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“By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.” ~ Confucius

For me Self-Reflection is the way to remove inner road-blocks, to first become aware of the things that really holding me back and then tackle them by finding a solution. Of course writing it down into a personal journal is the best way to do it. It’s also interesting to do with a good friend who is open enough to take part. Some forms of psycho-therapy are similar to this approach, where you have a hopefully competent listener reflecting back to you and guiding you to a finally self-found solution.

This is a process of bringing inner road-blocks or wishes to the light is one of the most important things to do for personal inner growth. It’s one of the best ways to attain clarity and by that immense power.

The alternative would be not making deeper personal issus conscious. If you do this you simply are not aware of them, maybe even denying them and by that saying ok to being limited. But they don’t go away. They merely get stuck into the subconscious and then are influencing from there. Then you are polluting your inner space. Seen in this way, it is like not cleaning your room but simply looking away from your trash laying around, only that it is inner trash now. Having an inner cleaning mechanism is what Self-Reflection really is.

If you do this for the first time in such a depth you might feel a little bit weird, writing your own thoughts down and guiding yourself. I experienced this myself as I thought of this as weakness, to reflect on my problems. This is nothing more than social conditioning like “a real man (or woman) doesn’t reflect on problems, he solves them”. Of course this is totally stupid since analyzing a complex situation is the key to effective action and once I got the benefits of this process, I never gave it up again.

What worked for me really good is the following process of self-reflection. I hope it can be helpful for others as well:

1. Get into the right state and environment

To be effective with Self-Reflection it is good to get into a suitable mental state and environment. Firstly it is helpful to have all of our attention at the process, so don’t be distracted by maybe having the TV turned on etc. It is best if you don’t have anything else on your mind. You don’t want to get interrupted either.

For me the best time to do it is in the evening when I have some exclusive time for myself, or on Sunday afternoon. So clear your mind first of the task you have to do tomorrow and get a bit relaxed. Then focus your mind on the right question …

2. Ask the right questions

I usually start by asking myself the question that is on my mind, the question that expresses an inner conflict. It is something that has a continuing influence on me, where I am not satisfied with and want to change.

By asking a good question you give your brain something to work on. It will try to find a good explanation to it, starting the process of Self-Reflection. So it is crucial to ask the right question here, the one that expresses your topic. Good questions are always the ones that bring your topic to the point by asking “How can I …”. Usually questions starting with “Why …” are not very effective. By asking Why-Questions you will get answers why it is that way. But you want to improve here, that’s why a How-Question is more solution-oriented and therefore usually much more empowering.

Some examples of questions could look like this:

  • “How can I make more time for myself and my family?” (opposed to “Why do I have no time for myself and my family?”)
    Or
  • “How can I get more energy?” (opposed to “Why do I have no energy?”)

As you can see, the How-Questions are much more solution- and action-oriented. The problem with the Why-Question could be, that you simply get a confirmation of why you can’t do it. But this is only by asking the wrong question.

It can be useful to ask “Why?”, if you really are looking fo the reason. Then you have to be aware that you have to make a shift to a How-Question, once you have found the reason. For example if you ask “Why do I have so less time for the things that really matter to me?” you get a lot of answers and then you will have to move to “Knowing this, how can I make more time now for the things that really matter to me?”

3. Be 100% truthful

When thinking about your question, answer it to the best degree of truth you can. Break out of social conditioning and of beliefs and things that other people put onto you. If you really ask yourself, you usually can find a much deeper answer to questions. Being truthful to yourself is the key, without this you won’t get very far. Of course, this truth may be unpleasant or even scary.

But let me tell you something: Nothing will get better, until you tell yourself the truth. Nothing can really change. You can delude yourself for a while, but life finds always a way to show to you if you are off course. The power lies within telling yourself the truth and then act from there.

4. Attain clarity: Analyze the situation by writing and coming to a solution

That’s the whole idea of reflecting: getting to the core of the matter and by that getting an “Aha-Moment”. This is a realization of a new quality, an insight that came out of the reflection-process, something that you have not seen before and that gives you a better perspective on the topic. Here the solution can be found.

