It’s been a little while since my last post, but if you’ve gathered anything from my blog so far it’s that I’m doing this work right along with the posts. And building that foundational self-love doesn’t just happen over the course of a 1500 word blog post. So, I want to give myself a big welcome back, and dive into what I’ve been building lately to help strengthen my own foundation.
In this new journey of building a solid, self-aware foundation for myself, for pretty much the first time in almost 30 years, a big piece I am working on is self-reflection. And I mean deep, emotional, functional, gut-based self-reflection.
Self-reflection is not necessarily new to me, but I have found that I end up learning very similar lessons over and over again….and then I started getting really nostalgic about college classes. (Stick with me here).
First, I am a notetaking, writing utensil, notebook, study supplies nerd. And proudly so.
I used to love looking back through my course notebooks at the end of a semester, seeing organized outlines, cover to cover handwriting on college-ruled sheets, so much that the indent from the writing gives a bumpiness to the reverse side of the page. And then came the highlighters. And sometimes the typed-up notes, transcribed from those notebooks.
I didn’t do this for every class, but I felt so invested and proud of those, knowing I was fully committed to learning and absorbing this information every way I could.
And while I was recently thinking back on this, I realized, why can’t I do this with my personal, self-reflective education?
I know an unchanging part of being human is that no matter what, I will always end up learning the same lesson a few different ways, but I am no longer allowing information to so quickly flow through me that I barely retain any of it.
The Good News:
There is actually a study technique where you retain information better when you employ as many senses as possible. It enables more regions of the brain to store data, which in turn creates interconnected neural pathways.
For a college course it could look like this:
- Listen to a lecture
- Write down your notes
- Read it back as you type it up
- Print out the typed notes and highlight as you read it back once more, usually out loud
- Transfer key information onto notecards if applicable
(That was a free almost fail proof study process right there if you’re taking any classes right now!)
Do you know why it’s almost failproof? This is even more simple than the neuroscientific explanation. It’s because you keep repeating the information back to yourself so many ways, that it’s almost impossible not to retain it.
If it’s such a great way to solidify learning, then why don’t we do it in our personal life? So, I decided to apply it the same techniques laid out above (with some adjustments and simplification, of course), to a personal course in self-reflection.
So, here they are!
3 Simple Study and Memory Based Approaches to Self-Reflection
Think of mediation as the internal lecture. This is where you’re sitting in class, listening to the professor teach, except this time, you are the professor and the student.
This is your time to sit with yourself, listen, and receive.
Usually when you are sitting in class, you are listening and taking notes at the same time, but in this case it is important to let your mind go, and learn to be aware of what is happening within you on a cellular level.
Guided meditations are really helpful when meditating for self-reflection or awareness. I am to focusing more on specific chakras right now, but other themed meditations can really help, too. Try searching guided meditations on YouTube.
This is the note taking part of your class.
Because you are the student and professor in this metaphor, it is ok (and preferred) that you are not taking notes (journaling) at the same time you are listening (meditating).
But it is important that you take this step to integrate what you received from your meditation.
This is where the brain connections really begin. You are processing information through language and the physical act of writing. Your brain is starting the analyze and reach new understandings just through this simple act.
Sometimes I do this out of order, too. I will journal before I meditate, which is kind of like if I took notes on the reading and then brought those notes to a class discussion.
Either way, I am integrating information in one step, and allowing information to be received in another.
Journal prompts, like guided meditations, can be very beneficial in this step.
Here are some questions I have been asking myself recently:
- What are my values?
- Do my actions align with my values?
- When I find myself out of alignment, what am I actually listening to?
- What can I do to be in alignment?
- How do I, specifically, get into a state of flow?
- What is holding me back from acting in alignment?
- What does being productive look like to me?
3. Read it Back
Honestly, I have never really read my journals back in an intentional way.
I might have gone back after some significant time and looked back as a form of nostalgia, but I have never intentionally reread what I wrote in a way to further build and retain my new connections and understandings.
But this step is significant to retention, and actually the reason I made this connection to formal learning.
Have you ever really done well in a class if you only went to lecture and took notes, but never, not once, reviewed them? Maybe you have, but I am sure it is not the norm.
So, maybe the next morning, or the next night before your next self-reflection session, reread what you wrote the day before.
Wait at least 12 hours, give the information some time to process in your sleep. Sleep is vital in solidifying learning. It strengthens memory and helps to link new ones to older ones.
When you do reread, feel free to take notes, add to the end of the entry or add new thoughts in the margins. And, the most fun part, break out the highlighters!
These are your words, the best, most amazing words.
Highlight the parts that deserve to be visually celebrated. Draw your attention back to the main point you stumbled upon or worked through. The part you want to take away with you, and integrate into your daily life.
4. Bonus: Celebrate the One Liners
We’re told from elementary school how useful notecards can be as study aids. Why can’t they be for our self-reflection, too?
Since this is your own personal and internal education, there’s never going to be a sit down, blue book, multiple choice or essay exam on self-reflection. But isn’t life the biggest test of all?
If you are investing so much time into self-reflection and awareness, then don’t you want to make sure you retain it? And if it’s as important as you think it is in the moment, then don’t you want to carry it with you?
What if you had a little stack of notecards you carried with you that had a sentence or two from your journaling takeaways?
You could cycle them out, and store or recycle them when you feel like you’ve fully integrated an understanding.
And I know you most certainly have written some one-liners that speak so clearly and specifically to your journey. So why not help them stand out a little more and give yourself that extra reminder?
I would love to know how your self-reflection journey is going! What strategies have you used to help integrate the new understandings you gain? Do you struggle like I do in learning the same lessons over and over again? What do you think will help you integrate lessons better?