Seven Rituals for Reflection
Self-Reflection 101: What is self-reflection? Why is reflection important? And how to reflect
Why Reflection Opens Up Your World to the Present and Future

Reflection about life

If you reflect on the things you did right, on your successes, that allows you to celebrate every little success. It allows you to realize how much you've done right, the good things you've done in your life. Without reflection, it's too easy to forget these things, and focus instead on our failures.

Reflection on Life
Alan Watts
Reflection on Life
Jim Carrey
James Schmidt
Why Introspection Matters

Seven Rituals for Reflection

How will you take time to pause and reflect as the new decade continues?

As we continue to transition into a new decade, you may be asking yourself all kinds of questions – how have I grown over the last ten years? How has my workplace grown? What exciting wins have we had on our team – and how can we celebrate and continue those trends in the new decade?

Planning for a new year (let alone a new decade) becomes much easier when you start with reflection. Reflecting on your personal growth, work accomplishments, and other aspects of life can help you to know where you’ve been and where you’re going. Reflection is also a great way to practice gratitude, which, according to Harvard Medical School, has real physical and emotional health benefits.

Even when we know reflection is important, however, it can be difficult to make time for it when work, family, community, and so many other obligations take up our time. The easiest way to build-in reflection time is to tie it to a habit that can be easily and consistently performed, whether it’s a daily, monthly, or yearly practice. These rituals make it much easier to pause, reflect, and regroup so you can learn from your mistakes and celebrate your wins with others.

Several TiER1ers have shared their tips and tricks for starting and maintaining a reflection ritual. Read on for their ideas and suggestions on ways to celebrate your wins and plan for the year ahead!

Everyday Habits

Andrea Rueve, Account Manager: About nine years ago, a friend gave me a 5-year journal as a birthday gift. Each day, I write one entry (something I’m thankful for, happy about, something funny that happened that day, or anything memorable). I keep my first 5-year journal on my nightstand and continue to write in my second 5-year journal to this day. I love looking back at my entries from the first journal (some college years are included in that one) to see what I was grateful for then vs. now … some stuff is the same, and some is very different. It takes less than a minute to complete so it makes it an easy habit to keep up with.

Sharon Boller, Managing Director: As a daily practice, I reflect on what I’m grateful for from the past day. I usually have at least three items, but sometimes as many as seven.

Denianne Gardner, Marketing Manager: Reflection is one area where I find the most value in using social media. Almost every day, the first thing I do is review the “memories” section on Facebook. Looking back at my “on this day” posts has shown me some trends in my life that I wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise.

For example, the number of times a particular friend and I post “I miss you” practically jumped off the screen when looking back at previous posts. Clearly, more effort is needed for us to connect in person. My journey as a mother has also been chronicled better on Facebook than in any scrapbook. I’ve also noticed that my sense of humor seems to have taken a hit, but the things I’ve been posting in recent years seem a bit more meaningful. This habit inspires me to post more often, for the benefit of future Denianne.

Weekly or Monthly Reminders

Richard Corder, Managing Director of TiER1 Healthcare: Once a week, I commit to writing and sending at least one hand-written (old-school!) thank you note. It reminds me to pause and reflect on who I am grateful for and how they have impacted my week. The note is an intentional way to get specific about something the person did, said, or the way they made me feel that made a difference.

I love it because it’s a reminder that I have much to be grateful for and am surrounded by some remarkable, loving, giving people that make a difference in the lives of others.

Sharon Boller: Periodically, I use the GLAD format to reflect; it helps me record what I am most grateful for, what I’ve learned, what I’ve accomplished (small things count!), and what’s delighted me. I’ve invited people to do this on a company level at holiday gatherings or all-company meetings. In the past, we’ve used butcher block paper to make a timeline and post things by quarter.

Your Year in Review

Jeremy Goebel, Learning Consultant: Once a year, my wife and I have a coffee date where we write 10 things we want to be thankful for one year from today. We each write an independent list, and then discuss and gather it into one list of hopes for the year ahead.

