Earlier this year, I decided I wanted to become a more reflective person. It, perhaps unsurprisingly, took me a while to conceive of what that meant. The initial spark came from wanting to live in the present a little more, I had built a nasty habit of zooming through life at light speed taking things for granted along the way. I thought building the muscle to reflect would be my silver bullet against that, and in many ways it has played out in the way I thought it would.
I find myself regularly reflecting on what I have in my life. Family, friends, internet, mobile, a warm bed, and everything in between. A byproduct has been the development of a strong (yet unexpected) sense of gratitude. In hindsight, it is a natural sibling of reflection and one that has had an outsized impact on my general outlook on things. To put it simply, I have never felt richer or wealthier in life.
So what did I do to become more reflective? There are three main phases that I went through, each of which builds onto each other:
- Exploring why I had made the decisions I did? Related to that, what was my thinking behind those decisions and what influenced them?
- Started and developed a consistent writing practice
- Slowly remove the digital temptations that would hijack the minds ability to be present
Reflecting on the decisions of the past seemed like a logical place to being this journey. The primary avenue of research that I stumbled into was evolutionary psychology. I googled, read books, and listened to podcasts. Many of the ideas I would later detail and write about on by blog under the umbrella of mental clarity. What exactly drives our behaviour? Why do we desire the things we do? What I came to find out was that our ambitions, attitudes, habits, and preferences are not entirely our own – and it has proven useful to understand where they come from.
The writing practice came out of necessity. I was doing so much research on behaviours and where they came from that it didn’t feel sufficient to just take notes, so I produced blog posts as a way of packaging my research. The motivation to make them publicly available was so that at least others would be able to benefit from all the work I was doing. What I didn’t expect was the writing habit to reinforce so strongly this muscle to reflect. I have written many articles about the transformative and generative effects that writing has had on me. It has become so central to how I live now that I cannot see myself going back to a life with the practice.
After a couple of months of writing everyday, I started to seriously explore the idea of digital minimalism. I, like the rest of the world, have heard the compelling arguments about the emotional toll that social media has on its users, yet had never thought to act on it. I decided to go cold turkey on all social media including messaging services like messenger and Whatsapp. In six weeks of this, I felt that I had dismantled the habit of instinctively picking up my phone to doomscroll in lulls during the day. In its place, I give myself more opportunities read, write, and reflect more. I would not go as far as saying that I have mastery over my attention, but I feel a lot more in control and consequently much more present.