By Dan Stanley
According to the latest science, the average UK adult makes around 35,000 decisions per day! That’s potentially 35,000 times per day that we’re creating a ripple of consequence throughout our lives. In binary terms, that ripple will be doing one of two things, it will either be helping us create the life we want or hindering us from it.
If we were to think about those 35,000 decisions consciously, we’d be living in a constant state of overwhelm and paralysis; to prevent this, our brains have developed a subconscious decision-making system that essentially decides and drives most of our decisions without us even knowing.
Modern life has hacked this system, it has gone from protecting us impeding us.
We’re subconsciously sleepwalking through life and according to Dr Mark Williamson, psychology professor “when running on auto pilot, we often make unhelpful choices, so we feel trapped and like we’re living someone else’s life.”
So, how do you stop sleeping walking through life, disengage the auto pilot, and get consciously conscious?
The answer is surprisingly simple, it’s been around for thousands of years and practised by the wisest and wealthiest, from the ancient Stoic philosophers all the way through to sporting superstars like Michael Jordan, and billionaires like Bill Gates.
Self-reflection is the key to self-awareness; simply put it’s about taking the time to think about, evaluate, and to give serious thought to our attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It allows us to analyze our lives from both a macro and micro level.
At the macro level you can assess the overall trajectory of your life. You can almost do a pre-mortem on where you’re heading and determine, in advance, whether you’re happy with the direction.
At a micro level, you can evaluate specific responses to circumstances and events. You can peel back the layers of your own psychology, learn the things that trigger you, and gain a wiser perspective about who you are and how you’re living your life.
The philosopher John Dewey said, “we do not learn from the experience, we learn from reflecting on the experience” and Baltasar Gracain concurred “self-refection is the school of wisdom.”
Self-reflection really is the key to learning about and progressing ourselves; it gives us the capacity to replicate our wins and avoid repeating our indifferent experiences.
Ray Dalio, American billionaire, chief investment officer of the world’s largest hedge fund, and author of one of my all-time favorite books, Principles has formulated an equation that can help us reflect and progress.
Pain + Reflection = Progress
Everything has a purpose, even pain, and if we choose to let them, the challenges that test us and create our pain can strengthen us. Modern pain might include the complexities of the pandemic, work-life balance or a lack of it, workload, burnout, relationship difficulties, divorce, job dissatisfaction or bereavement.
These, and any other pain you experience can, if you consciously choose to go toward the pain rather than avoid, provide rich and valuable reflections for us. These reflections, if viewed impartially and unbiasedly can enabled us to progress our careers, deepen the love in our relationships, and improve our well-being and health.
Self-refection is an essential skill for personal growth, career success, and life fulfilment. From the Stoics to the rich and famous, the wisest and wealthiest are at it so why wouldn’t you?
To help you practice and become proficient at the skill of self-refection, here are 5 daily questions you can ask yourself:
Something I realized or learned today was:
The thing I found most challenging today was:
Something I am proud of today was:
To make tomorrow better than today, I will:
My message to myself for tomorrow is:
There’s no right or wrong time to reflect, most commonly though, people reflect in the morning or in the evening.
What is important is that you don’t try to analyze or judge your answers. Just ask yourself and answer the questions either in your mind or by writing them down. Writing down is particularly useful as it enables you identify patterns of thought or behavior.
Using these questions as prompts for self-reflection can enable you to get off auto pilot and stop sleep walking through life. They can and will bring a higher degree of consciousness to your daily life choices, and ultimately help you live the life you want.
Your present and future is built upon the foundations of your past; letting your past go ‘unchecked’ is a mistake people can’t afford to make.
Dan Stanley is a qualified expert in men’s self-development and performance. In 2018, he founded BetterMen to help men achieve and maintain long-term personal and professional success. He uses scientifically proven methods to enable his clients to develop the clarity and mindset to achieve their goals and to lead more rewarding lives.
Make space for these new helpful habits by expelling the damaging ones. Here’s how to diagnose THE DAILY HABITS WHICH COULD BE HOLDING YOU BACK FROM REACHING YOUR GOALS