Tips for Self-Refection

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1One of the most helpful tips provided to me in improving my mental health has been to engage in self-reflection.  However, the tip did not come with any other instruction than to engage in self-reflection.  Thus, I provide the following for those who are like me who need a little more than simply being told to “self-reflect more.”  Please note, self-reflection is not complicated, does not require any special tools, and is only contingent upon starting.  The following is a practical guide to helping to spur starting!  It’s that Missouri mindset, I just cannot get away from it!

Self-reflection can be guided and unguided.  For the novice, guided self-reflection is a good place to begin to learn to self-reflect and grow into unguided self-reflection.  Some people will consider self-reflection meditation, and while I fully admit meditation and self-reflection have many similarities, they are different.  Others try to inject religious overtones into self-reflection, and I fully admit self-reflection is used in many religions across the globe to improve worship services; I am not venturing into the religious aspects of religious self-reflection.

If you would like to explore the topics of meditation and religious self-reflection, I know several good resources; don’t hesitate to get in touch with me outside this forum for those resources.

Guided Self-Reflection

Deep PoetryGuided self-reflection is as simple as journaling your thoughts on a specific topic.  Yes, it is that simple.  There is nothing complicated or crazy, no gurus, no chanting (unless you want to), simply writing down your thoughts on a single topic.  The idea is to focus your mind on sticking to a single topic and write.  I find pen and paper the most challenging medium and one that I cannot reliably, methodically, and consistently adhere to, so I use a keyboard and keep a journal in MS Word.

At the beginning of guided self-reflection, C. S. Lewis 365-Journal Topics was a book I picked up, and it helped inspire journal topics to consider.  Thus, the guided aspect of journaling, using the thoughts of others to marshal your thoughts and write them down.  Making your thoughts known is vital to better understanding you.  Please note, the blank page is intimidating; thus, novice self-reflection is enhanced with motivating forces of religious texts, quotes, jokes, memes, political feelings, news stories, etc.  All of which is fodder for getting the thoughts in your head onto paper for later review.

Unguided Self-Reflection

Free-flow writing, I unguided self-reflection and is where no longer is the blank page intimidating.  More to the point, unguided self-reflection occurs where the mind enters a period of peace or tranquility, recognized from journaling and reflects upon recent events surrounding you throughout the day, cataloging these events for later dissemination and discussion in your journal.  The advanced stage of unguided self-reflection occurs at different times and seasons for different people.  Some people go in cycles between guided and unguided self-reflection due to the chaos in their lives.  Other people move rapidly into unguided self-reflection and never return to guided self-reflection.  Some people stay in guided self-reflection; there is no right or wrong to self-reflection!

Tips to Self-Reflection

        1. Start!
        2. Find what works, and stick to it!
        3. Pick a time that works.
        4. Use what you have.
        5. Be you! – A friend keeps buying new technology, new note pads, new books, new etc., and never uses them. New isn’t them.

Be you!  Be real!  If you find yourself journaling on a paper bag with lots of doodles, keep the paper bag, and get more of them.  That is real self-reflection to you!

Some random thoughts on self-reflection.

In defense of writing with pen and paper - The WriterA friend from high school journaled (self-reflected) through their art.  Words could never come, but doodles and pictures were easy.  Each day their art was either beautiful or terrible, but always dramatic and eye-catching.  Most people learned to look at the book for the art before engaging in speech.  At the end of the assignment, the teacher freaked out trying to score the assignments for my friend; the art was expressive to the point that you could relate and feel what was felt that day.  I have never forgotten that art or its impact.

Simon Sinek wrote the book “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” self-reflection helps you to know your “why” to attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and so much more.  While I am not here to help Mr. Sinek sell more books, if you want a great resource to begin guided self-reflection, I do recommend this book.  You need to know your why.  Not knowing your why makes life more challenging, and your mind is easier to be manipulated by every wind of modern influence.  Knowing your why doesn’t necessarily make life easier, but it makes life easier to understand.  Understanding breeds compassion, empathy and allows you the freedom to make better choices.

10+ Best Sketch Drawing Ideas | Free & Premium TemplatesGeil Browning, Ph.D., in discussing reflective learning, talks about self-reflection and learning, providing counsel and essential guidance.  “Reflection is a deeper form of learning that allows us to retain every aspect of any experience, be it personal or professional — why something took place, what the impact was, whether it should happen again — as opposed to just remembering that it happened. It’s about tapping into every aspect of the experience, clarifying our thinking, and honing in on what matters to us.”  Practicing self-reflection takes discipline and intentionality. It requires pressing pause on the chaos of life and simply taking the time to think and ponder about life and the events of daily living, which is not easy for many people to do. But it’s a precious practice.

