I spent the first 23 years of my life in a haze.
Time passed, things happened, but I never really seemed to experience it. I would set some arbitrary goal, achieve it, then immediately move on to the next thing.
Life seemed to just be happening to me, with little agency on my part. The protagonist of my own journey, yet I missed the whole thing.
As I matured into a young adult, I followed what my parents, family friends & teachers suggested: to do well in school, to go to university, to find a graduate scheme, to ride out the next 50 years in a corporate career.
And only got a taste of what lay beyond that world at 22, when I decided to start my own business after a solo trip down the Amazon.
But that, as well, seemed to pass me by. The pursuit of fame, of fortune, of growth, of excitement — I was drawn in unquestioningly for a couple of years, until one day I realised:
I was not happy. That these goals I had set myself were not what I wanted.
That everything everyone had ever told me to do had led me to make the wrong decision in the past.
That I had rejected the social norm of careerism only to fall into the hands of my own ego in the startup world.
That, for my entire life, I had been asking myself the wrong questions. So I started asking myself new questions:
If I don’t want wealth or status, then what do I want?
If, in fact, I want to prioritise being happy, then what does that mean? Is that hedonism? Or something deeper, like fulfilment?
If fulfilment, then how can that be acheived? How can I work towards that goal each day, in a world that doesn’t seem to value it? Where such a goal can only be discovered ourselves?
Over the last 3–4 years, I have been on a personal quest to answer those questions, to discover what fulfilment means to me & how to shape my life around that meaning.
I’ve searched externally for knowledge, through endless books, articles & podcast. Fixated by a thirst for more.
Yet it is when I have searched internally that I seem to find the answers: through daily meditation, through undistracted time for self-reflection, through writing my thoughts out every morning in a journal.
Looking inwards does not feel like an addiction, like an insatiable thirst; it feels, instead, like a deep sense of curiosity that I approach with a calm mind. It feels sustainable. It feels natural.
And the more I look internally, the more I reflect on myself, the more I feel I progress towards a more fulfilling life, whilst also enjoying the present.
But why is self-reflection still so uncommon?
Is it because of a lack of knowledge related to the benefits of practices such as meditation or journaling?
Well not really, because, particularly in the last five years, there is a rich base of evidence in academia purporting the benefits of both meditation and journaling. Furthermore, mainstream media has taken up the cause with articles on, for example, Huffington Post’s one on the stigma surrounding therapy.
(One could argue that there is too much information out there, so it’s hard to know where to start, but there is no concrete risk involved with trying meditation (other than potentially losing 10 minutes of your time), so I don’t see this argument as valid.)
The problem — and academic research, as well as our own anecdotal research at Scribe supports this — is that self-reflection has a very strong social stigma attached to it.
It is not normal to meditate. It is not normal to journal every day. It is not normal to set time aside to reflect in silence.
Because to do so suggests that something is deeply wrong. That you are battling your demons. That you’re on the precipice & this is a desperate attempt to claw your way back. That you are weak.
And, as a result, most people are too uncomfortable, too scared, too apathetic towards trying to self-reflect more that few people do it.
Or those that do turn to therapy, to a meditation retreat, to rehabilitation when the problem becomes too much. When they have become reactive, rather than pro-active, to problems building in their lives.
And that is one of the greatest tragedies of modern society.
Because what would a society look like with every individual on their own journey of self-discovery? How would it shape their thoughts? Their actions? And, in turn, the collective?
Creating A Calm Mind
Our founding team do not believe that people should wait until some crisis in their lives to take action.
We believe that all of us should change our mindsets from reactive to pro-active.
Why would you not want to be 10% happier?
Why would you not want to increase your quality of life?
Considering the scientifically-supported myriad benefits of self-reflection, particularly through journaling & meditation, there is no rational argument against such practices other than worrying what your friends might think.
How To Get Started
In my experience of experimenting with different self-reflective techniques, the key is just that: experiment.
You may find that what works for me, works for you. You are likely, to find, however that that is not the case, so having an open-mind is key.
To discover what works for you, I suggest trying a few of the following:
Free-flow writing, coupled with insights from your writing, to create a calmer mind & to better understand your thoughts. Get started with Scribe’s Insights tool
Structured journaling with specific questions you ask yourself each day & some free-flow writing to explore your own thoughts (read this step-by-step guide I’ve written on how to get started)
10 minutes of meditation each day to create a calm mind. Get started with Headspace’s free starter packs
Self-reflection time: block out 10 minutes each day to go for a walk, without music or a podcast, to allow your mind to think — uninterrupted — for a few minutes each day