Often this process involves several steps: maybe you come from your first question to another, deeper question. Don’t lose sight of the original personal question you wanted to answer for yourself. Otherwise you could drift into different topics, getting overwhelmed and finally getting nowhere really. So stay focused on the question and expect to find an answer to it. This is a critical skill in analyzing in general.

You are not finished until you found a solution that really satisfies you, that is the best solution for your current situation. Yes, maybe it is not the solution that solves all the problems at once. But it is the best way given the current circumstances to go on. Usually it is an important step towards the optimal situation. You can feel this if you did it and then the opportunity to make the positive change becomes more obvious, out of a better understanding.

5. Make a decision and commit to it

If you found a good answer to your initial question you now have the power to work from this new knowledge and really make a very positive and pleasing change. The realization alone will have a very positive impact. Maybe it means you have to stop something, or to intensify something. Whatever it is, to use this self-attained knowledge is the key now. So you make the conclusion and make a decision. Commit to the decision, which should be pretty straight-forward since it is in harmony with the answer you got to your question during Self-Reflection.

Reflection vs. Action

I want to close this post by a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who said: “Never by reflection, but only by doing is self-knowledge possible to one.” While this first seems like a contradiction to the process of Self-Reflection, it is not. The reason to do Self-Reflection is to be more effective in the doing. As I described I see it as cleaning my inner space, getting an answer and then using this knowledge, testing it in reality by doing. Maybe I get a better answer or even a better question later, but I made real progress along the way.

35 comments

  1. INcubator Reply August 17, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Asking the right question is a very interesting way to look at it. I read the topic of Why versus How questions elsewhere. I should definately self-reflect more often, so thanks for reminding me.

  2. Evelyn Lim Reply August 19, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    You are right to point out that how questions are more action and solution oriented. However, I find it hard to move on to hows without going through the whys.

    Here’s how I do mine: I usually start with my feelings. I begin by tuning in and ask myself what do I feel right now. From my emotions, I then start to ask myself why. My why questions help me to understand more about myself. However, I do note that sometimes there are no reasons to the whys. Still, I go through the why questions because they may provide me a clue. They keep me aware. In awareness, there is no judgement.

    I may then choose to write down my thoughts as a part of self awareness. Writing is a form of release for me too. Moving on to what else can I do is usually the last step.

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post: 10 Insights Into The Power Of Thoughts

  3. Myrko Reply August 19, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Evelyn, that’s a good point. I think self-reflection is ultimately about really understanding ourselves and our environment and then having the power to go into the right direction from there. So self-reflection is about creating clarity and living from there.
    I think creating clarity is really asking why followed by understanding. Then – not stopping on why – moving to how.

    So I guess asking why is really more relevant than I pointed out in the article. Thanks for this addition! :)

  4. Andrew Peacock Reply August 25, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Hi,

    I’m with Evelyn. Despite being a major advocate of empowering questions, sometimes “why” questions can be useful…. but only if we know we can quickly turn them into “how” questions very quickly. A “why” can highlight a specific problem, giving you the opportunity to ask a very specific “how”, which might help to provide quite focused and powerful answers.

    Great post,

    Andy

  5. Myrko Reply August 26, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Andy, “Why” enables us to get the the core of a topic, to find the real reason behind something on the surface. As you pointed out, the “How to improve?” is the perfect follow-up then!

    Asking the right questions is very powerful, as you write on your blog :) I remember Tony Robbins also talking about the Power of Questions…

  6. Elly Reply September 8, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Very useful article. Now I am in similar processes of trying to realize what do I want and how to achieve it. I have signed my resignation letter as a firts step….we’ll see where will it lead me to.

  7. Myrko Reply September 8, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Elly, thanks for sharing.
    I wish you insights and success along your way! :)

  8. brianohio Reply September 8, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Myrko,

    I spent some time today reflecting on myself and posting in my blog. Although it was more or a “I shoulda…” post, I think the princilpes you bring up were used. Evelyn’s idea of asking why she is feeling are a certain way is a good starting point for me too. I find that writing my feelings and thoughts online has become a welcomed outlet.

