A Message from Dr. Starr
Established in Being, Perform Action
— Bhagavad Gita
By Deborah R. Starr, Ed.D., Head of School
What is self-reflection? Is it a practice that might benefit an individual? If so, how? An integral part of the High Holy Days is self-reflection. It is an accounting of who we are, what we have done, and how to be better. But, I got to thinking, should it start and end with the Days of Awe? What if we continued with that habit of self-reflection during the whole year?
Self-reflection is a looking inward. It is an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings. It is introspection. It is a time to look at one’s core values, review one’s own health, consider how we are treating and respecting others, am I engaged in worthy activity, am I making a positive impact on my world and surroundings? Gee, that is a long list and it takes time to do.
Most of us are busy productive people. We have family, work, commitments and chores. Of course, many of us are the family chauffeur to everything and anything, and we do want time to read, vacation, garden and just “be.” How can I now set aside time for this self-reflection? You will set aside the time if you are convinced, as I am that it is important to do so. This time should be specifically focused on questions about your goals, your behavior and your state of mind. Is that being self-centered and selfish? Not if you realize that you are no good to your family, friends and co-workers if you are not yourself in a healthy, focused and generally good place.
This brings me to the fact that self-reflection is a verb, and a verb is “an action word.” The goal of self-reflection is to then perform action. The point is not just narcissistic. We are not just contemplating, reviewing and meditating for the sake of that experience (although meditation might also include having the experience). It is not
just going within; it is using that inward introspection to then act. What kind of actions? Am I using my talents to the fullest? Am I continuously impacting in a positive way on the world around me? Am I helping others? Do I volunteer? Do I tithe? Am I working on making my relationships work and be productive? Do give my time and attention to my family? Do I give my all at work?
I offer another thing to consider. “Researchers have shown that we think more than 50,000 thoughts per day, of which more than half are negative and more than 90% are just repeats from the day before (Wood, 2013). If you don’t make the time and effort to refocus your mind on the positive through introspection, you won’t give yourself the opportunity to grow and develop.” I have read that “to help stay on the right path with your self-reflection, consider asking more “what” questions than “why” questions. “Why” questions can highlight our limitations and stir up negative emotions, while “what” questions help keep us curious and positive about the future (Eurich, 2017).”
I offer some prompts, from D.K. William, to start your self-reflection (I am sure you can think of many more):
1. Who am I, really?
2. If this were the last day of my life, would I have the same plans for today?
3. Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?
4. What matters most in my life?
5. What am I doing about the things that matter most in my life?
6. Have I done anything lately that’s worth remembering?
7. Have I made someone happy today?
8. What have I given up on?
9. When did I last push the boundaries of my comfort zone?
10. What small act of kindness was I once shown that I will never forget?
11. What do I need to change about myself?
12. How many of my friends would I trust with my life?
13. Who has had the greatest impact on my life?
14. What do I want most in life?
15. What is life asking of me?
16. What have I failed at, but learned an important life lesson?
17. Does it really matter what others think about me?
18. To what degree have I actually controlled the course of my life?
19. What has surprised you the most about your life or life in general?
20. What is one topic you need to learn more about to help you live a more fulfilling life?
Self-reflection is a process. If one recognizes its value, as I do, one needs to make time for it. Ultimately, self-reflection should lead to positive changes on one life–in other words, actions that will benefit the individual and the world around him/her. Keep in mind that self- reflection is an intensely personal process. You may find other ways, besides prompts, to help you self-reflect. Feel free to practice those and hopefully reap healthy, positive, and productive reward.
William, D. K. (n.d.). 30 thought-provoking questions you should ask yourself every day. Lifehack.
Retrieved from Wood, K. (2013). The lost art of introspection: Why you must master yourself. Expert Enough.
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