One of my favorite pastimes is taking time to reflect on life. It can be good to reflect - to take time to think back on my life, to think about what's been and a bit about what could have been. We can learn a lot from reflecting - over time identifying themes and patterns in our lives that help us understand who we are and why some things might have happened. It can help us to learn to do things differently in the future. It can highlight the strong values and beliefs that underpin our attitudes and behaviors. We can train ourselves to let go of some of those that don't fit anymore and to take on new ideas and ways of being.
But is it always helpful? Do we always notice what we should when reflecting? Do we still only notice what we want to or what is comfortable? Can we only really see things in our reflections that fit with our current perspective?
Sometimes reflecting with another person can help us to notice the way we tend to see things narrowly or from one perspective only. It's hard to reflect on these constraints alone. Another person can help us to look at alternatives, to reflect on other possibilities. That person might help us to be less critical of our selves and more hopeful about the future.
A journal might serve a similar purpose - you can look back at it later and pick up on themes or see things differently as time has passed or different moods strike us. Sometimes writing something down helps put words to feelings - or to help us notice times when words don't come easily, can't adequately capture what we feel or think strongly enough.
And what about over-reflecting? What if we reflect on so many things that we reach a point of saturation or intensity that then just paralyses us? Instead of serving to guide us and help us to learn and continue to grow and develop in ways that make life better, too much reflection might have the opposite effect. It might stop us from taking risks or having a go at something new for fear of not doing it well or making a mistake.
So finding a balance in self-reflection, finding a confidante to be a mirror to our reflection and never letting self reflection become self judgement might be the best ways to use reflective time positively.