How Self-Reflection Leads to Growth

Written by on February 9, 2015 in Self-Awareness


When was the last time you just stopped – not for a few minutes but a few hours – to consider your life as it is now… how far you’ve come and where you’re heading?

Do you have a clear vision of the future you are creating for yourself? Note, I didn’t say want or hope to create for yourself … but rather the future that you are in the process of creating for yourself now.

We live in a world where taking time, absolute uninterrupted free time, to simply think is considered by most to be a rare self-indulgence. But consider this, if you continue on your current path with the choices you are making, the actions you are (or are not) taking, day-after-day, where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time … time to dream, time to contemplate what’s working and what’s not, so that we can make changes for the better. ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

The Benefits of Self-Reflection

Many people harbor dreams for the future that are very different from their current reality … a successful high paying job or maybe the CEO of their own company, living in Hawaii instead of Podunk, an artist or an author with a string of bestsellers, financial freedom, a beautiful home and a happy healthy family … living the good life.

The problem is closing the gap between here and there almost always takes longer than you think it will, and without a clear vision of your desired future and long term goals it’s all too easy to allow the beeps, buzzes, things and people that yell the loudest to capture your time and attention, only to find yourself ending yet another day exhausted and no further along on your goals.

There are of course many ways to create a vision for your future; vision boards, for example, are very popular. In fact, I have one on the wall next to my desk. But as inspiring as pretty pictures may be, the only way you’re going to close that gap is by combining your vision with thoughtful, focused action.

Consider the Road Trip Analogy

When you want to go somewhere you’ve never been before chances are you’ll take the time to map out the trip before heading off on your journey. Then to keep from losing your way, you’ll periodically check to make sure you’re still on track to reach your destination.

But if you never check the map and just keep driving, you could easily get lost or miss some interesting sites along the way, and then, of course, there are bound to be at least a few unexpected detours. Unless you pay attention to where you’re going you could find yourself in a very different place from the one you had in mind when you began the journey . . . worse yet, you could end up going in circles and end up right where you started, having never reached your destination … or achieved your full potential.

People who get what they want are most often the ones who make the effort to know what they want. ~Author Unknown

Where to Begin

There are many different ways to go about creating a habit of self-reflection. If you are goal oriented you could make it a part of your planning and review process. Some people make self-reflection a daily routine and find meditation or a graceful form of exercise such as yoga or Tai chi establishes a calm frame of mind ideal for the process. I’ve learned a long walk in nature works exceptionally well for me.

Regardless of the type of ritual you choose to establish for yourself I recommend using a personal journal to explore your thoughts and feelings so that you can revisit, learn and grow through the practice.

If you are new to self-reflection you will find it helpful to establish a foundation by initially focusing on your current reality. What insights can you gain from the experiences, choices, and values that led you to where you are today? Looking forward, take some time to become clear about the things and people that are most important to you.

  • What choices are you likely to face in the years ahead?
  • What possibilities would you most like to pursue?
  • Are you satisfied with how you spend your days?

As you ponder these questions, you can begin to say no to the things that clutter your life, and yes to those that give you purpose and focus you in the right direction.

To make this process even more worthwhile, as you begin to separate what you’ve always done and who you’ve always been from what you’d like to do and who you’d like to become, challenge yourself to let go of perceived limitations and have fun exploring new ideas and possibilities for the future. Make nothing off limits … you may just surprise yourself!

What if You Don’t Like What You Discover?

For some people, the notion of taking a closer look at their life is uncomfortable because they are afraid they won’t like what they see, especially if they’ve convinced themselves that there is no choice but to accept things they way they are now. Fortunately, whether you are facing a life transition, or feel that your world is off course (or just vaguely off balance) … it’s never too late to change course.

Your turn! I’d like to challenge you to answer just one question: How would you describe your future in 3 words?

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click “here.

Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Lynne

    A very good account of how reflection can help you find yourself and steer yourself into the course that will lead you to realize your dreams. I believe in this and am positive it will work!
    Lynne recently posted…The Psychology of Coaching Optimists and PessimistsMy Profile

  2. andleeb

    Great post as always. There are many points that can be used by many like me and can help to bring a positive change in life and self reflection can truly bring success in future.
    Unpredictable, still tame-able… this is how I define my future. I do not know what will happen but I can hope for good and try hard to bring to reality anything that I want. Above all prayers from God count a lot.
    thank you for a great share.
    andleeb recently posted…#Kashmir Solidarity Day: 5th FebruaryMy Profile

  3. Susan Cooper

    What a great place to start. I need to do that. Imagining the end could greatly provide me with some much-needed insight right now. I use to approach most problems that way but somewhere along the line I stopped. Starting with the end result certainly helps you figure out the steps it takes to get where you want to go. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Sebastiani Winery Chardonnay: #WineMy Profile

  4. Erica says:

    This is a great post. I love how you talk about vision boards. I think it is important to remember that it takes more than just staring at the future you desire to achieve it. There have been a couple of times where I have set an intention and then received and accomplished what I needes in a way that was really exciting. I look back at those times and the two points I can identify is that I was completely focused and that I made myself move forward no matter how overwhelming and impossible things seemed at times. I need to remind myself what it takes for success and self reflection is a good way to help myself get in that space again.
    Erica recently posted…Mattress Stain Removal – Purple Smoothie EditionMy Profile

  5. Laurie Hurley

    I live in California and my backyard faces the mountains. I can see the sunrise and sunset. That is when I do the most self-reflection and thinking. Over a year ago I was in a car accident and was pretty much not able to do much but sit for 8 months. I started meditating, visualizing my recovery, and thinking about how my life was permanently changed. I have continued that practice now that I am mobile. Going to the ocean (7 miles away) is also a great place to think. I take advantage of our gorgeous weather to dig deep inside – I find it very refreshing. Nice post!
    Laurie Hurley recently posted…Letting Go Is HardMy Profile

  6. Beth Niebuhr

    Self reflection is important if we want to stay on track or change our direction as a result of being realistic. I like the idea os starting at the goal and working backwards. Great tips to reflect upon!
    Beth Niebuhr recently posted…Fighting PerfectionismMy Profile

  7. Future in three words: Adventure. Travel. Writing.

    Thanks for the reminder and tips on the need for self-reflection. It’s critical for everyone and vital for writers.
    Rose M Griffith recently posted…Washington, DC — No Politics, PleaseMy Profile

  8. William Rusho

    What a great post. I agree so much we need to get into a habit of self-reflection. It is somewhat similar to a business model; you put in benchmarks, or deliverables, which need to be accomplished before you reach your goal. IF you do not self-reflect you have no idea where you are or how close, or far you are from accomplishing your goal.

  9. Worli

    Absolutely! Self-reflection is a tool that enables you to live a life of intention, which builds awareness; in fact many of our life goals remain undiscovered because of a lack of reflection and self-awareness.

    Most people don’t believe they can actually achieve the goals they set as the whole time they tell themselves inside that it won’t happen. So it doesn’t.
    Worli recently posted…Error Establishing a Database Connection WordPress FixMy Profile

  10. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty, I can never get enough of you my friend, your words are so inspiring. All these questions are running through my head especially the last one. “How would you describe your future in 3 words?

    I wish I had 3 for you, I am going to go to bed thinking about this one that’s for sure. Well it is that time of day and what a day it has been..

    Thank you so much for sharing, I am looking forward to the next part.
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Are You Fed Up Not Making Money With Your Online Business?My Profile

  11. Tim

    Working backwards from where you want to eventually be is a good approach in both life and business. Of course you cannot anticipate everything but with the right mindset those unexpected obstacles become adventures and challenges thus making the desired outcome even more sweet.
    Tim recently posted…America’s Dead SeaMy Profile

  12. Irish Carter

    HI Marty,

    What a great article. I agree with you so much that we need to map out the direction we want to move to and put action behind it. I too have used vision boards and still focus strongly on visual stimuli.

