These three self-reflection questions are designed to help you gain more awareness of the subtle ways you’ve grown emotionally or terms of skills, perhaps without realizing it.
1. What complex thing is now straightforward?
Doing anything that requires multiple steps is often confusing and intimidating the first time. With experience, it becomes much easier. However, when you’re no longer a beginner, it can be hard to remember back to what being a beginner was like. You might start to label an activity as simple, even if it was anything but the first time.
Question: What’s something you now do easily that you remember feeling intimidated by initially? One of my examples is using the Instant Pot. I remember being worried about burning myself or recipes being a disaster. In reality, most of what I’ve made in it has turned out someone between pretty good and outstanding. Try thinking of one personal and one professional example. Note which came to mind most easily for you, and going forward, try to be more mindful in the other domain.
Try: The next time you’re doing something difficult that requires multiple steps over a period of time, try being more mindful of what it feels like to figure out each new part of the task. Practice savoring the satisfaction of overcoming each hurdle rather than just the end point. As an example, my spouse and I are currently re-drywalling a bedroom in our house, never having done it before. Each step of the process has been difficult, but at each stumble we’ve gone away and looked at some YouTube videos to figure out the problem, and then solved it the next day. We’re only part way into the project, but I can already see how the second room we tackle is going to be infinitely easier. Already, there are some many things we didn’t know how to do that we’ve now gotten the hang of.
2. What mistakes have you learned not to repeat?
One important way we grow is when we finally learn to stop making mistakes we’ve made repeatedly. Here are a couple of examples:
- Where I live there are two similar outlet malls – north and south. The south mall is 10 extra minutes drive (each way) from my house, but has ample outdoor parking. The north mall has multi story garages that are sometimes so packed it takes almost 30 minutes to exit the garage, let alone find a park in the first place. I’ve learned that it’s almost always better to just order online but if I’m going to go to the mall, it takes less time overall and it’s far more pleasant to go to the south mall that’s the extra drive away.
- Another example is that I’ve learned that if my spouse has been traveling alone, it’s easier for her to grab an Uber/Lyft home from the airport than for my toddler and I to go on a pickup run. This saves quite a bit of time and prevents frustration if we don’t get the timing quite right and need to make multiple circles of the airport pickup area. At first I’d thought it was mean to not pick her up, but in reality, this way is actually far more pleasant. We have a more relaxed reunion at home, instead of an often grumpy and frazzled airport experience.
Question: What’s a mistake you repeated quite a few times before you figured out the pattern and developed a new strategy? Did you need to overcome any thinking hurdles to change your pattern? In my example, I had to overcome the belief that it was mean and harsh to not pick my spouse up, even though I hadn’t actually checked what her preference was and if it was important to her either way.
Try: For any mistakes you still repeat but could easily avoid, what’s the thinking that’s getting in the way?
3. What used to rattle you, but now doesn’t (or only does a little)?
What used to trigger rumination, guilt and oversized reactions from you, but now doesn’t? Some potential answers: backhanded compliments, intentional or unintentional shade, flaky behavior from other people (leading you to feel anxious about being liked), schedule/plan changes, or specific things people close to you say (e.g., your parent, partner, siblings, coworkers). What types of comments used to really work you up. but now you’re relatively immune to those specific comments?
To put it another way, what have you learned to take in stride more? Maybe you’ve gotten better with accepting that your investments with fluctuate in value during market dips? Maybe your boss is stingy with compliments but now you’ve learned that hearing no complaints means s/he is really pleased?
Question: Answer the question above by noting one personal and one professional example.
Try: Sometimes standing up for yourself about a behavior you don’t like can help you stop reacting to it, even if the other person doesn’t change their ways. Can you think of an example of how this might be useful to you? For instance, my (amazing) Mom used to make quite a few appearance-related comments when we’d video chat e.g., “When was the last time you plucked those eyebrows?” (Um, six months ago). And, whenever I told her I had an exciting work event, she’d invariably react by asking what I was going to wear rather than displaying interest in a more substantive way. I’ve now repeatedly stood up for myself about those comments, and two things have happened. They’ve largely stopped, and I feel less bothered by them and take them less personally. What examples do you have like this, and what would work for you for taking comments or events in stride more?
If you liked this article, you’ll probably also like these 20 fun, self-reflection questions. They’re lighter than the ones here, but along the same lines.