Winter is the downtime of our lives. We slow down. We go outdoors less. We hunker down at home, especially during bad weather. In general, we have less activity in our lives during this season. And while we may think of winter as cold, dark and dreary, it’s also the perfect time to conduct a reflection of your life.
Why Self Reflect?
During winter, many of us tend to slow down in parallel with the falling temperatures. When we experience better weather during summer, we naturally feel called to be outside more. We tend to have more energy and motivation to do more. But when we have a lot going on externally, we have less time to really be with ourselves.
During winter’s time of fewer distractions, we can take the time to do an inward reflection. It’s an exercise to gain a better view of your inner world, to better understand who you are at the core. Once you learn how to look inward, this process can ultimately help you with setting and achieving life and career goals.
- What emotions am I noticing today?
- What sensations am I experiencing?
- What angers me?
- What saddens me?
- What drives me?
- What repels me?
- What conversations am I having with myself?
- What are the thoughts I am telling myself over and over again?
When using these self-reflection questions, it could be helpful to meditate on an image that’s specific to winter. Find a leafless tree and focus on it through the window as you ask yourself the questions above. Then by contrast on the next day, look at a flame, perhaps the fiery, warming glow of a log in a fireplace as it warms your home. Ask yourself the same questions and notice which image you connect with more.
This reflection exercise is all about observation and paying attention to our thoughts and moods that we often ignore. I always tell my coaching clients that when using observational exercises like this, try to enter into them with curiosity and compassion. You should be curious about what feelings emerge. You need to be compassionate because sometimes we make judgments about what we are noticing. Have you ever thought “I’m a bad person for thinking this”? That’s not having compassion with yourself. A reflective period doesn’t need to be a time to be harsh with ourselves, but rather to adopt an attitude of self-forgiveness and be lovingly honest.
It takes some practice, but you want to strive for is observation without judgement. Think of trying to be an impartial observer who isn’t there to evaluate but to simply notice.
It’s helpful to do this exercise by writing in a journal so you can record your different moods on different days. Self-reflection exercises are best done for a two to three-week duration in order to determine similarities. Review your notes after each week to see if you can find patterns beginning to emerge. What are those common themes that keep coming up?
Sometimes the threads in your inner work can be easy to identify, but often they are not. That’s when an outside party like a coach can be a helpful partner. With another set of eyes, you’ll likely get another perspective or lens from which to view the world that you haven’t considered. We tend to get stuck in our interpretation of the world, so having someone to bounce ideas off of will push your boundaries. We all have blind spots, so you can get only so far on your own.
I like to think of blind spots as “Ignorance is bliss. You don’t know what you don’t know.” Sometimes we have an assessment of who we are as a person, but other people have an entirely different experience with us. For example, if you think of yourself as always being on time by arriving for meetings just as they start, others may consider that being late. Your tardiness would be a blind spot.
Lay a Foundation
Winter is the time to take stock of yourself and once you do that, you can start to lay a foundation for change. You can start to form a groundwork so that when spring comes, you can launch a new attitude, behavior or even career.
I once had a client Kevin (not his real name) who did the self-reflection exercise above and noticed patterns of feeling disconnected from people. We examined his thoughts and feelings outlined in his journal and tried to pinpoint the cause of this disconnect.
Kevin is happily married and has a great relationship with his kids. He feels rejuvenated when he spends time with his family on the weekends. He noticed it was at work that he wasn’t connecting with people. By identifying the area of his life where these feelings stemmed from, he knew it was time to take action and make a shift. In Kevin’s case, he was able to negotiate with his current organization to move into a different role that allowed him to have that people connection. For others, it might require a bigger change such as a job transition or even career shift.
Be a Snowflake
This time of inward reflection allows you to have a better understanding of your inner world, your true nature. And once you have a better understanding of that, you can identify the unique point of view that you bring to the world about yourself.
I once had a teacher who said “We spend half of our lives trying to be somebody for other people and the second half of our lives, we try to get back to who we really are.” The world is calling you to be you, not a representation of someone else who is successful.
Think of a snowflake that melts as soon as it connects with something.
“A perfectly symmetrical mandala, the snowflake melts on contact with most surfaces. There could be no more truthful image of the transience of earthly life, and the importance of experiences that take us beyond the physical.” ~Mike George, Discover Inner Peace: A Guide to Spiritual Well-Being
Just like that snowflake, you are distinct, unique, and one of a kind. Take the quiet, peaceful season of winter as a time to self-reflect and also recognize the impermanence of your thoughts. Those thoughts of self-doubt and low esteem are transient. Like every snowflake eventually melts, let those thoughts disappear.
Only you can contribute to the world in the way that you do. With your unique gifts, use the season of winter to reflect and gather information for possible new decisions. Like every living thing, gather your strength during winter for the seasons of growth and bloom to come. It’s an ideal time to realign yourself to what you desire in your life.
If you could feel like a shift could be right for you but you need help navigating that path, consider our career discovery services.