Most of us have the ability to look back at events in our lives and exercise some form of self-reflection. But retrospective self-reflection isn’t enough.  We must also reflect on our actions in real-time, as we live and breathe them, for any behavior change. Make self-reflection a habit. Even more so in times of a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic.

You might wonder, why? Because as we live through these uncertain times, and what is possibly the largest behavior change exercise in the world, it’s important to understand what got us here and prepare ourselves to cope with what lies ahead. 

Let’s think about some of the values and lessons from this crisis: the discussion on hygiene; the importance of compassion, open communication and collaboration; and the very real and often harmful impact of human activity on the environment.

Reflect on these topics and the lessons learned during the lockdown—and then, start living out what you’ve learned. Because while it’s great to look back and learn from the time you might have been too lazy to wash your hands after traveling by metro, it’s far better to catch yourself in that moment of lethargy and avoid making that mistake at all (especially now!).

The idea behind this is not to be self-critical or reprimanding. Psychologist Nick Wignall suggests practicing these three skills when self-reflecting: openness, observation and objectivity. 

Openness means trying to become aware of your own biases and preconceived notions about the world, yourself and others. 

Observation is about looking at your own actions with the same perspective and distance that you’d use for others. Especially before criticizing someone else. 

Objectivity is trying to remember that in these difficult times it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by our thoughts or fears, especially around the future. To be objective is to understand that “we are more than the contents of our minds-thoughts, emotions, desires, etc.”.    

Here are three ways I am trying to cultivate these skills as I work from home during the lockdown:

1. Openness: I’m evaluating some of the expectations I might have from family members. For instance, when did it become my parents’ responsibility to always plan or prepare meals at home? Consciously questioning myself on things like this has helped me identify areas where I might be unknowingly not contributing enough at home.

2. Observation: When I feel frustrated over things being too loud at home while I'm in the middle of a virtual conference call, instead of losing my cool, I try to think about whether I could identify a different space next time to take calls or give everyone at home a heads-up beforehand. This has helped me become better at communicating my needs around the house and also being aware of the needs of my family members.

3. Objectivity: Any time I have an anxious thought like, “OMG, I’m never going to see my friends again”, I write it down in a notebook. I later try to restructure it into a more realistic thought like, “I won’t see my friends for another 21-30 days but, I can still talk to them”. This has made me more grateful and mindful of the privilege I have in the form of access to technology. 

Varalika Singh is Manager, Behavior Analytics at Harappa Education

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