Self-reflection is a powerful tool for cultivating a fulfilling, meaningful life. When you dig deeper, you can discover “what it is you know, what you think [and] how you want to be in the world,” according to Rosie Molinary, who teaches body image at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and leads workshops and retreats for women.
When you know yourself, really know yourself, you can live according to your values and passions, make a positive contribution to the world and simply have more fun, said Polly Campbell, a blogger, speaker and author who specializes in positive psychology, personal development and spirituality.
It also influences our connection to others. “When we get to know ourselves, we are more open and loving toward others, because we see their humanity and the gifts that they bring.”
In other words, once you know your priorities and perspectives, you can make deliberate decisions based on those things, intentionally creating a more connected life that is true to you.
Recently, Campbell attended a meditation retreat where they contemplated the power of questions — questions like “What do we need to learn to grow and experience life to our fullest?”
She believes that “the questions we ask shape the lives we lead.”
Below, you’ll find questions that help you cultivate your self-awareness and lead a life that’s meaningful to you.
“Who am I?”
“The exploration of this question helps reveal your essence as an energetic being,” said Campbell, author of the books Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People and How to Reach Enlightenment. It also highlights our possibilities and reminds us that we’re more than our bodies, she said.
“What do I need right now more than anything else?”
“Too often, we neglect what we most need to be happy and healthy,” said Molinary, who suggested asking the above question. For instance, you might need sleep, a massage, exercise or rest. Whatever it is, respond to your need. Doing so helps us not only address our short-term needs but also, by extension, our long-term happiness, she said.
“What meaning can I draw from this experience?”
Every experience has a purpose and potential lesson, Campbell said. Of course, the lesson may be tough to swallow, but doing so “prompts awareness, curiosity, compassion, resilience.” In other words, focusing on the lesson helps us keep going in tough times, she said.
“What feeling do I most want to have in my life? What do I want to be doing more of in my life? What do I want to be doing less of in my life?”
Molinary suggested asking ourselves these three questions. They help us explore what we really want and whether what we’re currently doing actually reflects that.
For instance, “we might want a feeling of peace and relief but keep signing up for high-pressure responsibilities,” said Molinary, author of the books Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance and Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina.
When we’re creating a fulfilling life, it’s important to cut out the things that weigh us down and add the things that lift us up, she said.
“What am I resisting, or attaching to?”
For many of us the fear of not being enough or not having something turn out the way we want shows up as resistance or attachment and prevents growth, Campbell said.
However, when you identify what you’re resisting or attaching to, you can refocus on cultivating acceptance and expansion, she said. “When we are not resisting or attaching, we are free to experience life fully.”
What are my gifts? How can I share them with the world?
Campbell suggested asking these questions. For instance, your gifts might include a great sense of humor, playing the piano, acting with kindness, creating art and volunteering your time, she said.
“How can I celebrate each day, or the moments of my life?”
We tend to forget that every moment is ripe with gratitude and gifts. “This question prompts you to take notice of the good stuff coming in; to pause to give thanks and mark the moments that uplift us all,” Campbell said.
Again, the questions we ask influence the quality of our lives, she said.
“Ask good questions, good things come into your life. Questions fire up our curiosity and they also illuminate the depth of our soul and psyche. This kind of reflection leads to growth, compassion, contribution and appreciation.”