Creating a Habit of Self-Reflection

Here are the habits I’ve created to cultivate a lifestyle of self-reflection. What do you do? Is self-reflection important to you?

Self Reflection Habits
Photo via Flickr: Nomadic Lass 246:365 – Journaling

The post I wrote on 5 Ways to Gain Self-Knowledge continues to be my most viewed post at All Growing Up.   Self Knowledge is one of my core values and an activity that I spend time in weekly, monthly, and yearly.

However, in the original post I really focused on two types of Self-Knowledge activity,

  • Broad and ongoing suggestions.
  • One time (or infrequent) specific actions that you can do such as taking the Meyers Briggs or other tool like the DiSC or Strengths Finder.

Developing good habits is usually contingent on attaching the new habit to an already established one. Habits make up a lot of our day and adding in another step to your routine doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here are the habits I’ve created to cultivate a lifestyle of self-reflection. 

Please add your own in the comments section.


WEEKLY

My Journal – is a significant part of my self-reflection process. Each Sunday I sit down and take inventory of the past week – what were the highs and lows, what are the priorities for each week.   I try to hit on the things that I’ve been mulling over, or things that I’ve realize about myself based on conversations, events, and readings.  I also make my to-do lists – with about 10 projects each under the categories of Friends and Church, Home and Family, Self Development, and Career and School.

Update my GoodReads List – I consider Goodreads a form of micro-blogging, similar to Facebook and Twitter. Updating Goodreads with new books I want to read is an excellent chronology of what I’ve been hearing about or reading. I also like to date books finished.

Using technology to track moods and influences, to take a pulse, certainly simplifies data collection, and can be visually stunning – and possibly even obsessive. If you haven’t heard of Nicholas Felton, who created Daytum, you should look him up. If I had a smartphone, I’d use this

MONTHLY

Graph Paper – As much as I’d like to say I use my smartphone, I’m still stuck in 2003… and sometimes 1980. I often get into these real data gathering moods on basic health indicators, like hours slept, or days exercised, how many servings of produce I eat each day, and if I flossed my teeth. But then I put it on graph paper I keep in a Dunkin Donuts calendar next to my bed and calculate rough percentages at the end of the month.  Super low tech – maybe I’ll ask for a fitbit for Christmas.

Answering Set Questions over a period of time is a useful way to see change. Each month I try to answer the following self-reflection questions (in said journal).  If my answers align with my beliefs, I’m on the right track.

  • What do I want to do more of?
  • What do I want to do the same?
  • What do I want to do less of?

 YEARLY

10Q Questions – At the beginning of October I finished my yearly 10Q reflection. The site, run by a Jewish organization, sends you a set of 10 questions that allows you to reflect back on your year.

GoogleDocs – I also reflect around New Years Day (January), and my often my Birthday (April). For these, I generally open up GoogleDocs, where I have a couple dozen documents with titles like “5 Year plan” and “Career Goals 2012-2017.” This is a work in progress for me, since I don’t follow a predetermined set of questions or system. Who knows, maybe that should be a goal for my 40 before 40 list. Ha.


What about you – do you have self-reflection habits? Are they daily, monthly, yearly? Do you think a system is best – or should it be more organic?

What about apps or websites – how do you organize your data?


Show Up. Write. Edit.

Writing Process1

My dad always liked to quote that old nugget about “90% of life is just showing up.”

And my first employer prominently displayed the Chuck Swindoll quote about how 90% of life is your attitude.

Well guys. This is what I think the writing life looks like.

When it comes to the blogging life, I’d say a good chunk of that editing includes formatting.  Pictures are the right size. Aligned. Put your url on them. Spacing is correct. Links inserted. SEO attempted.

I’m in the last week of my semester of classes, working on a big group project.  We’ve hit the editing and formatting stage, so it looks like plenty more late nights for me.

But then again, I’ve got those books I decided to read to look forward to.

See you on the flip side.

The types of books I think about writing

I think almost everyone has a book idea or two in the back of their brain.  It’s the rare person I find who doesn’t have something they’d like to communicate in  longform – whether it’s in words, pictures, or recipes.

