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The Value of Self-Reflection

By Ozlem Aydin, senior management official, Office of Communications, Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

As another year comes to an end, it’s a great opportunity to take some time for self-reflection.

There’s no doubt these last two years have been challenging for many of us. As we look back on the year, what are some of the highlights we want to carry forward? Have we accomplished the goals we set for ourselves? What else do we want to tackle in the remaining days? This will look different for everyone, so the idea is not to be critical of our shortcomings but to acknowledge our progress, assess where we are and where we’re headed, recenter and get back out there with intent.

Reflection is a great practice to integrate into our routine. It gives us a moment to pause and sort through our observations and experiences. It allows us to assess our feelings and the effectiveness of our actions, enabling us to make corrections from lessons learned and further evolve into our best selves.

I look at reflection as my body and mind giving me feedback. It’s a time that I get to check in with myself and make meaning of my actions and change what does not align with my purpose and vision so that I can be a better me at work and in life in general.

Another great part of reflection is the time we get to spend with our thoughts and getting better acquainted with ourselves on a deeper level. Who are we? What makes us happy? What makes us tick? What’s our purpose? What are our goals? As we get older, we are also changing and evolving, but we don’t often take the time to get to know ourselves more intimately. Carving out a few minutes throughout the day or week enables us to get back in touch with our core and assess our inner narrative. How do we talk to ourselves? Do we have unresolved emotions? Are we showing ourselves enough love and compassion?

For me, reflecting a few minutes in the evening enables me to identify and address any unresolved emotions from the day – emotions that I normally wouldn’t even think to acknowledge because of the busyness of the day. It makes me feel more confident when I feel my actions are aligned with purpose and I feel centered. It also helps me focus better so I can tackle any challenge that comes my way.

Tips for Self-Reflection:

Schedule time and start small. Just like meditation, learning how to reflect also takes time. Carve out small chunks of time that works for you and be open to the practice. Don’t get discouraged if you’re unable to concentrate.

Identify important questions. What are some questions you’d like to ask yourself? Write them down and raise them during reflection. Don’t be discouraged if nothing comes to you at first. It takes time to get clarity past all the noise that’s around us and within us.

Find what works for you. I reflect while journaling, meditating and running. I find these outlets to work best for me. Sometimes I lean more on one over the other. There’s no right or wrong answer here – find which style works best for you.

Making reflection a part of your routine is sure to make your life journey more intentional and impactful. Assessing the effectiveness of our actions at work, and in our lives otherwise, is also a great way to show up for not just ourselves, but for our family, friends and colleagues. It will help us be more intentional with our actions and enable us to better align with our purpose, making us better leaders in the world. Happy reflecting!

Ozlem is a senior management official currently working for the Director of the Office of Communications at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). She’s been employed at the IRS for 16 years, possessing a wide range of experience from the Collections, Engagement & Retention Office and the Strategy and Organizational Improvement Office to name a few.

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Photo credit: Pepe Reyes on Unsplash

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