Do you ever have times when a special milestone rolls around and you find yourself reflecting?
Well I’ve been in major reflection mode this last week.
Yesterday was my third wedding anniversary and this occasion triggered a lot of reflection and reminiscing. The last three years have been somewhat of a roller coaster and some big, unexpected and great changes have occurred. You will see what I mean below.
When James and I got married in 2012 we were based in Newcastle. Prior to the wedding we lived in our lovely house for about 8 months and James was to start a new job back in Sydney the week after our nuptials. My sister and I were in the research and development stage of our start-up business and full of excitement. I naively thought I would live my entire life in Newcastle. (Oh how funny!).
One year later, we still lived in Newcastle; James was still doing the killer commute from Newcastle to Sydney everyday (which was wearing very thin). I was still working full-time in my marketing role and my sister and I were just about to launch our designer handbag label.
Two years later we had sold our house in Newcastle and moved to Sydney. James had started a new role; I had had my job transferred to Sydney; we were living with our Uncle and spending every weekend searching for a property to buy (which we eventually did). My sister and I were going through the motions with our business and glad to be in Sydney where there was more opportunity.
Three years later, nothing is the same as James and I now live in Hong Kong. I left my job in Sydney, my business is on an indefinite hold and I’m about to start a life-coaching course. Everything is new again which is scary and exciting.
And at this moment I’m in Singapore sitting on the bed in the hotel trying to make sense of it all!
Often we are so busy that the days, weeks, months and years just fly by. Everything rolls into one and it all feels like a fast-paced blur.
But over the last three years I’ve learned that it is so important to take some time for self-reflection, so you can learn and grow.
Reflection allows you to build upon all the successful and great moments you have experienced and discover some key learning’s from the not so great moments.
I regularly make time to sit and reflect…as ‘airy fairy’ as it sounds, because I truly believe it helps you live a more extraordinary and vibrant life!
So I have put together a few tips that will help you develop your own self-reflection practice.
Super obvious, but oh-so-important! I understand that you’re busy and taking some time out to reflect probably sounds like the ultimate luxury. But believe me, setting aside a minimum of 15 minutes will make a huge difference.
Find a quiet space in your day where you can be alone with your thoughts. Grab yourself a notebook, make yourself a coffee and sit in the sun. Or you may like to reflect in the evening, just before you go to sleep (this is what I like to do).
How often you practice self-reflection is totally up to you. You could make it a part of your daily, weekly or monthly habits. Since the start of this year I have found myself reflecting at the end of every month. I write in my journal and get everything out of my head.
To help get your thoughts in order and to guide the self-reflection process, often it’s a good idea to think of your life in different categories.
You may want to reflect on your relationships, health, spiritualty, professional life, passions and hobbies.
These are usually the life categories that I dive into when I’m in self-reflection mode. But feel free to add your own!
I have Danielle La Porte’s Desire Map Day Planner, (which I love), and some of these reflective questions are taken from there.
First up, ask yourself,‘What is working well for me?’ / ‘What did I do well this month?’
Take note of everything that is going well in your life at the moment. It doesn’t have to be ground breaking, like ‘I just got a huge promotion’ (even though that’s awesome). Remember that all the small things, even things you think are trivial will add up to some great positives.
Here’s an passage of what I have written in my journal for April:
I’m really excited that my e-Book Wanderlust has been well received and people are really enjoying it/finding it helpful. I’m grateful that I get time to hone my writing skills and explore my creativity. (Who thought I could write!?). I’m high-fiving myself for not procrastinating and for actually completing my e-Book (and having the patience with my IT Indian friend).
I’m happy that I’m feeling more connected in many ways here in Hong Kong. I really love all my new friends and I’m proud that I have just gone out and met random people who I connect with. I think I’ve done a good job in terms of embracing Hong Kong and making it feel like home. I’m really starting to love it here.
Next set of questions, ‘What is not working for me?’/ ‘What could I do better?’
Here you need to reflect on the different aspects of your life that aren’t going as well as you had hoped, or areas that need improvement.
Passage from my journal:
My back is still giving me grief and I’m not practicing self-care. I know I sit in front of the computer far too long, I don’t do my stretches every morning and I’m procrastinating about finding a pilates class or gym to join.
I need to make self-care a priority and sign up to a pilates class in May.
My morning routine is all over the place, which means I start the day off flat. I’m sick of feeling sluggish and not productive, especially in the morning.
I need to have more structure in the morning’s (I will read the book ‘Miracle Morning’).
It’s important when reflecting on these questions to not get bogged down in any negative past experiences. It’s unproductive to dwell on the past as you have no way of changing it – although the great news is you can learn from it!
When I first started this reflection process I would have a list a mile long of all the things I wasn’t doing well. But after a few months, it has flipped. I feel I’m doing more things right in my life and I’m making positive progress.
So when you’re asking yourself, “What is not working for me? What could I do better?” don’t be too hard on yourself.
It’s easy to think ‘why did I follow that path, or make that silly decision?’ Believe, me I would think this often. But when I reflect back on mistakes I really think about what I have learned from the experience and how I have grown.
Quick example – something that bugs me a lot is the fact that I was really miserable for the four years I was studying my undergraduate degree. There are a few reasons – I was in a long distance relationship, I was studying something that I really had no interest in at the time and I put way too much pressure on myself to be perfect and to achieve.
The lesson I have learned from this time of my life is to have the courage to make a change. If you don’t like what you’re doing, don’t do it! If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, don’t pursue it. (I think there is a whole other post here to be written!).
Now when I look back at that time of my life, I don’t view it with regret or resentment. I view it as a life lesson and a much needed wake up call!
As a separate reflection exercise, I like to look back and think of what I was doing 2-5 years ago. You can look back as far as you like!
By casting your mind back years rather than weeks or months, you start to get a clear perspective of the bigger picture and how all the dots join up (I love the Steve Jobs quote above).
You can reflect on all of the monumental occasions like graduating from University, starting your first job, travelling solo overseas, getting married, buying your first home, starting a family. But it’s also cool to think of the life-skills you have developed, how your knowledge has expanded and how your values have evolved.
I have probably noticed and experienced the most self-growth in the last 8 years of my life and a lot of that has to do with whom I’m married to (so thank you James).
Here’s a silly example that came to me when I was dining alone in China Town last night.
Eight years ago I couldn’t use chopsticks and I assumed I would live in my hometown forever. Seven years ago I had my first trip to Singapore with James (followed by multiple business trips). Five years ago I went on a business trip with James and I swore I would never do it again – mainly because I didn’t like exploring on my own. One year ago I had moved to Sydney and loved it. Now I live in Hong Kong and I’m visiting Singapore on a business trip with James. I just walked to China Town, ordered dumplings, and used chopsticks like a pro and thoroughly enjoyed dining and exploring alone.
I know this example is kind of trivial, but just reflecting on how I’ve grown and how my life and perspectives have changed made me so happy. It also got me really excited about my past and about my future!
By taking time out to do some reflecting, you will be able to reconnect with your life goals and your intentions. I can guarantee you will see your life story in a different light, and feel excited!
But for me, the true beauty is seeing how far I have come! I’m sure you will be amazed at your progress too!
Do you ever take time out to sit and reflect? I would love to hear in the comments if you do and share any Aha moments!
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