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10 Common Obstacles to Self-Reflection and How You Can Overcome Them For Good

Consistently creating and keeping a practice of self-reflection is possible if you keep it simple, make it rewarding and have a plan for the down days.We start out great…and then something gets in the way. How many times has that happened to you? You think you really want to do something, but within a week you lose the desire. To track down the cause of this lack of motivation, we need a practice of self-reflection. But what happens when we lose the desire to maintain a reflective practice? That’s a big problem because that deprives you of a vital life tool. We cannot afford to lose our momentum or get sidetracked from developing the essential skill of self-reflection!

Cultivating a reflective practice is immensely rewarding. It takes work, but it’s worth it. To help you to more easily maintain a practice of self-reflection, you must identify the obstacles and then create a system that easily overrides them.

Common obstacles to a self-reflection practice and ways to overcome them

It’s important to admit to ourselves when we keep ourselves too busy because we don’t want to face up to what’s really happening and true for us. If we keep running from it, then we don’t need to have that honest conversation with ourselves or another, and we won’t need to make a choice or decision that may mean change. Right? Here’s something Albert Einstein said that resonates with this issue…

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

My take on this is “You can’t change your world unless you change your world.” Honestly, what are you doing that’s not working for you right now? Which one of these challenges do you need to face and overcome?

1. Poor Time Management: The number one complaint is “I don’t have time for it!” In our busy lives, finding dedicated time for reflection can be a challenge.

A system to overcome this challenge: Think of all the reasons why this practice is essential for your well-being. Write them down and review this list daily until you can honor yourself enough to follow through. Schedule self-reflection sessions in your calendar just like you would any other important appointment. Create a sacred space in your home, coffee shop, or park that gives you a few quiet, still, peaceful minutes a day.

2. Distractions: Life is filled with distractions, from smartphones and social media to the legitimate demands of others.

A system to overcome this challenge: Make sure your family knows of your need to visit your sacred space without distractions. Leave your phone somewhere else. Let people know you’re not available at your set time. Mentally and mindfully drop distracting thoughts to the ground before you step into your sanctuary, knowing you’ll be able to pick them back up when you’re done, should you choose to do so. Breathe distractions out; breathe calm introspection in.

3. Resistance to Self-Examination: Reflecting on your thoughts, actions, and experiences can sometimes bring up uncomfortable truths or emotions.

A system to overcome this challenge: Overcoming this resistance requires courage and a commitment to personal growth. Meet resistance with my Tea Time Exercise. Remind yourself that facing these challenges is essential for positive change.

4. Lack of Clarity: Sometimes, it’s challenging to know where to start or what questions to ask during self-reflection. You’ll find 75 reflection prompts here.

A system to overcome this challenge: Begin with simple questions like, “What happened?” and “How did I feel?” As you become more comfortable and centered start recording your insights through whatever form of journaling you choose. Carry a printout of self-reflection prompts that help you dig deeper.

5. Inconsistency: It takes time for a practice to become something you do automatically, without question. Don’t overcomplicate the process. Keep it simple and rewarding.

A system to overcome this challenge: Start each day repeating your intention to honor this sacred time and the reasons why it’s important to you. With today’s tech, it’s easy to set reminders. Celebrate each day you practice self-reflection by linking it with something beautiful — the warmth of the sun, a butterfly on a flower, a quick call to a lifelong friend, a cherished painting, or a glance into a mirror, telling yourself, “You’re beautiful.” And what are the consequences if you miss your appointment with yourself? Will you pay a quarter into the penalty jar? Withhold a cherished treat? How are you going to show that you’re committed to making this work?

6. Perfectionism: Some people may feel the need to have profound insights or perfectly structured reflections.

A system to overcome this challenge: Resist the urge to edit as you journal your experience. Just get it all out. Remember that reflection is a process, and it’s okay if some sessions seem less insightful than others. Progress comes from the cumulative effect of consistent reflection.

7. Overthinking: While reflection is about deep thought, it’s essential not to overthink or ruminate excessively.

A system to overcome this challenge: A mindfulness practice can help you discern if you’re engaged in self-reflection or rumination. Where is your current thought process taking you — to greater understanding or to self-recrimination and judgment? Toxic shame is a bully. Challenge it and expose its lies. Calm yourself with the Centering Practice I outline in this blog post, or practice some deep breathing exercises, to help gain perspective.

8. External Pressure: In certain professions or environments, there may be external pressures that discourage or devalue reflection.

A system to overcome this challenge: Advocate for the benefits of reflection within your organization and seek support from like-minded colleagues, mentors, friends or family.

9. Not Enough Resources: Some people may struggle with finding the right tools or resources to facilitate their reflective practice.

A system to overcome this challenge: Explore various methods like journaling, meditation apps, or online courses to find what suits you best. There are also numerous books and articles on the topic.

10. Lack of Accountability: Sharing your reflections can enhance the process. Accountability partners can help you stay on track, offer different perspectives, and provide valuable feedback.

A system to overcome this challenge: Reach out to a trusted friend, mentor or coach (like me!) and ask if they’d work with you on a regular basis.

Remember that challenges are a natural part of any personal growth journey. By acknowledging these obstacles and proactively finding ways to overcome them, you can make your reflective practice more sustainable and effective. Over time, the benefits of increased self-awareness, improved decision-making, and personal growth will make the effort well worth it.

Remember: you do not always have to learn only from your own experience; learn from others’ mistakes as well. Reflect on situations that you have witnessed to work out why things happened as they did, and how this can influence you.

I started paying attention to the processes and systems that created the greatest impact on my life. Some are seemingly insignificant; some are major breakthroughs. Combined, they form a road map for Stepping Forward into creating my life of meaning and fulfillment. I invite you to download an Introduction to The Stepping Forward Program.

Thank you for the photo James Lee.

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