    I have neglected taking time recently for self reflection but am glad I read this today as a means to remind myself how important that is. Thanks for sharing.

    I hope things are going fantastic for you. I am just sitting by my fireplace hybernating from the below zero weather we are having here in Michigan. Oh how Hawaii sounds fabulous right now.

    Have a great upcoming weekend.

    Irish Carter recently posted…Best tips and resources for wellness, making money online and building a successful online business!My Profile

  13. sherill says:

    Hi, it is necessary for us to reflect once in a while to know if we are still on the right path. There are so many things/ situations in life that we can reflect on, knowing and being aware of what is happening around would lead us to a better and peaceful life. Thanks for sharing.
    sherill recently posted…Are You Making These 7 Costly Mistakes?(Part 2)My Profile

  14. Patricia Weber

    You’ve given us a lot to – reflect about Marquita. Everyday I spend time in meditation and indeed, it brings along insights. But it occurred to me reading this that I could maybe somehow find a specific day or even add in one more meditation on a specific day, to focus on a particular aspect of my life. Thanks!
    Patricia Weber recently posted…When Will You Dump Your Significant Jerk?My Profile

  15. Hi Marquita,

    Hope you are well. 2014 for me was all about self reflection. To the extent that I took time out from everything to re-evaluate pretty much anything that was going on in my life.

    I spent the whole year really immersed in personal development (more so that I was before), cutting out the dead wood, career change, home change, life style change, meditation you name it ~ I did it last year.

    This has meant that 2015 is much more focussed. The choices I now make are very measured against what I truly believe. I make decisions on how they make me feel inside. I am in touch with my emotions and I feel blessed.

    There will be no doubt that I will slip and lose sight from time to time, but I have the building blocks to live a life focussed and content.

    So self reflection really can help create a better future and I am excited about what is to come.

    Thanks for your post and allowing me to share where I am at.

    Beth 🙂
    Beth Hewitt recently posted…Paint Your PictureMy Profile

  16. This is a very timely post for me, as I’ve just returned from a month long retreat (with my husband and cat.) We had a very peaceful time to reflect on many things, and I really appreciated the serenity of our surroundings, and the fact that I didn’t have to be anywhere at any specific time. It was true bliss, and something more or us should do more often for the purposes of self reflection.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…finding your happy placeMy Profile

  17. So true Donna! The journey almost always takes longer than we expect it to but I think that’s another benefit of self reflection, to periodically acknowledge how far we’ve come so we see that we are in fact making progress. And excellent term – chipping away. Isn’t that the truth?! 🙂

  18. Hey Donna, you know every morning on my walk I see this group doing Tai chi at the park up the road and I’ve been trying to muster the courage to approach them, but I think first I might take a course at the local college so I’m not totally clueless. Thanks for taking time to contribute to the conversation! 🙂

  19. Welcome back Dave. I agree with your point about not micromanaging goals, but isn’t that true of life in general – balance is the key? That said I must admit I’m not so sure I agree with the lyrics from Uncharted, but then I’d probably feel differently if I listened to the whole song. Oh, and kudos on your 3 words Dave. 🙂 As always, value your insightful contribution!

  20. Glad you found value in the article Lenie. I do agree the “doing” is sometimes tough, but I think for many people admitting what they really want from life is the most difficult because when you put that out there in the world then it makes the possibility of failure all that much more tangible and that in itself is enough for some not to even try. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  21. Thanks for stopping by Sabrina! Your description of your clients sounds all too familiar from my coaching days, and I also value that year end review. Really helps to see how far we’ve come and set a good tone for the new year. Appreciate your taking time to contribute to the conversation. 🙂

  22. I tend to work the same way Jacqueline. Starting with the end in mind helps me to get a better feel for what it’s really going to take to accomplish something. Thanks for contributing to the conversation! 🙂

  23. donna merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    So many people get off the road of their goals and it takes some disciple to stay on course. Yes, I have my vision board which always inspires me near my desk too.

