My day of introspection - why I have them and what they do for me
I recently completed another day of introspection. I try to have one every 6 months, but more often they end up being an annual tradition. I want to share what a day of introspection is, why I have them, and how to make them successful and productive for you.
Introspection - Not just for introverts
The root meanings of the word introspection literally mean to look within oneself. "Intro" meaning within and "spect" meaning to look. It means to contemplate about yourself - to think deeply and analytically. While they share a similar prefix - "intro" - the meaning is quite different from "introvert". An introvert is someone who needs inward-facing time to rejuvenate. Introspection, on the other hand, is a verb - it's something you do.
So how do you introspect?
People can do it in a number of ways. Some people need social environments in order to properly introspect - meaning they need to talk through their introspection with others. I personally process information best when I do it alone, non-vocally. Some people are able to do it in short bursts over time - I try to do that every day for about 10 minutes or so. But for me, I also like to have a full-day every now and then to fully focus on only introspection. So for me, I need a full day of introspection to consist of me sitting or walking by myself and thinking.
It is important to have a plan for introspection. Very few people have the cognitive willpower to stay focused on a task that they haven't fully defined first. If you are one of those people, props to you - I am not. So for me, I preface a day of introspection by deciding what I want to accomplish in the day.
This time I had a short list of items to cover. They were brief and may not make sense to you, but they make perfect sense to me (which is really all that matters).
Goals for 2019
Current status and improvements needed by role
Strategy and plans for thought leadership
To clarify the second bullet, remember that everyone has multiple roles that they play. I wanted to evaluate how I was doing in each of my roles in life (Father, Husband, Latter-day Saint, Thought Leader, Manager).
Once you have outlined your intentions from your introspection, you need to focus and do only that during your allotted time. Remove all distractions like phone notifications, social media, or anything else that will pull you away from your focus.
NOTE: It is important to realize that you can't focus on one task all day. Most of us don't have that cognitive strength and discipline. I like to break my time up into chunks of focus and then mind-wandering time. It is important not to distract yourself with TV or social media or other addictive distractions. Rather, keep your distractions analog in nature - they keep your mind alert but also give you a break.
How did my day of introspection look?
9:00 - I started at a coffee shop. I don't drink coffee, but needed a place to go, sit down, and start thinking. I actually started by reading scriptures because that is, to me, a very good way of centering myself and preparing myself to think about what I value and how I measure against those values. After reading, I started writing down the list of to-do items that was creeping up into my head. I started to write down what I was thinking about and doing so that I could write this post.
Some things I wrote - "You need to have a purpose and intent". "Analog cuts down on addictive distractions."
10:30 - I needed to get up and move. I walked several blocks to a local Barnes & Noble and took up shop there. I then started to review my different roles, how I had done in the past year, and what I wanted to accomplish in those roles during 2019.
Some things I wrote - "Anticipate needs and meet them quickly and to exceed expectations." "Family, isn't it about time?"
11:20 - I felt very good about where I stood on my roles and goals. I wanted to review a video interview that a friend of mine had recommended. I know I say to avoid addictive distractions, but I saw this as a consumption of content rather than web surfing, social media, or emailing people. I wrote down my thoughts as I watched the video.
Some things I wrote - "There are many people who haven't been able to do what you are doing. Do it for them - not for you. Do your very best - for them."
12:35 - Got up and walked to a lunch spot nearby. Had a decently healthy salad with protein. Avoided watching the TV in the background and instead looked out the window at passers-by. Just thought about nothing.
1:15 - Go up and walked back to the Barnes & Noble. Started writing about my goal as a thought leader. I used this time to really get crystal clear and focused on what I can do versus what I should do. I started broad, wound around inside my mind thinking about possibilities, and allowed myself to be a little creative and innovative. I took two thoughts from the video I had watched earlier - that creativity is not competition and a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, "God will not have His work manifest by cowards." I circled around an idea called the P.I.E. model which talked about how we do at work can be defined by our Performance, Image, and Exposure. I went high-level again and asked what my intentions were from being a thought leader and then narrowed down on who my target audience is.
Some things I wrote - "Language is the best indicator we have of who you are. More than just where you are from, it shows how your brain operates."
1:55 - This is when my brain really started to get focused and clear. I was listening to a Spotify playlist called "Deep Focus" to have enlightening sounds but also to keep that clarity. I was getting into the flow of things and wrote down exactly what I want as a thought leader - "to help people be more conscientious about the power of words in the workplace". I then wrote down my entire game plan and framework for operation, including the intent behind each blog post, my eventual book, and each speaking or training engagement.
2:25 - I'm riding the high from being in the flow during the past hour or so. I decide to check off one of the items on my to-do list because another thing I had decided was to act quickly and decisively - to not procrastinate doing what I know will be valuable to me.
2:45 - I log onto the internet to write this blog post and immediately start writing. Again, technology but without distractions. I purposefully closed all other applications except for my web browser - and only this page is open.
Should I have a day of introspection?
If you ever feel like you have a lot going on, that you are overwhelmed with the possibilities of what you could be doing versus what you feel like you should be doing, then a day of introspection is for you. Some people live in a state of clarity - a day of introspection really isn't for those people. But if you ever feel like you need to get crystal clear on who you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing what you do, then I would recommend this practice.
So don't think about it, just introspect!