Self-reflection is a critical habit for optimizing performance in our daily lives. It’s how we become intentional about who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to accomplish.
It’s about looking more closely at what’s happening and how it makes us feel and behave. It’s about watching yourself as you go through your day, and noticing what you like, and what you hope to change. And, it’s especially about considering your impact on others, and their impact on you.
When you can notice and attune to the impact you have on others in the present, you can build your ability to be the person or contributor you want to be for the future.
So what does self-reflection look like in practice?
Well, the act of self-reflection is a learned skill that improves over time with structure, repetition, and commitment. And, it extends beyond mental inquiry and analysis. Self-reflection also requires committed action. Research suggests that a key act in sustaining self-reflection is journaling as it allows you to reap the benefits by transforming inner awareness into goal-directed action.
That’s because the physical act of journaling—handwriting words and ideas—re-wires the brain. When we commit our thoughts and reflections to paper, the brain undergoes a complex process of composing, synthesizing, and storing. The creation of words and ideas signals to the brain, “this is important,” which then flags all relevant incoming information, opportunities, and tools to achieve that goal. Thus, journaling is key in motivating the body and preparing us to take action, to not only notice and attune with greater clarity and focus, but also perform for greater impact.
Journaling provides an outlet where our experiences can “come alive” to be analyzed, re-worked and improved. Yet, with any habit, journaling takes structure and practice for best result. While reflective journaling may sound complex, it’s easily captured in five journal steps, each full of opportunity to observe, question, speculate, integrate, and critique.
Step 1: Record the event or situation: the people, place, context, and actions transpired
Step 2: Reflect on personal reactions, feelings, interpretations, and insights
Step 3: Analyze for clarity; integrate theory into the experience/situation to elicit the “why”
Step 4: Draw informed conclusions
Step 5: Plan for action; what will be done differently for improvement
While this approach is prescriptive, to capture the reflective cycle, journaling can also be more fluid, nuanced, and personal. It’s important to find your own style of reflection that works.
Don’t overlook the benefits of journaling. It’s an underutilized tool that can bring overwhelming clarity to your personal and professional wellness and success.
Try it and reap the benefits!