Self-reflection for a satisfying life

We are too much occupied. Dealing with daily life issues, working, eating, cleaning, watching Netflix, parenting, etc. There is so much going on and it is not always easy or satisfying. As humans, we go through numerous emotions such as happiness, anger, relaxation, poignancy, which we tend to also express, in one way or another, to outside. The positive emotions that we show to people around makes us likeable person to be companion with. Vice versa, bringing negative emotions out can make a companionship of ours a misery for others. This in return breeds more negative emotions in us, such as depression or melancholy.

There is a constant flow of emotions in us. We are not able to control the life and events happening in life. What we do is to absorb what is happening, process it in our minds, create a mental image and react to it.

“Symptoms of our self-ignorance abound. We are irritable or sad, guilty or furious, without any reliable sense of the origins of our discord. We destroy a relationship that might have been workable under a compulsion we cannot account for. We fail to know our professional talents in time. We pass too many of our days under mysterious clouds of despair or beset by waves of persecution. We pay a very high price for our self-ignorance. Feelings and desires that haven’t been examined linger and distribute their energy randomly across our lives. Ambition that doesn’t know itself re-emerges as panic; envy transforms itself into bitterness; anger turns into rage; sadness into depression. Disavowed material buckles and strains the system. We develop pernicious tics: a facial twitch, impotence, a compulsion, an unbudgeable sadness. Much of what destroys our lives can be attributed to emotions that our conscious selves haven’t found a way to understand or to address in time. It is logical that Socrates should have boiled down the entire wisdom of philosophy to one simple command: ‘Know yourself.’

Alain de Botton

Facing life, before we understand and ‘control’ it, we should understand ourselves. Introspection is analyzing one’s self . More practically, it is about evaluating our emotions, actions and reactions, and finding the root cause. It’s definitely a skill that we are able to learn. We should get rid of all the noise around, and take a look at and understand ourselves.

We are mentally confused. Given there is an unlimited amount of information (mostly noise) we are encoding or decoding, our brain always tries to choose the easiest path. For that reason, scrolling on social media is very addictive. We are not very good at intuitively analyzing what is going on precisely. Analyzing our own self is no exception here. It requires a training of mind to focus and commit to that certain task. It is a serious task to do and can take quite along time to master. So, why should we even do it?

Self-reflection is the fundamental pre-requisite of controlling our attitude towards daily, both private and professional, matters, especially the obstacles or problems that we face every day, – it creates the resilience needed to construct a satisfying life. Few of the main benefits of the self-reflection are:

  • Recognition of success – in order to motivate ourselves for progress, not just extrinsic but also intrinsic reasons are needed. By recognizing our daily little wins, we are feeling the satisfaction of spending a productive and meaningful time. This in return makes us more motivated to wake up the next day and do more.
  • Improving on failure – By looking at issues we had or the failures we experienced, we can see why they happened and what the reasons for them are. Finding those reasons, we can work on solving them so that we do not see them ever again.
  • Smarter decision-making – once we understand ourselves, we start to trust ourselves as well. By knowing what we are capable of, how much risk-averse we are, what weaknesses we have, our decision will be much more robust. It does not mean that the outcomes of our decisions will be as expected, but we will know that the error is not likely coming from what we already know, but it will be something new.. So, it will add to our knowledge and expertise, which is a learning for even smarter decisions in the future.
  • Stronger social competence – self-reflection does not just give us the skill of understanding ourselves, it also helps us to understand others. Once we know that the emotions and reactions are not just an outcome of that instant event, we won’t judge people right away. As Alain de Botton puts it, “to hear that we should understand rather than condemn, that others are primarily anxious rather than cruel, that every strength of character we admire bears with it a weakness we must forgive: these are both key laws of psychology and entirely familiar truisms of the sort that we have been taught to disdain. Yet despite their so-called obviousness, simple-sounding emotional dynamics are aggressively capable of ruining extended periods of our lives.” So, self-reflection can make our relationships easier and satisfying instead of being chaotic.

“The emotionally intelligent person knows that love is a skill, not a feeling, and will require trust, vulnerability, generosity, humour, sexual understanding and selective resignation. The emotionally intelligent person awards themselves the time to determine what gives their working life meaning and has the confidence and tenacity to try to find an accommodation between their inner priorities and the demands of the world. The emotionally intelligent person knows how to hope and be grateful, while remaining steadfast before the essentially tragic structure of existence. The emotionally intelligent person knows that they will only ever be mentally healthy in a few areas and at certain moments, but is committed to fathoming their inadequacies and warning others of them in good time, with apology and charm. Sustained shortfalls in emotional intelligence are, sadly, no minor matter. There are few catastrophes, in our own lives or in those of nations, that do not ultimately have their origins in emotional ignorance.”

Alain de Botton

Main underlying principle of the self-reflection is literally analyzing yourself. There are many ways of how you can do it. Few of them are:

  • Ask yourself – “How was my day?”, “What did I achieve today?”, “What did go wrong and why?”, “How did I feel overall?”, “Why did I say this or that to a specific person?”. Just analyze your activities and mood during the day and look for what drove them.
  • Write a journal – Write your day down on a journal. Writing down usually is a much better method, because by putting down our thoughts in complete sentences, we are filling the gaps that our mind does not intuitively do when just thinking about them. Our mind thinks bullet points and writing them down makes it become a complete and thorough story. Besides, it also helps us to be a better communicator.
  • Meditate – by letting your mind wander around without any specific target thought, it will bring the thoughts naturally to the vision. Do not block them or focus on breath or whatsoever. Just observe the thoughts that come while being in silence. It can be surprising how efficient it is to find patterns in our thoughts and feelings. Peripheral vision towards our inner self is a strong method.

There are many resources on how to do self-reflection. Regardless of the way you choose, start doing it and be persistent. It is easy to fit this practice into our daily agenda. Seneca said that “I make use of this opportunity, daily pleading my case at my own court. When the light has been taken away and my wife has fallen silent, aware as she is of my habit, I examine my entire day, going through what I have done and said. I conceal nothing from myself, I pass nothing by. I have nothing to fear from my errors when I can say: ‘See that you do not do this anymore. For the moment, I excuse you.’” You can do it as well. 🙂

‘Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.’


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