    But it takes small steps to get from point A to point B. We must know that it requires patience and persistence and most of all focus on what we are doing now … today to chip away at that big goal.

    Every day as we go along this journey is another step toward our major goal.

    donna merrill recently posted…Email Marketing Is Not Dead, BloggersMy Profile

  24. Donna Janke

    Great post. When we are in tune with ourselves, we live happier lives. And we don’t get in tune without taking time to think and reflect. I have practiced Tai Chi for many years and the benefits it gives in stilling the mind (and thus allowing you to reflect) are wonderful. My husband has recently taken to meditation in a big way.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Arizona Dates and ShakesMy Profile

  25. Dave

    I am already looking forward to the next article Marty!

    I find that those walks alone, wherever you find peaceful, is a perfect time and place for me to reflect. It allows my conscious mind to concentrate on the necessities of walking – not tripping over branches, avoiding cars on the city street, walking to the beat of the music I am listening to – while the subconscious mind is given free reign to explore and “play”.

    My favorite musician is Sara Bareilles. She has a great line from her song “Uncharted” – Compare where you are to where you want to be and you’ll get nowhere.

    It’s important to know where you want to go, and it’s important to know where you are. But, to focus on it so closely every minute of every day will leave you overwhelmed and potentially stagnant.

    Oh, and my three words for the future: Inspired self-expression – I guess maybe that’s two and a half if you count the hyphenated word 😉

    Thanks, as always, for sharing Marty 🙂
    Dave recently posted…Grace under fireMy Profile

  26. Lenie

    “Imagine you are at the end of your life today, looking back over the years what is the one thing you regret never having done?”
    I think that says it all – looking back but having the time to reverse course. I suppose the actual doing of it would be the hard part. Great post.
    Lenie recently posted…Host A Heart-Healthy Tea PartyMy Profile

  27. Sabrina Q.

    This topic always fascinates me. As Professional Organizer, I see several clients battle with this question. They get lost in the now and the stuff and don’t look at where they want to be to be truly happy with themselves and their lives. While going through the clutter, they start the process of returning to what truly matters to them. It is wonderful to watch and be a part of the process.

    I personally like to take time before the year end to reflect on the year and what it has brought as well as, what I have done to further my life goal process. I like to write them down and post them in my office space to read over each morning.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful post. I am looking forward to the next one.
    Sabrina Q. recently posted…Mens Closet Organization TipsMy Profile

  28. Lots of great points and tools that any reader can utilize. I’m a firm advocate of self-awareness to achieve success.

  29. Hehe, good point about Smallsville but you must remember I live on a 500 sq mile island that is only sparsely populated so I’m all to aware of what it’s like to live in small town USA … even though there are STILL people who don’t think of HI as part of America! I love it when someone asks me how much it costs to mail a postcard to the states or where to go to see a “real Hawaiian.” 🙁

  30. Mark

    Once again you’ve shared some truly inspiring thoughts M!

    Although I must caution you, not sell living in Podunk short!LOL!

    Smallsville does have it’s advantages!LOl! But seriously, I like the way you caution against just thinking or hoping that having a vision board full of pictures and images, cannot and will not take the place focused action (hard work!)

    And you’ve also made it crystal clear, that mere hoping and wishing alone won’t get it done either!

    If change is ultimately gonna come about, we’ve have got to be in the forefront of the effort!

    Thanks, once again you’ve articulated your ideas and proven concepts exceptionally well!
    Mark recently posted…How One Simple Ten Letter Word Derails Far Too Many Otherwise Extremely Savvy Entrepreneurs!My Profile

  31. That’s a good place to start…imagine the end. It’s the way I approach most problems, actually. Start with the result and then figure out the steps it takes to get there.
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Valentine’s Day… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

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