex. If I really want to master something, you have to focus on depth of knowledge and specific things, not just a wide surface level understanding of a bunch of things. During 2017, I was constantly swept away by a tide of insignificant bullshit – only to realise that life is more than a temporal race of accumulating riches; it is about family, love and compassion etc… This point was hammered home by Gray Vee’s recent video, where he reminded us all that we are all going to die one day, so focus on the things that are ACTUALLY important to you. This is just like the Memento Mori concept that we should regularly be practising.

Insights through self-reflection

Here are my reasons why 2017 felt like it was terrible:

  1. I didn’t make decisions effectively.
  2. I did not look after my health.
  3. I didn’t make time for things that were important to me.
  4. I lowered my standards and settle for subpar quality.
  5. I rushed through things that needed my care and attention now, in order to get to the ‘more important things’.
  6. I took other people’s shit when I should have stood up for myself.
  7. I didn’t utilize my power to say ‘no’ when I had the opportunities.
  8. I felt sorry for myself.
  9. I was not grateful and appreciative of what I had, but instead felt entitled.
  10. I let myself become bitter and angry.
  11. I lost faith and confidence in myself and my abilities.
  12. I wanted to punish/destroy myself when things didn’t go my way.

As you’ve probably already realised, these are all issues with me. These are things that ‘I’ need to change. An authentic self-reflection process will provide you with extreme accountability and ownership of the things that are your responsibility to change.

Be ignorant, be positive

I’ve realised that we can actually control how we feel. we do this by choosing what thoughts to focus on and what to ignore. This means that we’re managing the seeds of our emotions. Our brain fires off signals 24/7, and we don’t need to worry about every single signal. Learning how to ignore your thoughts is a superpower that lets you focus on the task at hand. Just because your brain is thinking about something, doesn’t make it important. Choose willful ignorance and don’t attach yourself to your random thoughts. 

Try this:

When a random negative thought pops into your head, just look at it like you would a picture and say “oh, that’s weird, that isn’t something I would normally think about” and see how quick that thought passes you by.

Thoughts are like the class clown, sometimes they just need to be acknowleged, and then nothing more needs to be done with them.

 In his book Letting Go, David R Hawkins discussed scientific experiments where participants were asked to do a grip test to measure their strength. Participants were asked to perform the grip test whilst holding good thoughts in their mind, and then to do it again whilst holding painful and angry thoughts in their minds. The results showed that people who held good thoughts performed the grip test at a significantly higher strength than people who held hurtful thoughts. The experiment concluded that our thoughts are not meaningless, they actually have an impact on our physiology.

The power of decision

They say that decision is a muscle that you continually build over time. In my experience,  decision is the centrepiece of discipline, persistence and habit. This is my weakest attribute by far, I don’t like making decisions – I continually avoid or prolong things until it’s a last minute and brash oversight. Not committing a decision really stems from fear and inadequacy, and once we realise that, we can start to questions our fears and insecurities. Making a decision requires strong self-awareness. It means that you have to accept that you may not feel like undertaking a task, you may be unhappy about what you have to do – but you are making a commitment to proceed forward. The word decision and determination are closely related. The word determination is translated from the Latin determinare; which is a settlement that requires a judge to rule on, in order to resolve a conflict between two parties. This is fitting because when we decide to do something, we are no longer at odds with ourselves – we are not spending energy evaluating and pondering – when we use our decision making, we are committing to move forward.

Self-reflection is an essential process in your endeavours and in life. A final piece of advice would be to spend time with yourself – think, ponder and get to know yourself. Really question who you are, why you have certain likes and dislikes. Engaging in this process will really build your self-awareness and allow you get greater insights from yourself and your environment.

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