The value of self-reflection to make changes in your life

Many of us have a dear partner or friend on whom we rely in some very personal ways, and this person is a big part of our lives. He or she is many things to us, including our “sounding board” — the one who supports us, reminds us to read our compass, stay the course, keeping us in check. They are the ones who say “follow your dreams.”

One of the many huge problems we face with the death of that beloved partner or friend, is we have lost our “sounding board.” They have been the ones who we can try out our ideas, or share our problems. They've helped to keep us on track, encouraging us to be our best selves.

I didn't notice this at first when Baheej died because there were so many other challenges and adjustments to handle, just coping with and managing grief itself. There still are.

Yet, as the years rolled on, I realized increasingly that I was left to my own devices in almost every way. Where to go, when, what to do or not do, what to eat, and on and on. My sounding board was gone.

Luckily, I had my brother Nic and sister Mary to talk to, and I still rely on my dear sister Mary for good advice. But since we grew up, we have always lived far away from each other, as my sister does now. So, of course, this is not the same as having a daily presence. And my brother, Nic, who I used to talk to frequently, died five years ago.

Recently I started thinking about all this. What to do? So on Dec. 31, I came up with a 2023 New Year's resolution that is working so far. Unlike most resolutions, I've actually put it into practice.

The resolution is simple: Do more self-reflection.

By this I mean active and regular review of my own behavior, situation, health, ideas, problems that need solving, and use of my time. It's very easy to say, but a resolution must be put into practice to be worthwhile.

Here's what I came up with, and it's easy. Every morning, before I get up and start the day, I think through yesterday quietly in my mind — what I accomplished or didn't accomplish, how I spent my time, what I could improve or should change, etc. So I get fresh thoughts and ideas before my mind gets cluttered with the regular tasks and news of the day. Self-reflection.

As simple as that. It feels great and I'm making progress.

A simple example: I got my blood pressure down, by a lot (into normal range). Self-reflection is very different that generalized New Year's resolutions about health and weight. Self-reflection led me to some very specific and concrete changes to accomplish my goal. Daily self-reflection is the process that bolstered my determination to make the needed specific changes. And it provides an ongoing monitoring process. I did the same thing about losing some weight and that's working, too.

Another example: Use of your own time is very important. Time is a finite quantity and really should not be wasted. I don't mean being busy or working 24/7 but rather a good use of time whether doing, thinking, helping, reading or whatever.

So I've been reflecting on my use of time and that's been very helpful, even motivating. Yesterday I got two big items off my “to do” list that I've been putting off for months. And I've installed some regular daily time to rest and just think.

The point is: It may not be a health issue or use of one's time that needs self-reflection. Those are just my current examples. It could be anything.

Shortly after New Year's, a friend posed a question: What was your most interesting New Year's resolution for 2023? So I told him the only mildly interesting one I made is “Do more self-reflection.” And then he asked something like: Is that a general intent or do you have a process for doing it? I was happy to say I do have a process, and now I can say it's working.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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