Although I had to wade through years of psychological ennui to admit (aloud) that I only think about writing non-fiction, the times – friends – are changing in this regard.  Of course there’s been William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” for several decades now, pointing in the direction of beautiful non-fiction writers, but it was somewhat subversive.  Now there’s the stamping and marching feet of the Common Core school standards which are sweeping children along to read more (as they so dryly dub them) “informational texts.”

I dream of writing books, but never fiction.

The types of books I think about writing:

– A year-long project, where the reader is pulled into my escapades as I oh – work on organic farms in England, or attempt to break into a totally new career field, or cook all of Julia Child’s recipes. (Wait… you say that’s been done already?)

– A book which posits a third way between two accepted ways of thinking for example – such as the foolish working/non-working mother debate.

– The type of popular psychology books I adore reading, explaining common concepts in a readable format.  Think of Sam Gosling’s Snoop, or Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.

A Midsummer Aside; A Theological Confession

On sultry summer nights where even somnolence eludes me, ponderings surface from the depths of my soul that have been percolating there undefined for some time.

Practically, and less poetically, I have been feeling malcontent.  Small and decidedly unoriginal.

In Christianity there is the idea, the concept, of spiritual gifts.  Every believer in Jesus is gifted in some way, a gift given by the Holy Spirit.  Teaching, Hospitality, Giving, Service, these are all gifts, but there are more. These types of gifts are something along the lines of personality traits, and it is not uncommon to find Christians asking one another, “What’s your gift” in the same way that non-Christians ask one another, “What’s your Meyers Briggs?”  (Equally fascinating to me is the way that Christians hold seminars and devise tests to determine one’s spiritual gift.  I am not attempting to mock this, merely saying, it seems fairly secular. )  The gifts are intended to build up the body of Christ, of which each Christian is a member. (Pun intended, perhaps?)  Thus knowing your gifts is directly related to participation in body life.  This is a wonderful community building thing to stress, and it appropriately is within the church.

Having grown up in the church, and furthermore having grown up in America, I have keenly bought into the idea of being special.  I am made in the image of God, says my Christianity after all. Having studied a little Psychology and applied it (hopefully orthodox-ly) to this, I know that I am a combination of micro and macro systems.  I also know that I got a personality at birth, which I have some choice of editing, but little choice of changing.

My pastor has been preaching from 1 Peter, and it is chapter 4 verse 10 which sparked part of this reflection.  It is, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. “ This set up to say, that late at night in the middle of the hot summer when sleep flees and I am thinking far too introspectively in all the worst ways, I don’t wish to be someone else per se, but I wish that my particular gifts and personality and the combination thereof would manifest itself differently. If there are only so many Meyers Briggs types (16), and only so many spiritual gifts (debateable, but the internet suggests 28) then what is the point of wishing that I had another one?  None.

Yet, why is it that some people’s gifts seem so much more visible?  One person has been gifted with hospitality and thus has Sunday dinner with their in-laws every other week.  Another person’s hospitality involves running a halfway house for destitute women and receiving accolades both in the church and community.

That is the crux of my late night dissatisfaction.

Because, when I write, in fact, I wish that I had someone else’s writing.  I have been swimming through Moby Dick this summer, and pecking into Gerald Durrell’s essays on growing up in Corfu.  But I have also been observing the blogosphere, particularly those sites ripe and rife with beautiful photography and prose.

I am a terrible photographer because a) I have a poor camera for that. b) I know little to nothing about composition. c) I don’t have an eye for color or contrast.

As to prose, I confess didacticism.  I confess it frequently to remind myself that when I write, though I set before myself examples of humor, metaphor or poetry, yet I return to my earnest soapboxery. The habit of hunting for overarching lessons in mundane experiences without just letting some things BE has now ingrained itself too deeply perhaps, to write fiction.  It is essaying or nothing.  So, it will be essays.

In Christianity, it is the same way sometimes.  I don’t mind the gifts that I have, and I don’t wish for other people’s gifts.  I just wish that my gifts when combined with my personality were a bit more daring, or imaginative, or visible.  I suppose, (grudgingly I will admit this), that my gifts were not given to me to bring glory to myself, but they were given in order that I could build up the church. (Yes, that is their point.) However, on nights like these ones, like sleep, understanding and acceptance are elusive.