Self-reflection is the skill of paying attention to your background thoughts to learn about yourself. Because your brain is always thinking, these thoughts can become internalized. That doesn’t mean that you can’t access them, it just means that you need to access them deliberately through the process of self-reflection. When you know yourself better in this way, you can set better goals for yourself. This can generally happen in two main ways.
The first main way in which this self-reflection leads to goal setting is when you realize that your goals are not indeed your own. Our thoughts are heavily influenced by the systems in which we live. That means the media that you consume, the advertising that you are subjected to, the place where you work, and the people that you spend time with.
All of these forces can cause you to forget, in a sense, who you are and the goals that you had once set for yourself.
Conducting self-reflection, whether through mindfulness meditation or stream of consciousness journaling, helps you to determine where your thoughts go when you aren’t paying attention. Paying attention to these thoughts can help you to determine whether or not your mind goes where you want it to go.
Maybe you picked your job or your field of study because it was something that you were passionate about and now all that you think about is how much money you are making or how well you fit in with your friends and colleagues.
Trying to get back to the roots of ‘why’ you are ‘where’ you are can help you to rearrange your priorities and refocus your energies to get back on track.
Sticking to Your Priorities
Self-reflection doesn’t only let you know that your priorities are out of order. Even if your priorities are where you want them to be, you can still be distracted from these goals by the background thoughts that impact your life. It is very likely that you aren’t always aware of them, which is why self-reflection can be so beneficial.
This is often the case of people who have anxiety disorders and related conditions, or attention disorders and associated conditions. These individuals may have their priorities in order but may find that their thoughts are constantly on other things. This can prevent them from being focused and reaching their productive capacity and so preventing them from achieving their goals.
Self-reflection can still be valuable for people in these situations. In this case, the idea isn’t to only figure out what their priorities are, but to determine those things they are ruminating about that they would be better off not.
What concerns are they worrying about that they don’t need to be? What do they think about that isn’t helping to achieve their goals?
Self-Reflection and Goal Setting
Self-reflection, on a single occasion or occasions, such as every week or every month or so, can be a valuable way to keep track of your mind and where it goes. However, conducting self-reflection practices more regularly can eventually lead to the ability to monitor your thoughts more closely as you go about your day.
This is particularly the case with mindfulness meditation, which can be conducted just about anywhere for just about any length of time. A few extra minutes after lunch or between meetings or in the evening before you go to bed can become opportunities for checking in with yourself through mindfulness meditation.
Journaling can be less convenient, but because it doesn’t need to take much time, it can be an easy thing to work into a schedule. If you have a day of the week when you work out your agenda for the following week, consider taking some extra time to work in some journaling.