40 Self-Reflection Questions For Looking Behind & Ahead

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Self-reflection is a mental activity we don’t think about very often. We talk to ourselves and ask questions in our mind, but much of it can seem like background noise. Instead of glossing over your thoughts, ask yourself some thoughtful questions, and get your mind buzzing.  

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It helps to put yourself in a certain frame of mind when you do this. Pretend you are your future self journaling a year from now. Or imagine a mental photo album as you remember events from the last twelve months. Whatever your method, use the following questions to stretch your brain and increase self-awareness. 

Self-Reflection Questions for School or Work

School and work environments are made for teamwork. Ask yourself these questions to find out what works for you and where you need support.

1. “What were some of my most challenging learning moments, and what made them so?”

Some of the most important learning experiences can be the most challenging. Think about learning situations that made you step up your game.

2. “What were some of the most interesting discoveries I made in this class/at school this year?”

Think back to the projects and conversations that sparked your interest the most. These discoveries could inspire your next book selection or hobby interest.

3. “What were some of my most important learning moments and what made them so?”

Look back at your classroom experience and list a few critical moments. Think about why those stand out and how they affected you.

4. “Recall a time you had difficulty learning something. How did that experience affect you?”

Remember how you felt and what your obstacles were when you struggled. If you come up with more than one experience, think about how these might be related.

5. “What are some things your classmates do that help you learn?”

Sometimes teamwork is the best teacher. Think back to your most cooperative learning moments in class, who was there, and what each person did.

6. “How could my current job be changed so it matches what I really want in my career?”

Maybe you’d like to shift your focus, go into leadership, or learn a new set of skills. Brainstorm some ideas and make time to speak to your supervisor.

7. “What do I do in everyday life that I can bring to this work?”

The skills you use at home or in your hobbies may be invaluable at your job. Think of ways your talents and abilities can cross over into your work environment. 

8. “What qualities of my job can help me balance my work with my life?”

Your answer depends on how flexible you think your job is already. Highlight what’s working now and consider aspects that could be more helpful.

9. “What do my coworkers and I do to help each other learn or overcome obstacles?”

It’s easy to take good teamwork for granted when things go smoothly. Pay more attention how you and your team work through challenges together.

10. “What are three directions your career could go in five years? Ten years? Twenty?”

Brainstorm a few different ways your future could unfold. Consider how you value job stability, variety, career advancement, and new opportunities.

ยป MORE: Your loved one is never far. Honor their legacy with this post-loss checklist.

 

Self-Reflection Questions to Look at the Past Year

Looking back on a year can be like creating a mental scrapbook. You’ll find moments of regret, things to be grateful for, and memories you’ll never want to forget.

11. “What have I done this past year that I am especially proud of?”

It’s easy to forget to pat yourself on the back when you’re getting important work done. Take time to notice and appreciate your accomplishments.

12. “What would I do differently if I were to live the same year again?”

Hindsight is 20/20, and sometimes you wish you did things differently. Instead of feeling regret, focus on what you learned that you can take into this year.

13. “What habits did I learn that I want to keep doing?”

If you’ve developed a good habit, hang on to it. Notice what you’ve learned and make adjustments in your day to encourage more of your new behavior.

14. “What do I know now that I didn’t a year ago?”

Think back to this time last year and remember what worried you, what you anticipated, and what you wanted to know. What’s changed since then?

15. “How have my priorities changed in the past year, and why?”

Think about your top priorities today. Reflect back and notice any subtle or more obvious changes over the year. What was behind the changes you saw?

16. “What’s the most difficult thing I have been through, and why did it feel that way?”

Your definition of a difficult thing makes a big difference. Consider your emotions, how your body felt, and how you got through it.

17. “How has my self-perception changed over this year?”

Self-perception is a key part of how you view the world each day. Notice how situations and relationships affected the way you saw yourself through the year.

18. “What did I let go of that I really needed to?”

Letting go can take a lot of time and mental effort. When you finally let go of something significant, take a moment to acknowledge that step and thank yourself.

19. “What brought me the most happiness this year?”

Your definition of happiness evolves, so looking at your happiness this year may mean something different at the beginning than at the end. Bring back the positive feelings and soak them up.

20. “What’s a habit I picked up that I need to drop?”

Bad habits can be hard to break, even if they hurt you. Consider how or why you started, and think of ways to interrupt the patterns now.

Daily Self-Reflections to Ask Yourself

Daily self-reflections are a way to take a snapshot of your behaviors and mindset. Take a look each day and watch how you evolve.

