The #1 Mindset Practice For Improving Your Life In 2020
Life is not easy. I don’t believe it was ever meant to be. Think about it: there are too many variables, too much going on, too much at stake at any given time for our collective experience in this world to be considered easy. So understandably, change is the only constant. Sometimes change is good, and sometimes it’s unfavorable. Sometimes change is external; many times it’s internal.
When change is good and upward, we celebrate. We want more of those moments. But what about the other kind of change? The one that stifles you, perplexes you, and makes you wonder what you’re doing wrong?
I’ve had many of these moments myself. Like when I took a huge step and found myself in a new country halfway around the world. I thought I was wrestling with new expectations and responsibilities only to realize that I had not only carried over my old fears and insecurities, but I had also suddenly developed new ones.
Or the time I was ready to take on the responsibilities that came with a new phase of life only to realize that many factors, my body included, were working against me.
Have you had those moments? Every other step you take seems to be the wrong one. You work hard, give it your all but just can’t crack the code.
In moments like these, it’s so easy to give up and take whatever life hands you. After all, if you keep your expectations low, you won’t be disappointed, right? Well, wrong. At least as far as I am concerned.
I want more out of life. I want to keep growing, thriving, and changing for the better. And I’ve realized that it is possible. But this possibility comes at a cost—the cost of attention. Changing for the better requires that I pay attention to my life, impulses, motivations, and the entire journey.
Enter the power of reflection.
You know that saying: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity? I believe there’s truth to that.
In my case, I carried around decades-old insecurities and habits that didn’t serve me, refused to seek help and talk through issues that needed to be addressed, so I kept on struggling with the same things. I knew I had to change, and reflection was a tool that helped me get where I needed to be.
So what is reflection?
The free dictionary defines reflection in this context as ‘serious thinking or careful consideration.’ I like this simple definition because it carries in it the importance of the practice.
It’s serious thinking because you’re not just reflecting to be creative or to simply relax (even though there’s a place for that). You’re reflecting because you’re actively looking to understand a situation (in this case, your life and direction) in order to make a much-needed change.
It’s careful consideration because you understand the innate human tendency to gravitate toward easy and not dig deep for fear of finding something unpleasant.
So how does reflecting on one’s life and past experiences help transform your life?
Reflection helped me face my fears.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve carried around a mountain of fears all my life. At the core of these fears was one powerful limiting element –– the way I was, the way I showed up in the world was not enough. If there was something to be done, I didn’t think I was up to the task. If there was something to be said, I believed no one wanted to hear it from me.
I lived this way for many years. And even though I knew I wanted more, I just couldn’t envision a future where I had all I wanted, so I self-sabotaged. The combination of passionate drive and a deep desire to succeed, coupled with lacerating fears and insecurities, is truly a recipe for insanity.
Things started to change the moment I stopped long enough to really reflect on and evaluate my life. I considered all my false starts and failures, and I found a common thread––fear that had masqueraded as reality. It was time for it to go.
Reflection helped me challenge my assumptions.
In his book, Lean Startup, Eric Ries talks about the assumptions companies make about their product or service and how it can be a trap that leads to failure.
In many areas of my life, I was working on assumptions that had never been tested. I assumed people were going to buy my book just because I was so excited about it and had worked super hard to write and publish it. I thought I could just start a “new life” and leave all my fears and insecurities behind without fixing deep-rooted issues. I assumed I was going to be a terrible speaker because I always believed that ‘I don’t think well on my feet.’
So many assumptions. And I only realized I was operating on these assumptions when I took the time to relive my experiences and reflect on my thought processes during these different periods of my life.
Reflection helps me prepare for the future I want
The more I consider my life and experiences, the more I unearth questionable habits and thought processes that have kept me in a vicious circle of failure and self-sabotage. This is great because transforming your lifestyle from there is simple but not easy. I’m constantly reevaluating my motivations and impulses in the light of the future I know I want and deserve.
So how does one practice reflection?
It depends totally on you. If you’re naturally introspective, you might find yourself doing it instinctively. But if not, you can take the time to build it into your schedule.
Talk to someone who knows you well, like a parent, sibling or friend to fill in gaps in your memory about significant events that have shaped your life, and then evaluate your growth in the light of these insights.
Try to understand your impulses by stopping in the middle of a thought to evaluate why you’re thinking it, if possible, or make a mental (or physical) note to address that thought at a later time.
These simple practices will reveal layers of understanding about your character, your nuances, and your experiences. And hopefully, help you make changes, reinforce good habits, and chart a new course wherever needed.
Do you practice reflection? What new insights have you discovered about yourself and your thoughts about your future?