The next article in this series on Lessons from the Pandemic is about introspection. Self-reflection or introspection is the process of examining your thoughts and feelings to gain awareness of yourself and how you perceive your life and the world around you. In simpler terms, it is the process of thinking about your thoughts, actions, emotions, motivational factors, etc. and how they determine your decisions.
When the lockdown started, many people were irritated due to the sudden change forced upon them by the pandemic. Subsequently, as the acceptance of the new reality set in, they started looking at various ways in which they could use this time to learn something new. However, while cooking or learning a musical instrument can be a good addition to your list of hobbies, I am here to talk about introspection with respect to your career.
Introspection during the lockdown
We all lead busy lives. By the end of the day, we barely have time to look at ourselves in the mirror. Hence, thinking about our emotions takes a back seat. However, during times like the lockdown, when life comes to a standstill, we have time to reflect on ourselves and introspect. Our decisions are usually based on how we feel and perceive the world around us. Right from major career transitions to minor decisions at work, our emotional and mental processes work in tandem. Hence, understanding them is paramount to making sound decisions.
Introspection offers the following benefits:
- Helps make decisions that are in sync with you
- Allows you to own your thoughts and feelings and dispel those that have been acquired without proper thought.
- We all are in a constant state of evolution. Our personalities are changing and we are becoming different with every passing day. Hence, it is important to self-reflect, and identify new areas that you can explore professionally.
In my first article, I cited the example of putting criminals in jails and wondering if that really helped. While some criminals use the jail-time to self-reflect and become better versions of themselves, others use it destructively. Similarly, the lockdown has affected us all. However, how we use this time will define the kind of professionals we will turn out on the other side of this pandemic.
I have received many calls from people who have lost their jobs or are fearing a job loss in the near future. Also, many people working from home are feeling overburdened with work and are unable to manage work stress while working from home.
The first thing that I asked them was – what they wanted to do? For someone who has lost a job, finding a new one was the obvious answer. However, the market has changed and we might experience the effects of this period for a long time. Hence, looking for a job like they would before the lockdown was not going to generate results. They needed to change – to evolve and adapt to these times. But, they couldn’t do it successfully unless they were in complete sync with themselves. By reflecting on who they were, how they felt about their career and jobs, if they were making the right decisions, etc., they could reach a place where they knew exactly what they wanted to do next.
The lockdown has isolated us from the world. The number of hours we spent glued to a news channel has exponentially reduced. Amazon and Netflix seem like a huge waste of time. No incessant phone calls or deadlines hanging over our heads or messages that never stop coming – this is an unprecedented time in most of our lives. Also, this is a time of change that can be beneficial or damaging based on the decisions we make. Any decision that considers your emotional and mental states is bound to work better for you. However, it is important to ensure that introspection is not clouded by rumination.
Rumination – What it is and why it is dangerous?
I don’t want to make this a psychological write-up but talking about introspection without highlight the pitfalls of rumination will be a ‘half-baked cake’. Rumination, by definition, means the tendency to constantly think about the causes, factors, and consequences of a negative emotional experience. During the lockdown, I found many people starting to think about their lives (introspecting) but falling into the trap of rumination leading them down a rabbit hole of emotional chaos.
This is more of a personality trait than a habit. Some people tend to do this in their regular lives too. While such people might justify saying that thinking about a problem helps them find answers, the issue with ruminating is that it is ‘problem-centric’ and NOT ‘solution-centric’. Also, if something upsets you and you ruminate about it, then you can remain upset for days or even weeks. This can hamper your decision-making ability which is something that you need at maximum efficiency during crises.
The Art of Introspection
Think about your life pre-lockdown. Imagine opening your eyes in the morning. The alarm goes off, you snap out of your sleep, curse your life for not getting enough rest, and immediately start thinking about everything that you need to accomplish during the day. Meetings, reports, deadlines, targets, the list goes on and you finish your shower and gulp down some snacks before heading to work. There is no time to sit and reflect.
I recently discovered that in Buddhism, our mind is likened to a drunk monkey. If we don’t learn to tame this monkey, then imagine what a drunk monkey can do!!!
Introspection is an art mastered over time. If you have never consciously self-reflected, then I would recommend making it a regular habit using the following steps:
- Create space for some ‘Me’ time – Regardless of how busy your life is, ensure that you dedicate some time every day to yourself where you DO NOTHING. Create a corner in this world where you are alone during this time. It can be early in the morning or late in the night after dinner. Just keep the time constant every day.
- Breathe – Yes, you read that right. Close your eyes and feel the air enter your nostrils and exit them. Feel alive and try to calm your mind.
- Ask yourself questions – This is you talking to yourself. Nobody is listening. Nobody is judging. Allow your conscious mind to understand how your subconscious brain thinks. Ask questions like what do I love to do? What things do I value the most in people? What would I want to learn about? Don’t worry about the answers that you receive initially. With time, you will be able to uncover your true self.
- Don’t judge yourself – The questions are being asked by you and the answers are being provided by you too. Hence, the only person who can judge the questions/answers is you. DON’T. Enjoy the ride. Talking to yourself can be more liberating than you can imagine.
- Try to record important points – These moments of introspection can reveal some interesting insights and probably allow your thoughts to drift. Hence, keep a pen and paper handy to park these thoughts aside while you continue introspecting.
Remember, regular practice is needed to master the art of introspection.
I hope this was not too much psychobabble. During the lockdown, I have benefitted a lot from introspection and self-reflection. I have managed to regain some traits that I had lost along the busy course of my life and shed some not-so-proud-traits. I already feel like a better person and in more control of making the right decisions for myself. Follow the tips mentioned above and see introspection open the doors to growth and success. Good Luck!
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