We’re here, it’s 2024 baby.

New year, new start, new beginnings. Kinda.

I’m not sure I’m a big believer in starting a completely new chapter. At least, not when there’s so much to be gained through introspection when it comes to self-development and growth. Academics continually recognise the importance of self-reflection, arguing that it “foster[s] human development and personal transformation and, ultimately, a better society” (Ardelt and Grunwald, 2018).

Yet, in our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to neglect self-reflection. I mean, when my two-year-old is insisting that we watch yet another episode of Peppa Pig, thinking about taking the time out to examine my thoughts, feelings, achievements, failures… it can be daunting, and that it’ll expend energy I simply don’t have. But it’s so important; self-reflection is influential in helping you to define, understand and track your self-concept (your traits, abilities, beliefs, values, relationships) and this directly affects your mood, judgement, and behaviours. And self-reflection is not just about us as individuals, it’s about those around us and helping us to develop empathy and appreciate the experiences of others.

And while I’m writing this in January (got to start the year off on the right foot!) self-reflection relies on consistency, discipline, and a little bit of courage. What might feel a bit awkward at first should (if approached with a little self-care and compassion) develop into a useful tool for life, both public and private. On the one hand, self-reflection can help provide comfort for grief, anxiety, stress, trauma, and on the other, can help you tune up all those skills that help make you a great leader – quite the combo. So, how do you incorporate self-reflection into your daily routine. Where do you start?

Schedule time for self-reflection

It could be 10 minutes, it could be 30, but pencilling in time for self-reflection will help you to develop a routine. It could be on the way to work, in the car, at the end of the day, whenever, but setting time aside to reflect on your experiences will help you settle in to a positive, healthy routine of self-awareness.

Journal

I must confess, I’m not great at journaling. Pen to paper feels a little alien when it comes to noting down my own thoughts. But I’ve found using the Notes app (nod to iPhone users but please translate into your platform of choice) to be really helpful in keeping a log of my current thoughts and feelings, particularly if there’s a specific challenge I’m trying to overcome. It’s great to look back and see the progress from where you were to where you are now. It also serves as a reminder when faced with a new challenge – if you’ve done it once, you can do it again!

Practise Mindfulness

Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. It’s about noticing what’s around you and how you feel in that instant. Okay, I know that might sound a bit ‘fluffy’ for some, but by centring your thoughts into the ‘now’ it can help divert your focus from the unhelpful worries and stresses that make us less productive and less able to achieve our goals. It’s a process of creating space between you and your thoughts, a space with which you can calmly reflect on situations and respond appropriately.

So, that’s my tip for smashing your goals this year. Keep taking time out. Be respectful of your own thoughts and feelings. Develop self-awareness at your own pace and without judgement. Self-observation and self-dialogue are crucial components of personal growth.”