Looking Back, Moving Forward

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The benefits of reflection

As The Young Vision reaches its fifth anniversary, this issue we’ve been looking back at the past five years. As you’ll see, the years have been full of milestones and achievements, and we’ve made great progress. But, as with all progress, it’s come with challenges and lessons learned.

Looking back over past years isn’t just for magazines celebrating their anniversaries. We can learn a lot about ourselves by adopting the same process. When we reach a birthday, we look forward to the celebrations, the gifts, the time with friends and family, but how often do we look back and reflect on the year that has gone by? Do we look at how far we’ve come? Do we take time to shake off bad experiences and learn from challenges or mishaps? I don’t think we do. At least, not to its full potential.

Reflecting on the self

“The true purpose of self-reflection is to correct our mistaken thoughts and actions, and learn from them, thereby creating a more constructive life. Self-reflection is not just the simple act of discovering past mistakes and making up for these mistakes, like resetting a negative to zero. The ultimate objective of self-reflection is the development of a more positive self and the realization of a utopia on earth as the fulfilment of God’s will.” From the book: Ten Principles of Universal Wisdom | p223

The concept of self-reflection isn’t anything new. Most spiritual or religious theologies emphasise the benefit of looking in on oneself to assess the things we have and haven’t done well in our lives. We often do this naturally, but sometimes not in the most positive way. How many times have we spent sleepless nights going over conversations or events, kicking ourselves for not saying or doing things in a different way. But this kind of reflection isn’t productive. Reflection should be an opportunity for learning and progression, not a method of self-torture!

So, how can we begin a process of positive self-reflection?

Take a step back

It’s all too easy to see things from a very narrow perspective. After all, we live our own lives and experience events from our own point of view. Stepping outside this view is the first step on the path of self-reflection. Try to step outside yourself and see events and circumstances from another point of view. Imagine looking at yourself from afar. This will allow you to take a more objective view – you’ll be more honest with yourself about things you’ve done wrong, and you won’t be so tough on yourself about things you’ve done right.

Reflect on thoughts, speech and actions

Starting by reflecting on your thoughts comes with a great bonus – you’ll soon start thinking more positively. Take a good, conscious look at your thoughts, and reflect on whether they need to be corrected. If you have negative or blaming thoughts, reflecting on those from a wider perspective will force you to turn them around. “My teacher always gives me bad grades,” might become, “My work has been slipping and I need to take control of that.”

Once you’re in the practice of reflecting on your thoughts and spinning them out to positivity, it won’t take long before your speech and actions start to do the same, without much effort at all.

Set aside moments for self-reflection

You manage to find time in the day for all the activities that keep you going through life, but what about setting aside the time to make sure all your daily tasks are done with the best intentions and positivity? Schedule ten minutes during the day (just before bed is a perfect time) to reflect. Sit or lie-down in a quiet room, away from distractions. Leave your phone outside your door and make sure you won’t be interrupted. Grab a pen and paper to jot down thoughts that come to you (you’re guaranteed to start running your to-do list as soon as you begin to quiet your mind, so write those thoughts down and move along). Start to think about the past. You can reflect on only the day that’s gone by, or go back over weeks, months and years – it’s up to you. If negative thoughts creep in, turn them on their heads by putting a positive spin on them. Think ‘here’s my chance to grow’ and think about what you can learn. If that lesson has to be put into action, jot it down.

Be mindful

The word ‘mindful’ seems to be scattered all over popular media, blogs and lifestyle articles. Take the hint – this simple concept can make a great difference to how you think, act, enjoy the moments in your life, and even how you eat. Mindfulness originates from Buddhist thinking and is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”. To get it right takes a lot of practice, but essentially it’s all about being present in the moment. That’s easier said than done in our modern age of distraction. Imagine having dinner with your friend. How many times do you check your phone? If you hear it bleep, is your attention drawn away from the conversation? Yes? There’s the place to start practicing mindfulness. Silence your phone, kick out distractions, and be mindful in the moment. Being mindful will allow you to much more easily reflect on your day. After all, how can you reflect on something that you weren’t even present for?

So, whether you’re approaching a birthday and reflecting on the year that’s passed, or you’d like to make self-reflection a daily habit, go easy on yourself. Use reflection as a chance to learn and progress, rather than beat yourself up over failed grades, mistakes or cross words. Be mindful, be positive, and make your reflection one that you’d really want to see!