Over the last year or so we’ve asked you to do some introspection or we recommend it as a tool to help with another problem or challenge. Looking back on it, I don’t think we’ve ever really talked about what introspection is and what it is not.

To put it simply, introspection, or self-reflection is the ability that we as humans have that allows us to think about ourselves as beings. It is how we question and learn more about our nature, our purpose and our place in the universe. This ability is one of the things that sets us apart from animals. It also allows us to question ourselves, desire something greater, set goals and take action to achieve them. Self-reflection allows us to look back at an experience and learn from it instead of repeating it.

Introspection Tips

We all engage in self-reflection all of the time, but sometimes it’s hard to know if we should trust ourselves. Here are some tips to give you confidence in your own ability to reflect and learn.

The environment we place ourselves in is really critical to self-reflection. Everyone is different, but most of us are served pretty well by finding somewhere quiet away from the noise of life. A place where we can be alone with our thoughts. I find it very hard to be reflective if I’m surrounded by other people, although that isn’t true for everyone.

Another key to effective self-reflection is carving out time in our schedules to do it. As much as we all try to multi-task, most human beings really aren’t all that good at it. Focusing on our thoughts and insights serves us better than trying to capture them while we are also doing a bunch of other tasks. Taking even five minutes to disconnect from everything else can pay big dividends in learning about ourselves.

Let’s recognize that we’re talking about self-reflection. Our process needs to be our own and not what someone else expects from us. While we may face similar challenges to others, what works for them may not work for us. It’s great to take advice from others how we should go about doing it. To be successful though, we have to develop our own practice that uses elements that work for us.

Introspection – Going Forward

Finally, let’s all keep in mind that self-reflection isn’t all about getting to the answers. Sometimes it’s more important to just ask the questions and not try to answer them ourselves. It can be as simple as setting aside our time and place and asking what is on our mind. Instead of trying to answer the question right away, just let ourselves see what answers come to us. The ideas and insights that don’t come from trying to find the answers quickly are often the most valuable!