Nothing’s more powerful when it comes to building a sense of self-awareness than the act of self-reflection, and the best way to practice self-reflection is to ask yourself some quality questions. As Tony Robbins famously says, “the quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of the questions you are asking yourself.”
If you’ve been following me at all, then you should know by now the importance of sustaining a consistent self-reflection ritual. Yet, what kind of questions should we ask ourselves to gain a better understanding of our life?
Below, I’ve listed five specific questions that I ask myself whenever I feel the need for self-reflection.
As you read through, I recommend pulling out a sheet of paper and answering the questions as honestly as possible. If you’re able, I’d also recommend finding a quiet place for deep, undisturbed reflection.
“Where do I want to be twenty years from now?”
To better understand the type of person you are now, start by focusing on the type of person you want to be in the future. When doing so, I believe that it’s important to think as long-term as possible. We often exaggerate what we can accomplish in a year and under exaggerate what we can achieve in a decade — but it takes a lot of effort to think two decades in advance.
So ask yourself, where do you see yourself twenty years from now? For me, twenty years from now, I can see myself having a large, happy family, plenty of free time to spend with the ones that I love, and (hopefully) an established reputation as a reputable writer.
To achieve that lifestyle, I have to ask myself, what kind of person I have to become? I’m not only forced to think long-term but short-term. What areas of my life do I need to focus on to become the type of person that I want to be and live the sort of life that I’d like to be living?
For best results, set aside a few minutes to write down these questions and answer honestly, focusing on all areas. For instance, to have a happy family, I’ll have to learn how to establish a balance between my work and time spent building relationships. To establish a reputation as a talented writer, I’ll have to remain consistent with my writing practices. To have the free time that I desire, I’ll have to find a way to make large amounts of money, or rather, to find ways to live without depending on large amounts of money.
To know where you are you have to know where you’re going.
“If I were lying on my death bed, what would I regret the most that I had not done but wished I had?”
This question is best used as part of a visualization practice — remember how easy that was as a child? Let’s give it a shot.
It’s best to find a quiet place for this practice, undisturbed, where you can focus on your breath for a few moments, centering your thoughts, before moving on to the following practice.
Imagine laying on your bed, surrounded by your loved ones. Think of the people who’d be there during your final moments. Imagine knowing that you’re going to die. Your time is limited. Yet, as you slowly slip into an everlasting sleep, your life begins to flash before your eyes. First in chapters, highlighting the big moments, such as personal achievements, delivering your firstborn child, or graduating college.
As your life flashes before your eyes, a small pang of regret kicks in as you realize that you have not done all that you wanted to do with your life. What sticks out the most? Did you want to travel and see the world but never made an effort to save or find cheap ways to travel? Did you intend to reconnect with a loved one but ‘forgot’ to make an effort or decided that it was too late? Focus on everything that you wanted to do in your life, but as you lay there on your deathbed, all you can think is that it’s too late.
If done right, this can be a radically mind-altering process. We tend to exaggerate the amount of time that we have left in life, but the sad reality is, life could end at any moment. Yet, even though we’re already aware of this, the sad matter of fact is that we still choose to postpone our dreams, denying our inherent gift — life.
Whatever you want to do in life, focus on that, and do whatever you possibly can to make it happen, because, in the end, it’s not the things we do, but the things we don’t do that we’ll regret the most.
“What’s something that I thoroughly enjoyed in the past but stopped doing? Why did I stop? Should I start again?”
Growing up, we’re likely to pick up and drop more than a few hobbies. For instance, as a young adolescent, I loved to play instruments — trumpet and violin, to be specific. I remember performing my first band solo on the trumpet and how good it felt to have others appreciate my work. I remember putting inconsistent hours of practice and the raw emotions from perfecting a new song.
Besides playing instruments, I was also a heavy skateboarder. I dreamed of becoming sponsored by a famous skate shop like Zumiez or Vans.
I’m not sure when it happened or why, but at some point in life, I stopped playing instruments, and later down the road, gave up my passion for skateboarding.
It’s been a few years since I last rode a skateboard or touched an instrument, yet, I’ve spent such a large portion of my life skating and playing instruments that, honestly thinking about it, it’s as if I’d given up a part of my identity.
Recently, for reasons unknown, I’d decided to pull the skateboard out, dust it off, and go for a ride. After years of neglect, riding came naturally to me — I could even bust a kickflip! Immediately, as soon as my feet touched the board, I felt at home, as if I’d been away for some incredibly long time.
So ask yourself, what’s a hobby or passion of yours that’s been left forgotten? Is it too late to pick it back up? — it’s never too late!
“How much money do I really need to be happy and live comfortably?”
Money. Both a curse and a blessing. If handled properly, it can be used as a tool to experience some incredible things in life. If mishandled, however, it can become a source of frustration, and inevitably, depression.
How much do you really need to live the life you desire when it comes to money? I ask this because we often overestimate what we think we’d need to be happy.
Surprisingly, studies show that you only need to make $60,000 -$75,000 per year for emotional well-being and $95,000 for life satisfaction. So no, apparently, we don’t need to make millions of dollars per year. Yet, maybe you’re not like these folks, and you require a little more or less to feel overall satisfied. Maybe you need a yacht and fancy cars? Or maybe a 3 bed 2 bath on the water would do you just fine.
Do you want to work for a living, or do you plan for early retirement? If so, how much will you need to retire?
Identifying how much money you actually need to feel satisfied with life is the first and best thing you could do when building a sense of self-awareness — in terms of what you need to be happy.
“Am I making my story, or is it being written for me?”
In the end, it all boils down to this one question: are you making your story, or is it written for you? Have you accepted personal accountability for the way your life’s going, or do you point fingers at others while blaming external circumstances?
Only you have the power to change the direction of your life. Ask yourself, are you doing the things you want to do, or are your actions more or less based upon others' opinions? Take an honest moment to think and reflect. If necessary, go back to the previous questions, specifically, where do you want to be twenty years from now, and what would you regret not doing the most?
Building a sense of self-awareness is crucial when it comes to navigating life and writing your own story. People will always be there to tell you what they think you should be doing, but only you really know what you want and should be doing.
Take your own advice and follow your gut. So long as you stay true to yourself, your actions will always carry you in the right direction.
Don’t drift through life. Live it.
I hope you enjoyed this article. If so, try checking out another one of my stories listed below!
Three Reasons Why You Should Have a Daily Self-Reflection Ritual
“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forwards. ”— Soren Kierkegaard.