- Reflection is transformative and can inspire growth and change.
- Reflection provides a deeper insight into our experiences.
- Reflection can be done alone or with friends or loved ones.
- Reflective writing is a powerful tool to help us examine our experiences.
To reflect is to take the time to evaluate or meditate on the experiences and events in our lives, and view them either separately or in the context of our entire life to see how they have affected us. Reflection is also about considering how our experiences changed us or have helped us grow. In self-reflection, you’re thinking of your own life and its trajectory. Self-reflection is an essential tool for transformation and change. If you’re unhappy or are dealing with difficult situations, taking the time to self-reflect can help you move through them with renewed intention and purpose.
The last week of the year seems to be the perfect time to reflect on the happenings of 2022. However, because most of us have fast-paced lives, we don’t always have the time or inclination for self-reflection or evaluation of our lives. Reflection also inspires us to learn and better understand ourselves. This is particularly important if you’ve had experiences or people in your life that troubled you in the past year. According to fellow PT contributor Tchiki Davis, when making change, remember to do so with gentleness and self-compassion (2019). It’s important that we don’t spend too much time judging ourselves, but rather accept what happened in the past and consider making appropriate changes in 2023 that will lead to a more harmonious and happier life, all of which contribute to your sense of well-being.
“Life-reflection is a social-cognitive process that begins in adolescence and continues across the life span,” writes Ursula Staudinger (2001). Reflection has different purposes during different life stages, but on the whole, it provides us with insight into who we are and what makes us happy. Sometimes we prefer to reflect alone, but we should also consider including friends, therapists, or family in the experience. This can help offer deeper insight into our experiences. Reflection has many positive outcomes. A study reported in the Harvard Business School Newsletter showed that employees were more productive when they reflected on their work, and it also enhanced their learning process.
Reflective writing is writing that is helpful at the end of the year. If you keep a journal or are writing a memoir, chances are you’ve engaged in reflective writing. Practicing this activity not only allows us to look back upon an experience, but it also shares in the safety of our journal the thought processes associated with the experience. Consider writing about the meaning these circumstances had on your life, and how it has affected who you are today.
Author Mark Freeman examines the idea of hindsight, which he refers to as a “process of looking back over the terrain of the past from the standpoint of the present and either seeing things a new or drawing” various connections. He further remarks that hindsight is at the core of self-understanding (2009). The truth is, we cannot successfully self-reflect without hindsight.
Benefits of Reflection
Reflection is a good habit to engage in and has many benefits: it can be transformative, it helps facilitate changes, and it increases our sense of self-awareness. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” When we don’t examine our life, it’s easy to lose perspective about what really matters and open ourselves up to prolonged unhappiness.
Here are some journaling prompts or talking points to inspire reflection:
- What are you grateful for?
- What have you learned in 2022?
- What mistakes did you make in 2022?
- What problems or obstacles did you encounter in 2022?
- What helped you cope with difficult situations in 2022?
Davis, T., Ph. D. (2019, October 7). What Is Self-Reflection and Why It Matters For Wellness. Psychology Today. Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201910/what-is-self-reflection-and-why-it-matters-wellness
Di Stefano, G., Gino, F., Pisano, G. P., & Staats, B. R. (2014). Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance. SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2414478
Freeman, M. (2009). Hindsight: The Promise and Peril of Looking Backward (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.
Previously Published on Psychology Today