Doug and Lynn Nodland

Doug and Lynn Nodland

Are you taking time for reflection? It’s the end of a year. It’s often a time when people reflect on the past and look to the future. They want to become more self-aware by looking at what worked, what didn’t, and adjusting their life journey accordingly.

Have you noticed that as you get older, time seems to go faster? We certainly think so! How did the year slip by so fast? We heard this saying, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” This saying seems humorous, yet in contrast to toilet paper, when life’s used up we can’t just get another one. Because life goes by so fast, today we’ll share some of the best ways to reflect on the past, so we can become more self-aware, be our best and create the future we desire.

You may know, as a psychologist and success coaches, we like to include a bit of research in what we share with you, so it’s not just our opinions. Dr. Tasha Eurich, wrote “Insight: Why We’re Not As Aware As We Think.” She and her team studied reflection and self-awareness, and reviewed 800 studies that resulted in some interesting findings.

Dr. Eurich’s research revealed that 95% of people rated themselves as being self-aware. However, only about 10% to 15% were actually self-aware. The rest, who think they are self-aware, are not even aware that they are not self-aware. That’s a confusing concept. It means that many people are just clueless as to how others perceive them. They can go through life with this self-deception. Do you know some people who are like this?

When people are not self-aware, we say they have “blind spots” because they don’t see what others see about them. In working with teams, it’s always revealing to have team members share their perceptions of themselves and then get feedback from the other team members. Sometimes there’s a big discrepancy between the differing perceptions.

In learning more about the research behind reflection and self-awareness, we were surprised to find that reflection is not always beneficial. It’s best done in a certain way to provide benefits. Actually, the way to engage in reflection involves using questions to stimulate self-awareness.

In looking back on the past year, it’s easy to ask questions like,“ Why did I have so many bad relationships?” or some other question that starts with “why”. Another common one is “Why didn’t I lose weight?” When using “why” it can often turn into defending or pointing out negative things about ourselves. In doing so, it has been shown that people begin to feel depressed, more stressed and actually less happy.

So, you may be thinking, is reflection a good idea at all? Yes, Gretchen Rubin said, “Self-awareness is a key to self-mastery.” Reflection is helpful to make the changes to have a better future. However, when looking back on the year, the questions to ask are much more beneficial if they start with the word “what” or “how.”

Here are some examples: If you had bad relationships, instead of taking time to ruminate on “why” and how unfair it was, ask yourself, “What can I do to have better relationships in the future?” If you didn’t lose weight last year like you wanted to, instead of asking why you didn’t, instead ask, “How can I lose weight?” When you avoid using “why” questions and instead use “what” or “how” questions, this helps promote action toward the desired goal.

Research also shows that when people used “what” or “how” questions, they became more self-aware. Being clearly self-aware, resulted in increased confidence and creativity, better communication and feeling more fulfilled in life. Those are some nice benefits!

What about you? What do you want to receive from taking time to reflect?

Some thoughts: We’ve highlighted how research shows that, when reflecting, a simple change by using questions that start with “what” or “how” instead of “why” can make a big difference in the results you reap. Reflecting on the past and gaining self-awareness can help you be the person you want to be so you can look forward to your best future.

We’ll be asking ourselves lots of “what” and “how” questions as we reflect and we would enjoy hearing about your reflection experience.

Editor’s note: This is a revised version of a previously published column.

Chanhassen residents Doug and Lynn Nodland are success coaches and owners of The Balance Center. Doug and Lynn can be contacted at More information and videos at