We also review what we wrote in the previous year’s list. Sometimes we laugh at what we wrote down – life’s curveballs can totally derail what we were hoping for – but other times we’re amazed at what actually has happened that goes above and beyond our original expectations. This ritual is fun, meaningful, and helps us celebrate what’s happened. It also helps to inform and shape our goals for the upcoming year. Give it a try – I guarantee you’ll be thankful you did when you review your original list a year later.

Nick Pineda, Director of Innovation: My wife and I keep a jar in our living room. Whenever we have a special moment of joy during our week, we write the moment on a Post-It, fold it up, write the date on it, and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, we celebrate by emptying the jar and reading all of our little collected moments.

Rita Mann, Change and Communication Strategist: In December, I pull out a large sketch pad (the old-fashioned kind) and draw my goals for the coming year. It’s usually pictorial with copy. I don’t look at it very often throughout the year, but I’m usually delighted at the year’s end by how much has transpired, begun, or been accomplished. It’s a practice I’ve had for decades!

Pick the Practice That’s Right For You

As you can see, there are so many ways to build reflection into your life, from writing something small down every day to once-a-year review and planning sessions. The trick? Pick a reflection practice that fits in with your personality and authentic style. The habit shouldn’t feel laborious or hard to keep up with – instead, it should inspire excitement as it allows you to both reminisce and dream big for the future. Whatever your reflection practice, TiER1 wishes you luck as you take on the decade ahead!

Self-Reflection 101: What is self-reflection? Why is reflection important? And how to reflect

Self-reflection brings perspective to our lives. It helps us learn, grow, appreciate and understand. Here is a deeper dive into wisdom and beauty found in a meaningful reflection practice.

Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

And while this dictum is certainly true, self-reflection is not necessarily an easy thing to practice. We live in an incredibly fast-paced world. Our mobile phones are constantly buzzing, social media is infinitely calling, and Netflix always has something new to binge on.

Taking the time for reflection is a bit of a lost art. Most of us, unfortunately, are living unexamined lives.

This shouldn’t be the case. Few things are more valuable than self-reflection.

But what exactly is self-reflection? And what are some simple ways to practice it?

In this article, we’re going to break down the what, why, and how of self-reflection.

Ready? Let’s get started...

What Is Self-Reflection? A Self-Reflection Definition

Simply put, self-reflection (also known as “personal reflection”) is taking the time to think about, meditate on, evaluate, and give serious thought to your behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, motivations, and desires. It’s the process of diving deep into your thoughts and emotions and motivations and determining the great, “Why?” behind them.

Personal reflection allows you to analyze your life from both a macro and micro level. At a macro level, you can evaluate the overall trajectory of your life. You can see where you’re headed, determine whether you’re happy with the direction, and make adjustments as necessary.

At a micro level, you can evaluate your responses to particular circumstances and events. Geil Browning, Ph.D., talks about personal reflection like this:

"Reflection is a deeper form of learning that allows us to retain every aspect of any experience, be it personal or professional — why something took place, what the impact was, whether it should happen again — as opposed to just remembering that it happened. It's about tapping into every aspect of the experience, clarifying our thinking, and honing in on what really matters to us."

Practicing self-reflection takes discipline and intentionality. It requires pressing pause on the chaos of life and simply taking the time to think and ponder about your life, which is not an easy thing for many people to do. But it’s an incredibly valuable practice.

The Importance of Self-Reflection

Without self-reflection, we simply go through life without thinking, moving from one thing to the next without making time to evaluate whether things are actually going well. We don’t pause to think. To analyze. To determine what is going well and what isn’t working. The unfortunate result is that we often get stuck.

For example, a lack of personal reflection may lead us to stay in a job we don’t like or a relationship that isn’t going well.

A lack of reflection causes us to simply keep running, trying to keep up with things even if things aren’t going well. We feel like we’re simply trying to keep our heads above water. We end up doing the same things over and over again, even if those things aren’t producing the results we had hoped for.

The Benefits Of Self-Reflection

Yes, taking time for self-reflection can be difficult. It can be challenging to take the necessary time to step back and reflect on what truly matters. Nevertheless, there are numerous wonderful benefits of self-reflection and we should all make time for it.

It Allows You To Gain Perspective

Emotions can cloud your judgment and you can lose sight of what truly matters. Some things seem bigger and worse than they truly are.

