A spin on reflection, and strategies to change your perspective on adversities in life.
There is a common saying to “not dwell on the past”... But how exactly do we keep ourselves from reading the same chapter of our lives over and over in hopes of getting a better ending?
I myself have held onto thoughts and experiences in life that led me down a spiral of self-sabotage, and this unhealthy cycle of rumination has continued for longer than I’d like to admit. But by practicing self-reflection, I was able to turn the ‘dwelling’ into ‘reflecting’ as my perspective started to shift.
If you’re into astrology, you’ve probably heard of the term “retrograde”- the apparent backwards motion of a planet in its orbit, from our vantage point. All the planets experience retrograde motion, with Mercury being the most common and feared. Retrogrades in astrology are associated with mishaps and slowdowns, with different planets having varying lengths of retrogrades depending on their orbit.
Analogous to the planets, we all experience setbacks and negative thoughts and feelings once in a while. If left unattended, we only confuse or frustrate ourselves even more.
This is where it’s important to self-reflect.
Retrogrades are inevitable, but remember that they are seen from a vantage point. From one perspective, the planet is moving backwards, but from another, it’s moving forward. The key is to change your perspective when experiencing setbacks, and there are several ways to do so.
1. Change your inputs.
Find sources of positive influence such as books, podcasts, and blogs and be selective with what you see on your social media feed to abstain the negative thoughts that consume your mind. By shifting to search for positivity, you can create it.
One book that I enjoyed was The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson. Although the message ironically encourages readers to know their limitations and accept them, it helped me shift my perspective in what I was searching for in life. “The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience.” We need to stop searching for happiness — accepting our experience in life is the single greatest thing we can do for our happiness.
2. Look for the benefit out of every situation.
Napoleon Hill, a great leader who propelled the self-development industry, had the philosophy that:
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
Although we likely do not suffer the same setbacks Napoleon did, we can learn from him to always look for the positive out of every situation, and it takes effort into seeking it out.
One way to do so is to track your progress and reflect on how far you’ve come. Take note of your small improvements that serve as reference points for where you want to go.
3. Practice gratitude.
From my personal experience, one way to shift our perspective from retrograde — backward- moving, to anterograde — forward-moving, is to practice gratefulness.
Research by UC Davis psychology Robert Emmons has shown that keeping a gratitude journal — written reflections on moments that we’re thankful for — can increase well-being and life satisfaction.
Since the pandemic, I have taken advantage of self-isolation to reflect on my life. Journaling has become my way to reflect on past experiences, look for the positives out of each, and be grateful for how far I’ve come. With over a year of journaling, I’m coming out of lockdown with a much clearer picture of who I am and what I want to accomplish in my life.
It is not easy to shift your perspective during mishaps in life, but by gradually incorporating the positive practices mentioned, we’ll all become one step closer to better understanding ourselves and live a more purposeful life.
Now, what does retrograde reflection mean to you? Is it a backward-moving mindset where you’re stuck reading the same chapters of your life?Or, is it leveraging the negative experiences you’ve had and use them as a way to reflect on the takeaways to move forward?
Socrates says that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Don’t live an unexamined life. Practice self-reflection today.