Quiet Time: 7 Key Reflective Questions to Ask Yourself
Sometimes we all need to step back and take stock of our work, relationships and health
Coach Rosie Nice offers seven key questions to help you reflect and re-align
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The power of reflective silence has long been recognised, enabling us to tune into our thoughts and feelings and find the peace to think clearly about life’s challenges. All major religions embody elements of silence, and mindfulness and meditation are centred around its benefits. I believe that making time in your day to quietly think, without distractions or interruptions, can be transformational.
Quiet reflection enables us to choose thoughtful responses to events in our lives. The power to shape our futures lies in the space between something happening and the way we choose to respond. The value of personal reflection is widely recognised as a key element of personal development in many professions, including counselling, coaching, healthcare and sport, enhancing your self-awareness and helping you process and learn from your experiences. Even spending 5 minutes a day in reflective silence can improve our wellbeing, according to the NHS.
Walking, running, gardening or sitting with a quiet cuppa are all great ways to create time for reflective thought. Some of us enjoy reflecting alone, while others prefer to find their silence in an uninterrupted, reflective conversation with a friend, partner or coach.
To experience the benefits of reflective silence for yourself, find somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted, and ask yourself these seven questions. You can ask yourself all the questions in one go, or spaced them out over time, asking one question per day, or one a week. Whatever works for you.
Take your time, record your answers, ideally in writing, and enjoy the peaceful personal reflection. You never know where it might take you!
1. How would I evaluate my life at the moment?
Consider the present.
Start by holding up a metaphorical mirror and reflecting on your life right now.
Firstly, celebrate what is going well and acknowledge all that you have achieved. What are you pleased with, and proud of?
Then, consider things which may not be going so well. Be kind to yourself as you acknowledge elements of your life which you are less pleased with. Show plenty of self-compassion here – the point is not to beat yourself up, but to consider what you can learn for the future.
2. How did I get here?
Consider the past. What are the pivotal moments in your life which have led you to where you are today? Can you pinpoint some ‘sliding doors’ moments where you took action and made decisions which took you along the pathway to your current situation?
Which past actions and decisions are you grateful for, because they enabled you to move forward and achieve success?
Are there any actions or decisions which you aren’t so pleased about, and which were less helpful? Again, show yourself some kindness here. This is not about regrets; it is about learning.
3. What would I really like to achieve in the future?
Consider the future.
What you would like to see when you look in this mirror one day. Imagine yourself at the end of this month, year or decade. What achievements would you love to be reflected back at you?
Dream big as you explore your aspirations going forward, personally and professionally. What does success look like for you? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you really like to achieve? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Try creating a ‘personal vision statement’ or choose one word to represent your future. This visualisation exercise can be very impactful: imagine yourself living your best life – what are you doing, thinking and feeling?
4. What makes this important to me now?
It can be very insightful to reflect on your personal values and consider what is truly important to you. Your values are your own core, fundamental beliefs about what matters most to you, and they play a key role in determining your priorities and influencing your behaviour.
Think about the relative importance to you of things like family, relationships, career, status, money, spirituality, health, and other factors. As you reflect, consider whether these truly are your own values, or are they the values of others, maybe your family, peer group, or colleagues?
Gaining clarity about your values helps you make actions and choices which feel more meaningful, and your aspirations and goals become far more authentic when they consciously align with your values.
5. How can I turn my aspirations into tangible goals?
Next, consider how your aspirations for the future can be used to create some specific, tangible goals to aim for, and set yourself some timescales to work towards.
See if you can break bigger goals down into smaller mini-goals, or milestones, to mark your progress along the way. Think about exactly what you would like to achieve and by when.
By the end of this reflection, you will have a clear set of goals, linked to your wider aspirations and aligned with your values and priorities.
6. What ideas do I have to help me achieve this goal?
Now, explore a range of ideas for how you might achieve these goals. What options are available to you? Do you know anyone who has worked towards similar goals and could offer you some help and advice?
Generate a good list of ideas before selecting those which will work best for you. Consider what has stopped you achieving this goal already and think about how you could overcome any obstacles or barriers which you might encounter.
7. What’s my plan?
We have reflected on the actions you have taken in the past, which have led you to today. Now it is time to reflect on the actions you could take today to make yourself proud and grateful in the future and incorporate these ideas into a clear action plan.
What will you do, and when, to successfully achieve these aspirations and goals you have so thoughtfully defined? Make your first step very specific, and start with some ‘quick wins’, actions which require little effort but bring big rewards.
These seven questions can guide you through a reflective process, helping you assess your current situation, clarify your values, identify your ideal outcomes, set specific goals, explore potential ideas and create a plan of action.
Taking time for quiet reflection can increase your self-awareness, and help you learn from your experiences, empowering you to take responsibility for your own development and dramatically increasing your chances of success, whatever you decide that means for you.
I wish you all the best. Happy reflecting!