Self-reflection allows you to take a step back and gain perspective on what matters and what can be ignored. It allows you to process events and achieve clarity on them.

It Helps You Respond More Effectively

Most of the time, we simply react to whatever circumstances come our way. This can lead to us saying and doing things we regret. When we’re in a reactive mode, we don’t take the necessary time to consider our actions and words.

Personal reflection allows you to consider the consequences of your words and actions. It also enables you to consider the best, most effective, most helpful way to act in a given situation.

It Promotes Learning and Understanding

When we go through life without pausing to think and reflect, we don’t learn or gain a deeper understanding of life. We simply move from one thing to the next, never pausing to consider what valuable lessons we might learn.

Self-reflection, on the other hand, enables us to evaluate and process what we’ve experienced. It allows us to think deeply and ponder the meaning of our circumstances, emotions, and motivations. It enables us to live holistic, integrated, and healthy lives.

Self-Assessment Sample

So how exactly do you perform self-reflection? How do you appropriately and helpfully reflect on yourself and your life?

One easy way to perform this self-reflection exercise is to use a journal (an online journal or print journal). Simply write out these questions and then take your time to thoughtfully answer them. Make sure that you don’t rush. Pause and ponder. Think deeply about what truly matters to you.

First, determine the period of time you plan to look back on. Do you want to look back on the last week? Last month? Last year? Last 5 years?

Then, begin by taking stock of what actually happened during this period. If you already keep a journal, this step will be easier for you, and perhaps a solid reminder of the value of keeping a journal.

Take a look through your planner, journal, and photos, and list out the highlights and lowlights.

Stuck? Here are a few tips:

  • Did you travel anywhere this year?
  • Experience any personal or family milestones?
  • What changed in your relationships, work, or passion projects?

Look back at your new list of highlights and lowlights try and see if there are any patterns.

Do your highlights generally involve certain people in your life? Or any specific activities?

It can be difficult to revisit lowlights, but it is also a great way to find peace and growth.

For each lowlight, ask yourself: Was this within my control?

  • If yes, ask yourself what you may do differently next time.
  • If no, ask yourself how you may find peace with it.

Write down both the highlights and lowlights in your journal, then take time to reflect. What things do you want to accomplish over the next month, year, and five years? What do you want to change about your life? What things can you improve on?

Taking the time to walk through this exercise will help bring clarity and perspective to your life.

A Guided Self-Assessment

Looking back at your chosen time period, rate yourself on a scale of -5 to +5 on each of the following six areas of your life.

After selecting a number, write what made you feel that way. Expressing the emotions and feelings that you have, is a great way to have a deeper and more meaningful reflection.

  • Mind - Do you feel clear-headed, engaged, and intellectually challenged?
  • Body - Does your body feel healthy, nourished, and strong?
  • Soul - Do you feel at peace and connected to the world around you?
  • Work - Do you feel interested in and fulfilled by your work?
  • Play - Do you feel joyful? Are you engaging in activities that bring you joy?
  • Love - Do you feel positive about the relationships in your life?

Don’t rush through this self-assessment. Take the necessary time to reflect on each area of your life. If you rush, you’ll miss out on the value of self-reflection.

When Should You Practice Self-Reflection?

There are a number of times when self-reflection is particularly helpful. First, it can be useful to do it for a few minutes each week. You don’t have to go through all of the questions or take hours to do it. Focus on what has been on your mind that particular week.

It can also be helpful to practice self-reflection as an end of month personal review and end of year personal review.

In other words, at the end of each month and year, do an in-depth personal review of your life. Look back over the previous days and months and analyze your life. This practice will provide you with a helpful perspective and ensure that you are living life to the fullest.

Don’t Live The Unexamined Life

When we fail to reflect on our lives, we lose perspective, get caught up in things that don’t matter, and often lose sight of the things that are most important. Socrates was right when he said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living.

Don’t live an unexamined life. Practice self-reflection today.

Interested in developing your reflection practice? We built, a free online journal that helps you capture your highlights and lowlights as they happen, and shares back your entries to your for guided reflection at the end of each month and year.

We also use a similar framework for our annual Guided Reflection Journal.

Looking for reflection questions you can use in a group or take with you? Check out our deck of Reflection Cards.