21. “What am I excited about, and enjoying most in my life right now?”

Take a look at the positives in your life. Even if you know you look forward to certain things each day, name them specifically to give them more weight in your mind.

22. “How am I lining up my actions with my values?”

Integrity is about matching up your actions with your words and values. The more you reflect on them, the easier it is to keep them in sync.

23. “When does time disappear for me? What does this tell me about my passions and values?”

Time slips by quickly when you lose yourself in an important or enjoyable activity. Take note of these moments and define what this means to you.

24. “Where can I find joy today?”

Put a spark in your day by purposely looking for joy and excitement. By checking daily, you can develop a habit of seeking enjoyable moments.

25. “What are my self-care needs today?”

Make self-care a priority by checking with yourself each day. This question can help you be more mindful of your physical, emotional, and psychological needs.

26. “What good can I put into the world today?”

Put this question in front of you and you’ll change your outlook. You’ll see opportunities to make a positive impact on others each day.  

27. “What will I daydream about today?”

Go ahead, it’s OK to daydream. This activity can get your creative juices going or can be a mini-vacation in your mind. Do this on purpose as a fun mental escape.

28. “What am I looking forward to today?”

You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can shift your perspective. It’s always easier to see the bright spot in the day when you’re already looking for it.

29. “What challenges will I need to face today?”

You’ll face challenges every day of your life, so take a moment to anticipate bumps in the road ahead of you. A little mental prep can make challenges easier to deal with.

30. “How honest am I with myself right now?”

Give yourself a taste of daily honesty, even if it isn’t pretty. Be kind and loving to yourself, but don’t allow yourself to hide from reality. 

Self-Reflection Questions About Your Future

The future is impossible to predict. But by asking yourself these questions, you’ll learn how to look forward and create the life you want to lead.

31. “What kind of financial habits do I want or need to develop?”

Financial habits are some of the most important behaviors you’ll ever develop. Think about your financial goals and some actions you could take every day to get there.

32. “What's the one thing about myself I would like to work to improve?”

Maybe you have low confidence or you always feel disorganized. Think about one thing you could focus on that can make the biggest impact on your life. 

33. “What am I never willing to do again?”

Once you draw the line in the sand, make it a deep one. Think about choices you don’t want to be faced with again or would choose differently. Remember the reasons why.

34. “What are my personal growth opportunities for the next year?”

What kind of accomplishment do you want to look back on for yourself? Maybe there’s a leadership opportunity, a skill you want to learn, or an interest you’d like to explore.

35. “What’s something I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t yet? Why not?”

Consider something new you’ve wanted to learn or an experience you’ve never had. Brainstorm ways to get around barriers like cost, fear, or training needs.

36. “What or who do I really need to let go of that I haven’t yet?”

When something or someone keeps dragging you down, it’s time to consider letting them go. Acknowledging a chronic problem is the first step toward releasing it.

37. “What are my mental and physical health priorities in the next year? Five years? Ten years?”

Consider your current needs as well as good aspects of your health you want to preserve. Think about actions you can take to stay healthy and active.

38. “If I could retire early, how would I spend my time?”

Saving money for retirement is smart, but how will you spend your time? Start brainstorming now and get a vision for life after work. 

40. “What impact do I want to leave behind with my loved ones?”

If you died tomorrow, your loved ones will only have their memories of you to cherish. Think about what you hope they’d remember most, and how you can be true to that each day.

Self-Reflections Are Food for Thought

Your inner dialogue has a strong effect on how you see the world. Strengthen your outlook on life by asking yourself questions that make you think. These mental habits can help you shape your viewpoint on yourself and the world.

If you're looking for more on self-reflection, read our guide on self-reflection quotes.


Sources  

  1. “25 Self-Reflection Questions to Get Students Thinking About Their Learning.” Wabisabi Learning, wabisabilearning.com/blogs/critical-thinking/25-self-reflection-questions
  2. “35 Questions for Student Reflection.” Edunators, www.edunators.com/becoming-the-edunator/step-6-self-care-reflection-for-learning/35-questions-for-student-reflection
  3. “5 Self-Reflection Exercises to Start Your Year Off Right.” GW School of Engineering and Applied Science, January 8, 2020, careers.seas.gwu.edu/blog/2020/01/08/5-self-reflection-exercises-to-start-your-year-off-right/
  4. “Career Reflection Questions for Staff.” Human Resources, University of Michigan, hr.umich.edu/sites/default/files/career-reflection.pdf

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