Know Thyself: The Power of Introspection

The end of the year symbolizes a fresh start and invites a pause for reflection. This often means reviewing what goals were and were not accomplished. The end of the year is also an ideal time for introspection.

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” ― Socrates

Introspection is defined as a reflective looking inward: an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings.”

It’s much easier to look at conflict or failures and conclude that it’s someone else’s fault, or that another person was the cause of our destructive behavior.

Yes, things in our childhood or traumatic events in life have an impact on who we are and the decisions we make. Still, we have the power to move toward our best selves.

Introspection could involve examining our behaviors and reactions to life events. We may reflect on a series of missteps and say to ourselves, “I’m the common denominator in each of these situations; maybe it’s me.”

So how can we start practicing introspection?

Write. The idea of “journaling” doesn’t resonate with everyone, but it doesn’t have to be a regimented task. Since the concept of introspection involves examination internal thoughts and feelings, writing can help us move beyond the abstract and put words to our emotions. The key here is to be completely honest with yourself, while allowing the cathartic benefits of writing to heal and reveal.

Ask others. We must call on those in our lives willing to be honest with us. Ask family and friends to share their thoughts on your areas of strength, along with areas they feel you could approve upon. Consider their insight as you prioritize the adjustments you’ll make on your path of introspection.

Tackle one area at a time. We all have various aspects of our ourselves that we’d like to improve upon. Easier said than done, however. The older we get, the more set in our ways we become, making changing for the better that much more difficult. The best approach is to tackle on area at a time, being dogged, but always patient with yourself.

Read. Books, news articles, quotes. Any and everything. Reading materials related to the areas in our lives we’re working to improve is essential. Carry a book everywhere; there’s always an opportunity to read. Don’t be afraid to read multiple books at a time, and mark up points that stand out. Listen to books via Audible or YouTube when you’re on the go.

Seek support. This is a big one. We all need support and encouragement as we become our best selves. Family and friends can offer much-needed support during our journey of self-discovery. Those in our support system may also assume the important role of being accountability partners, helping to keep us on track when we’re tempted to revert to our old, counterproductive behaviors. I’m also a firm believer in seeking professional help, when needed, by way of a spiritual adviser, licensed therapist or certified life coach.

We owe it, not only to ourselves to know ourselves, but also to those around us. Neglecting to understand who we are, why we do what we do, and how our actions impact others, can lead to negatively affecting others, whether intentional or not.

Doing the work of self-analyzing is life’s most challenging, but most valuable work. Thus, we shouldn’t undertake the work of self-actualization alone. However, starting this journey is a completely solo venture. Introspection is the first step to living our best lives, and ultimately, affecting positive change in the world around us.

“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”
― Lao Tzu

Kelda Senior is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a business development and accredited public relations professional from Florida. For the past 10 years, Kelda has served as a communications and community outreach specialist in local, state and federal government, with an emphasis on the transportation sector since 2012. Kelda is the owner of Senior Communications LLC, a boutique public relations firm focused on helping emerging brands cultivate their message and move their audiences to action. Kelda holds a B.A. in journalism and a master of public administration – both from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. You can read her posts here.

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