Why Reflection Opens Up Your World to the Present and Future

Memory Lane.

It’s not a destination. But it is a place that’s very important for us to revisit as we continue moving forward on our journey through life.

Wait, huh?!

Yes, we make sense of our present and future by reflecting upon our past.

Not dwelling there. Not spending too much time there than we need.

Rather, spending just enough time to make peace, sometimes seek forgiveness, gain clarity and make sense of all that we are trying to do.

I thought of that on my recent trip to Washington, DC. I lived in Washington for four years, from 2008–2012. I found it interesting to return to a place that I’m not from, and yet very much shaped me into the man I am today.

You see, if there’s one, very valuable piece of wisdom that I’ve learned over time it’s this:

If we’re going to have a bright future,
we need to grow and prosper from the lessons of our past.

Good and Bad.

Our biggest mistake is when we ignore our experiences. If we don’t spend the time to extract every ounce of wisdom that we can from them.

One thing I thought about- and used to really bother me, to be honest- was how lazy I used to be. I simply didn’t push myself hard enough. I avoided really challenging myself out of fear. It’s why I’m such a huge proponent of embracing the fear in your life and using it to drive you. As they say, “What’s in the way, is the way.”

As I arrived back in DC, memories came back to me. Yes, I had a busy management consulting job that at times was stressful. But, on the whole, I had the time to pursue my passions. I just didn’t push myself hard enough. Only toward the final 1–2 years that I was there did I start to see more of my what my potential future looked like.

I began coaching high school basketball.
I grew closer in my relationship with God.I started doing a lot lot writing, but at that time, only for myself.
I rekindled the relationship with my now-wife and ultimately proposed to her. That was the best action I took.

All great things.

But for a while there, I was immature. I think to a certain extent, I paid the price as I continued in my professional career. I didn’t so much get better at my job, as I did tread water and do “just enough.” I didn’t reach my potential. I didn’t put all the pieces together. I was much more concerned with going out to have fun.

With the benefit of reflection, I’m now really proud of the life that I’m living. I’ve become much more driven. I’ve pushed myself to do things that I’m really proud of. So much of my focus went from being about me, to now being about others.

I’m much more passionate about helping others and figuring out how to support myself and my family by doing so. These things required going through trials of adversity. They required hard work and deep thinking. And like I mentioned, they required some mental and emotional pain. I kicked the can down the road for far too long. Thank God I made amends and changed my ways.

Does this resonate with you?
What have you put off in your life?
What have you avoided in an attempt to take the safe or the conservative path?

As you’ll see in the video below from a commencement speech by Jim Carrey, it’s so important to take the hard way and enjoy the journey. To avoid the conservative path when it comes to living the life and career you want.

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” — Jim Carrey

Reflection is very often what helps us learn this. Sure, we can learn from the remarkable true story of Jim Carrey and many others. But when it comes to taking action, a lot of the time, we have to learn these lessons ourselves. It’s what we take from them that make us the women and men we’re destined to be.

I hope your reflection brings you to recognize that your gift — all of our gifts — is giving your natural talents, energy and self to the world. To produce your best work, from your heart and soul, and use it to contribute to the betterment of your fellow man and woman.

“The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” — Jim Carrey

A bit lofty? Yeah, I’ll admit it.

But that’s a lifetime’s worth of reflections talking to you and encouraging you to take up the gauntlet of doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do, even when it would be much more convenient to avoid it.

The worst thing is to live your life regretting, pining for, or complaining about that chance you never took. Go for what’s yours. Look back at where you’ve been and where you want to go.

As Jim Carrey says in his speech, the present is really all that matters when it comes to action. But as you reflect in this moment and think about all that you can learn from where you’ve been, you’ll find you’ve acquired a remarkable amount of wisdom that you can harness and use to your advantage to become the best version of your self.

There’s a reason why a brilliant reflecting pool is positioned directly in front of The Lincoln Memorial in the U.S. capital. It’s a way for such a powerful monument to stand even taller. To leave an even greater impression on our mind. To let us know just how much our past matters. That we can look back, learn from it, and move forward with confidence and conviction.

It only takes a few minutes, but I encourage you to make peace with your past and use it to guide and shape your present. That trip down Memory Lane is always worth it.