        1. “The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination… until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.” – Iyanla Vanzant
        2. “What we perceive about ourselves is greatly a reflection of how we will end up living our lives.” – Stephen Richards
        3. “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung25 Beautiful Rose Drawings and Paintings for your inspiration
        4. “It is always our self that we find at the end of the journey. The sooner we face that self, the better.” – Ella Maillart
        5. “I visualize where I wanted to be, what kind of player I wanted to become. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there.” – Michael Jordan
        6. “The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.” – William Makepeace Thackeray
        7. “Our self-image, strongly held, essentially determines what we become.” —Maxwell Maltz
        8. “One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.” —K.L. Toth
        9. “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.” —Marcus GarveyBeauty will save, Viola, Beauty in everything
        10. “Self-awareness gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes.” —Lawrence Bossidy
        11. ”The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.” —Michel Angelo
        12. “You cannot have a meaningful life without having self-reflection.” —Oprah Winfrey
        13. “Honest self-reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success, and freedom.” —Unknown
        14. ”Self-reflection is the school of wisdom.” – Baltasar Gracian
        15. “Doubt, not self-reflection, comes from a destructive energy, and when it rears its head, I talk to it like a lunatic.” —Gwyneth Paltrow
        16. “There is one art of which people should be masters – the art of reflection.” – Samuel Taylor ColeridgeArt journal spread "Who She Had Always Been"
        17. “Friendship with one’s self is all-important because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
        18. “Self-reflection entails asking yourself questions about your values, assessing your strengths and failures, thinking about your perceptions and interactions with others, and imagining where you want to take your life in the future.” – Robert L. Rosen
        19. “Emotions are there to enjoy life, but they are not used in self-reflection because they inhibit a proper reflection. They gunk us up.” – Frederick Lenz
        20. “Difficulty creates the opportunity for self-reflection and compassion.” – Suzan-Lori Parks
        21. “Self-reflection is the gateway to freedom. It also brings greater appreciation and enjoyment. We begin to enjoy spending time with our own minds, and we enjoy reflecting on our experience of the teachings. Like the sun emerging from behind the clouds.” – Dzigar Kongtrul RinpocheDecoArt - Mixed Media Blog - Project - Art Journaling the ...
        22. “It is great to be introspective; self-analysis can be useful, but only if it results in action.” —Joe Sacco (emphasis mine)
        23. “Your self-esteem won’t come from body parts. You need to step away from the mirror every once in a while and look for another reflection, like the one in the eyes of the people who love you and admire you.” – Stacy London
        24. “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 bitterest.” – Confucius
        25. “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret J. Wheatley
        26. “Self-reflection is an important stage to diagnose, develop and strengthen your creativity.” —Pearl Zhu
        27. “The ultimate mystery is one’s own self.” —Sammy Davis
        28. “To realize the Self is to be still.” —Ramana Maharshi
        29. “The self is only that which it is in the process of becoming.” —Kirkegaard
        30. “Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed; the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed.” —Indra Devi
        31. “Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success.” – Richard Carlson
        32. “Reflection can transform something familiar.” – Diane L. DuntonReflections
        33. “We have so committed ourselves in different ways that we have hardly any time for self-reflection, to observe, to study.” —Jiddu Krishnamurti
        34. “Your greatest self has been waiting your whole life; don’t make it wait any longer.” —Dr. Steve Maraboli
        35. “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Why it matters – The Answer

Andragogy - LEARNTelomeres are strings on the end of a DNA chain.  The longer the telomere string, the healthier and longer the cell lives.  The reverse is also true, shorten the telomere string, and death and sickness occur.  There are a ton of peer-reviewed resources that can explain, detail, and expound about telomeres; feel free to look them up; please accept for the moment the statement is true.  While I am not going much further into telomeres and DNA science, the fact that long telomere strings and living healthier and happier are important correlational pieces of data essential to the rest of this article.

Learning and having a purpose are two separate but conjoined variables essential to keep the telomere string long and the DNA healthy.  However, both purpose and learning are individual choices with physical health consequences.  Please note, these two choices are not a magic bullet to the fountain of youth, nor are they going to change a person’s health overnight.  Both take long hours of investment and require a lifestyle change.

Non Sequitur - Carpe DiemWe begin with some important history.  John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He was one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.  In the 1900s, Dewey established how free people and free societies are built; they are built upon education and literacy.  Dewey then changed education to halt literacy and started a ball of ignorance and government theft of freedoms to begin.  Your reading habits were carefully taught to you during your trip through K-12 government schools.  Unless you purposefully chose to read, you will generally possess a dislike for reading that was taught to you to keep you functionally illiterate, thus programmable to government propaganda.  Dewey’s plan succeeded far and above his wildest dreams.

