“New Year, new you,” right? As eager as you may be to improve your grades, health or relationships in the New Year, don’t forget to consider what you achieved this past year. It was once new too, remember. In fact effective self-reflection will help you build reasonable and attainable New Year’s resolutions. And there’s no need to limit self-reflection to January. Assuming you see its effects, it can become a life-long habit.
As a student, your independence has increased and self-awareness heightened. Don’t let either overwhelm you. Instead take advantage of this exciting stage of young adulthood by acknowledging your actions and their outcomes. Improvement aside, it’s part of discovering who you are now and who you may become in the future.
Make it regular
To get the most out of self-reflection, take a cue from scientific experimentation. In order to accurately test the hypothesis of a science experiment, there must be a constant, a part of the experiment, which remains, well, constant in comparison to the tested subjects. Self-reflect at a set time on a regular basis, say every evening, every Sunday or once a month. After several sessions of self-reflection, you can review your thoughts and note any developments. By self-reflecting at the same time, you’re also more likely to review your actions with a similar perspective each time. Choose a time when you won’t feel rushed or over tired. When relaxed and well rested (or as close as you can be to either), you’re more likely to revisit your actions without unnecessary judgement. Consider too developing a set of questions or prompts to answer or respond to each self-reflection.
Find your form
Keeping a diary is not the only form of self-reflection. Although it’s perhaps the most common. And its permanence allows you to revisit entries years in the future. However, for some writing is limiting. It’s an unnatural form of expression. Even for a student. (We do enough writing as it is anyways.) Certainly try writing in a diary, however also explore other forms of self-reflection. Speak aloud and record your thoughts using a voice memo function on your phone or audio recording program on your computer. If monologuing feels bizarre, recruit a friend or family member who’s a good listener and capable of asking prompting, non-judgemental questions. In this case, record the conversations. And return the favour by serving as a listener to their self-reflection. Of course if finances allow, counselling is a great option. Although recording may not be possible, a counsellor will track your progress for you. For something untraditional yet still helpful, draw your reflections, titling each piece. A clear title will allow you to remember your reflections even if the image isn’t literal.
Stick with honesty
No matter how or when you self-reflect, do so with honesty. While difficult, it’s essential to successful, practical self-reflection. Furthermore, as best you can review your actions with neutrality. Don’t be overly harsh, nor forgiving about your past choices. When planning for the future, ask yourself “how” rather than “why”. How questions naturally incite action, for example: “How can I get more sleep?” rather than “Why don’t I sleep more?”