5 Ways Reflective Thinking Can Change Your Outlook in 2024

Jan 13 / Julie Jones

The ball has dropped; people have established (and dropped) New Year’s resolutions or intentions, and the pace of meetings and work has ramped up as people have returned from time off. It’s easy to jump back on the spinning wheel and focus forward so that you don’t fall behind. Time has a way of reminding us that we are always behind, and perpetual busyness begets more busyness.

How can you pause busy and become a better version of yourself in 2024? Try reflective thinking!

Self-reflection is the process of understanding your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It promotes self-awareness yet also pushes you to think of the reasons and motivations behind your thoughts and actions, helping you understand yourself better. Consider the five ways reflective thinking can improve your health, shift your mindset, change your outlook, fuel your impact, and propel your growth and development.


1.       Self- reflection builds gratitude.

Taking a moment to pause, acknowledge and appreciate what you have allows you to internalize positive emotions and add fuel to your tank. People who reflect on gratitude are more resilient, build stronger relationships with others, and improve their feeling of well being.  


You don’t have to look much farther than the delightful stories of Winnie the Pooh to find ways to cherish the small moments in life and be grateful for those who share your journey. Do you remember when Pooh got stuck while visiting Rabbit? Rabbit offered him food and honey; Pooh overeats and finds himself stuck in the rabbit hole.


Rabbit goes to find Pooh’s friend, Christopher Robin. Christopher Robin says we just have to make you thin again — which will take time. Pooh asked his friend, Christopher Robin, to read him a book to comfort a wedged bear which Christopher happily did for more than a week. After a week of thinning and pulling by many of Pooh’s friends, “Pop”, Pooh was freed. Pooh appreciated his friends and their willingness to help instead of only focusing on “not having front doors big enough.” Think about how gratitude like Pooh’s could change your mindset — what do you appreciate versus what is wrong? Notice the difference in thinking?


2. Self-reflection helps reveal accomplishments.

It is easy to forget to identify accomplishments in the busyness of each day. And soon, each day becomes a week, month, or year, and you realize you can’t define how you have grown, developed or made a difference in your job or for others.


Can you develop questions to reflect on to reveal impact and value such as:

·         What were my (the teams’) biggest wins?

·         Why were these wins important?

·         What difference did it make for customers, coworkers or the business?


Notice how your mindset shifts to value instead of tasks through the purposeful reflection questions


3. Reflective thinking helps you develop higher order thinking skills.

Reflective thinking helps you make sense of your world connecting prior understanding with new knowledge — sometimes called sense making. It allows you to identify how you learn best and provides insights into specific strategies you might use to learn new content, tasks or face new situations.  


Consider how artificial intelligence extracts insights from information and transforms the data for decision-making. Purposeful reflective thinking is your own AI – extracting insights from what you have learned and applying these insights and data for decision making or future needs. Reflective thinking is one of your most powerful sense making tools.


4. Self-reflection allows you to make connections and see different perspectives.

Reflective thinking encourages pondering – slowing down and considering alternatives. If you embrace the process for intentional thinking, you can see connections between abstract and concrete concepts — moving beyond a right or a wrong answer into and thinking. And thinking propels innovation – the combination of different ideas, parts, or elements to make a better whole.


Rarely does one question or pass on reflective “thinking” evolve new insights or perspectives. Self-reflection is an ongoing process of questions, thinking, and iterating thoughts and ideas.


In his book, Think Again, psychologist Adam Grant notes that it will be critical for people to think like a scientist and recognize how little they know. Thinking like a scientist allows you to favor doubt over certainty, curiosity over closure, and humility over pride. The ability to reflect and evolve with new experiences, data, and methods of thinking will positively shape minds and lives.  


5. Self-reflection promotes brain health especially for those in advancing years.

A study published in 2022 in the American Academy of Neurology explored the relationship between conscientiousness, purpose, and dementia risks. Self-reflection is a core element of both conscientiousness and purpose. Researchers found that older adults who engage in self-reflective behaviors displayed better cognitive function and had improved glucose metabolism, which is critical for fueling the brain. Think of reflection as exercise for the brain!


Use the question prompts to practice reflective thinking and create an awesome accomplishments board. This process can help you find your gifts, embrace your talents, and qualify your contributions. Oftentimes, the passage of time provides more clarity for your impact and consideration for your regrets paving a clearer path and outlook for 2024.

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