With this understanding, when the topic of lifelong learning is discussed, the central point becomes formal education failed purposefully to teach; thus, one’s desire for learning must be an internal commitment — a personal appetite for books, knowledge, and a thirst for learning.  When discussing the life and health-changing aspects of learning, this is the point, what are you doing to learn something new every day?  What was the last book you read?  Did you enjoy it?  Would you recommend it?Calvin & Hobbes - Irony Hurts

K-12 education taught you that learning something new was somebody else’s responsibility; whereas, the truth is precisely the opposite.  What you choose to learn will have direct consequences upon your health, mental and physical.  Hence the need for purpose.  Many people can study aimlessly and never fully obtain the full mental and physical health promises because they lack a purpose, a reason, and a motivating reason to direct efforts.  For example, I met a retired Major of the US Air Force; he pursued his MBA because he needed it for promotion.  No other purpose, no reason other than his career, and no genuine interest.  That he topped out at Major and Retired less than his desired rank goal ruined him from learning anything else.  He sits at home, lacking a purpose and reason, miserable.  He has not touched a book to read in years, his TV is his link to the world, and he feels like a failure.  In remembering my friend, I often think to weep at what could have been.

Jack Sparrow's compass - Pirates of the Caribbean Wiki - The Unofficial Pirates of the Caribbean ...A purpose is all about intention, a goal for which one intends, cognitively, to achieve.  A burning passion, a deep hunger, a longing, purpose, as a word, has many synonyms, but the end goal is the same, “What is it you want most?”  One of the reasons I am such a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean is the compass held by Captain Jack Sparrow.  The compass works when the captain knows what he wants, sailing is easier, and progress is made.  Failure to understand what he wants, to know absolutely his purpose, and the journey fails, chaos abounds, and trouble ensues.

Because purpose inspires learning, and both purpose and learning are fundamental to your good mental and physical health, the following suggestions are here for your consideration.  However, they also come with a warning, genuine interest.  I have an interest in a lot of different topics.  Sometimes, I have so many books I am in the middle of my desk looks like a public library threw up!  However, I also have topics that I have less than zero interest in ever pursuing.  I have had to learn where my genuine interests lie, primarily through exploring.  No one can give you wisdom or tell you what your interests are.Bait & Switch 2

Funny story, I discovered I had no interest in art.  None!  Paintings, sculpture, drawing, nothing.  No comprehension, no interest, no desire, nothing!  I discovered this during my associate’s degree, where I was forced to take an art class.  Now, I come from a long line of painters, sculptors, artists in different mediums.  My wife draws, paints, and makes music as an outlet for her artistic abilities.  I can barely doodle and generally do not care to try.  I know what I like but cannot describe the why when it comes to art because I have no interest in the how.  Hence the warning, discover where your genuine interests lay and pursue them relentlessly!

      1. Explore to discover your interests. Public libraries are my best friend!  I have been in some public libraries to borrow baking pans and molds to create different stuff for cooking.  Get to know your public library as the launch point for discovering interests.
      2. Ever think you might like to pursue a degree in something. Why not contact your local community colleges and universities.  Auditing a class is a great way to check your interest levels without investing money.
      3. How do you know when you have found a hidden interest; the secret is in your enthusiasm! Do you cheer to be able to study that topic?  Guess what, you found an interest!  Explore that interest to the Nth degree.  I discovered an interest in anthropology, economics, sociology, and psychology through studying history.  I have always been enthused to learn history.  However, the extra information gleaned from economics, anthropology, sociology, and psychology has made my enthusiasm for history deeper, more enjoyable, and more meaningful.  Measure your enthusiasm, you can become enthused easily and quickly, or slowly and with difficulty, but your enthusiasm is the compass for your interest and purpose.
      4. Volunteer to work with kids! I do not care about the age of the children.  It doesn’t matter if that volunteering occurs through a religious or non-profit organization, kids ask questions, and in asking questions, you learn.  Create time to volunteer.
      5. On the topic of volunteering, spend time in a long-term care facility as a professional listener. I have spent some great days listening to people, I have learned a lot, and let me tell you, I always leave the experience grateful and enthused.  Memorize a joke as a conversation starter, and listen.
      6. Don’t stop! I cannot emphasize this principle enough.  Failure is part of discovery; not stopping is part of discovery.  Hence, do not stop trying, and in not stopping, you will discover… you!

Knowledge Check!My wife is a journal writer.  I blog — others in my family webcast.  The final suggestion in discovering purpose and learning, write down the experiences.  The good, the bad, the failures, the successes, and in writing or recording your thoughts, you will discover new talents and inspire someone else when you share your thoughts.  I learned this lesson from Robert Fulghum, the author, artist, preacher, and storyteller, who happened to write the book “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.”  Want a guide on this voyage of discovery; pick up some of his books, “Uh-Oh,” “It was on fire when I laid down on it,” “Maybe, Maybe Not,” and so many others to choose from.  Mr. Fulghum makes an excellent guide on a voyage of discovery; take along an expert!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.