Reflection, ‘self-digging’, self-analysis – many people find these activities pointless or even a harmful waste of time. In fact, this process can be a powerful impetus for our growth and development. If we approach such reflections consciously, they can be a very useful tool for learning about ourselves.

A recent study has shown that reflection and immersion in reflection (including negative reflection) fosters original and valuable creative ideas.

Reflecting on ourselves and our problems can be seen as a form of self-examination. In such moments, it is as if we are looking deeply into our own souls, and we have a chance to learn something new and unobvious about ourselves. It’s like peeling an onion layer by layer – each layer is a part of our personality. Diving deeper and deeper, we suddenly notice some patterns of thinking, ‘triggers’ and hidden motivations that invisibly control our behaviour. We have the opportunity to regain control over our subconscious mental processes and use them for our benefit.

Here are three important tips to help turn the reflective process into a tool for self-discovery and development.


For the reflection process to be constructive, it is important to know what you want to achieve. Without a clear goal, reflection risks turning into fruitless self-exploration. Research shows that productive reflection requires a strategic approach – it is important to ask yourself questions, seek answers and critically re-evaluate long-held beliefs that we have come to accept as unconditional truth.

How can we use reflection to solve practical problems? Suppose you are having problems in your relationship with your partner or someone close to you. You immerse yourself in self-analysis, trying to understand the underlying causes of what happened. You have a clear goal: to understand how your behaviour and emotional reactions can create and exacerbate these problems. By answering these questions, you will be able to recognise what needs to change and how you can communicate more effectively with the person you care about.

Productive self-reflection differs from pointless ‘self-digging’ primarily because we set ourselves a clear goal and know what we want to achieve.


Almost any problem or unpleasantness can be looked at from a different angle and see some positive aspects or new opportunities for growth and development. This technique is called positive reframing (or positive reframing).

For example, you are worried about a failure at work. When practising positive re-framing, focus not on the failure itself, but on the experience and skills you gained from working on that project. Think about what lessons you can learn from the failure and how you can use them to succeed in the future.

When analysing negative situations, it’s important to treat yourself with empathy. As the 2022 study found, having empathy for ourselves during self-analysis helps us to detach from negative emotions and look at the situation in a more positive way (i.e. do positive reformulation). Remind yourself that everyone faces failures and setbacks from time to time. We react to them in different ways, and not everyone manages to learn from negative experiences and use them for self-development. Once we learn to do this, we will see that the obstacles in our path can be viewed in a different way – as steps on a ladder that leads us upwards to personal and professional success.


Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the here and now without being distracted by memories of the past or fantasies about the future. It is the third important condition for constructive reflection. The practice of mindfulness helps us to view our thoughts objectively, without judgement, and thus to better understand our own emotional reactions.

This is why reflection and introspection should often be combined with mindfulness practices (e.g. meditation, breathing exercises or mindful walking). It is also useful to keep a diary, ‘pouring out’ all disturbing thoughts and feelings on its pages – this will also help to make reflection a more useful and productive process.

Conscious focus on the present helps to analyse more deeply what is going on inside us, contributes to the development of emotional intelligence and self-knowledge in general.

Reflection, self-analysis, and ‘self-exploration’ can be powerful tools for our personal development – if we approach them constructively, knowing what we want to achieve. So the habit of reflection is not something we should get rid of.