    Keep up the good work!

    brianohio’s last blog post: Days go by…

  9. Myrko Reply September 9, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Brian, you mention an interesting point. In fact since I started this blog my personal journal sees less writing from me. You could say that I don’t use the time, but I don’t feel the need to do it in such detail (at least once a day in the past) now. This is because a lot of my writing and reflecting flows directly into the blog-posts. The recent posts get more personal in the way that this is really on my mind, than the posts when I started. Anyways writing seems to be a major way to get clarity with oneself.

  10. Nick Reply December 26, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Before I could finish reading the article I found myself doing some quality thinking. This is a useful article. I will read and re-read. I am making reflection a daily activity as one of my goals for 2011. Stay blessed.

  11. used tires Reply May 23, 2011 at 8:42 am

    You definitely have to be truthful, I feel like if you can’t do that, then for sure you are not going to improve yourself.

    -Jean

  12. Property Marbella Reply August 17, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Unfortunately, we lie to ourselves to reach the goal; Self-Reflection, we need to be more honest in our quest to reach self-reflection.

  13. peacheyspace Reply December 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you very much for a very insightful article… I been writing journal since i was a little girl and i made this as a habit. It is true, it made me grounded. I do reflect most of the time and it helps me to be more focus in attaining my goals in life…

  14. Julia Hulme Reply February 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I found this a very insightful and informative article. In today’s fast paced environment it can be very hard to make time to be “calm” and “self-reflective”. I find that when I ride my bike over quite long distances I will often self-evaluate . I find it challenging and rewarding to assess my thoughts, feelings and actions, often asking myself at a deeper level why it is I say and do the things I do. By having this insight I feel that I work every day to become a better human being. It can be a challenge at times and I am sure it is a life long journey of self-discovery, however self-reflection helps one to develop a more in-depth understanding of themselves and their fellow human beings.

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  23. Maryam Reply December 9, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Dear Myrko i agree with u about How ,because in the majorty of situtons it is more effective for eg if i find out i have got cancer ,why it has happen to me or why me?cannot help at all and how can i get better ?how can i get rid of it?how can i use the rest of my life?i think when some thing bad happen to us we should accept it as much as something good and this is life

  24. Maryam Reply December 9, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I always try to reach the things which have standards,values in society and when i have them people count on me for eg education, good car, good jwelary, good house and in society people are assessed with these things and we are respected by them and we spend a lot of time and our life to reach them and they give us without shadow of doubt pride ,but do things give us happenss?!!u once said things we own end up to own us,i have been brought up with this idea of having everything and when ever i got them the joy of having them was very short ,i must work on myself to get rid of these things but thanks god i have also the things which canot buy by money too and i hope they help me to clean my innerside and change my value

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  26. Wan Reply January 16, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I like the idea of asking good questions. The difference between asking Why and How can be astounding.

  27. Aiden Cassidy Reply January 25, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    I really don’t know where to start or how to self reflect. I am a 57yo male and I live alone. My thoughts are jumbled and many with depression a major key. Also I am thousands of miles away from home (Australia) and living here in the US.Can someone please tell me how to start this process. I have heard that self reflection is one of the hardest things to do and accept.

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  29. Deslyn Murray Reply February 26, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I love reading this topic, because three years ago I lost my Mother two yrs after my dad had open heart surgery and in between I had a stroke he in one hospital and am in another by the time I came out I didn’t get to spend much time with him. my memory some was misplace or lost, speech lost balance man I could go on, but in all I lost my Father and thank God for his wonderful comfort & blessing that he brought most or all of my memory back & speech that I can move along in this world. today in my learning stages life brings me to have an reflection on my self to know who I am again, so thank you my Myrko for letting me having that wake up call to recognize what I already know and with God at the head and toe what else can I ask for so thank you Jesus for life.

  30. terry Reply March 19, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    can you add me to your newsletter?

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  33. Stashuna Reply June 23, 2014 at 4:59 am

    Hi Myrko,
    I do believe that self-reflection is one aspect which is necessary to knowing ourselves. Very good pointers on how we can self- reflect.

  34. Mario Reply September 25, 2014 at 11:15 am

    I enjoyed reading the information I have an assignment for school about reflecting my first year of freshmen year thanks for your help I hope I can get the reflection right

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