Here’s an easy guide to introspection.
I fell off a bit for a few weeks, so I’ll push out every backlog I’ve kept in my draft. I thought of quitting, but my mama did not raise a quitter.
I grew up believing that it was St Augustine who said that an unexamined life isn’t worth living. I’ve searched everywhere on the Internet for a source that credits the saying to him, but I have found none. Regardless of whose saying this is, I still believe in it and live my life mainly by it.
I talk a lot about the importance of iteration every time something doesn’t work. The best examples are athletes, especially gymnasts. But even as everyday people, this also applies to us. When we apply for jobs or attempt to find love (lmao, yes, I love talking about love). Don’t be the person try the same thing repeatedly and fail in the same way over and over again.
So what’s an examined life?
People think of self-examination in different ways. Some people view it with some religious undertone. For others, it’s meditation. For others, it’s simply a way of life. A time in a day or week when they pause and sit still. I define it as beautiful moments of peace. And when I’m lucky, self-examination comes during my walks. So I have the chirping of birds in my surrounding to serve as sweet melodious accompaniments.
Where does self-examination begin?
Nothing in this life is more important than ambition and setting goals. There’s frankly nothing to examine without goals. Your targets for yourself could be material (in terms of passing exams, buying something you’ve always wanted, etc.). They could also be abstract (e.g., when you decide to be more mindful of how you relate with toxic people). As our faces are unique, so are our goals. A great place to start to think about these is by asking yourself what version of you would make you happy in the next 5 days, months, or years, and doing little things that bring you up to that moment.
What happens during introspection? There aren’t right or wrong answers to this. But for me, sometimes introspection begins with a question (e.g., Why couldn’t I meet my deadlines this week?). On good days, they end with answers (e.g., because you spend too much time on Twitter or just recovered from covid). These responses help me know how I’m slacking (or not slacking).
What I love most about these times, and I hate to sound cliche AH, is the moments of peace and clarity. It could be the peace of knowing that I haven’t slacked ‘just because’ or the clarity of knowing what I must change for things to get better. Either way, it’s a win.
But then the real work begins. Sometimes we’re lucky, and we identify what needs to change and change it, and it works. Occasionally, we try, and it fails. Again and again and again. And, of course, you’re left alone to deal with the disappointments that come with each failure. I know you don’t want to hear this, but self-examination and patience are two things you need most. Sometimes all we can do is iterate, retry, reexamine, and iterate. While we let time do what it does.
If you’re struggling with giving yourself some patience and showing yourself some self-care, I wrote something about that here. I hope it’s helpful. And always remember that we’re all mostly figuring things out at the end of the day.
Ps: I wrote this piece on introspection while introspecting on introspection during my morning walk. And yes, they were birds chirping in the background. Ụwa Chukwu Amaka.