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Self-reflection Ritual

3 Powerful Self-Reflection Rituals for the New Year! (a 360-degree reflection model)

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Flipping from one Gregorian year to another is a great opportunity to pause, take stock, reflect and re-connect.


The more I delve into practices of self-reflection and self-inquiry, the more I find the timely power in them. In this time of distraction, fragmentation and information paralysis, finding our own unique ways of making-meaning and coming back to ourselves is increasingly important.


More than simply keeping a diary of what happens and when, self-reflection is a practice of delving deeper into our experiences, feelings, behaviours and what may lie behind them.


It’s about starting to become intimately connected with ourselves and the world around us, as well as the relationship between ourselves and the world around us.


Taking a magnifying glass to the hilariously confusing spaghetti of our body-minds. Not to ‘catch ourselves out,’ or with any pretense that we must be ‘fixed.’ Simply to better understand our own resources and impulses.


A regular practice of self-reflection is known to increase personal resilience, reverence and gratitude for the life we’re part of, empathy for more than our own perspectives.


In this article (it’s a meaty one!), we’ll explore 3 reflection rituals that I use at the change of year. I also have a monthly reflection ritual, and a weekly checkin ritual that I find useful to catch myself amidst the sways of everyday life.


We’ll explore:

  • Peer-Mirroring Survey
  • Reflection Questions and Journaling
  • Wheel of Life Checkin


So let’s get into it, shall we! 👍

Peer-Mirroring Survey

Why is peer-mirroring important?


Our sense of self emerges in the context of relationship, and those we spend most intimate time with will often see us in ways that we are unable to see ourselves.

That which we do not know about ourselves yet, and that which we may never know lays in the minds and hearts of those around us.

You might be familiar with Johari’s Window? If not, this is a model of relational self-awareness to explore our known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

A process of inviting a select number of people, whom know us intimately to share their reflections around specific topics can be useful to identifying blindspots and opportunities in our own self development.


What is peer-mirroring?


This is simply a survey form that you design and send around personally to a select number of friends who have earned your trust. In asking for honest, vulnerable and clear reflections, it is important that these people are people who have earned your trust.

Example of my Google Form
An example of my Google Form
How should I do this ritual?


Setup a Google Form or Typeform survey that can only be seen by people you send it to directly.


Include some prompts similar to the below, and adapt for yourself.


“From knowing me and spending time with me, what do you think/feel are my greatest talents and strengths? What gifts could I contribute to our world?”


“Do you have any stories or experiences of when, where or around who you have seen me at my best, and at my heights of excellence?”


“In your opinion and experience of me, what makes me most alive and in flow? What activities put me most into a state of awe, focus and enthusiasm?”


“In complete reflection and honesty, what is the ‘one thing’ you feel I should be pouring my energy into right now? Is there something you feel I do best and am most alive in doing that nothing else should interrupt?”


“Is there anything in your experience of me, that you feel is an opportunity for growth (personally or professionally)? Something that may hold me back from giving as much as I can, or opening to the beauty in this life?”


Select 5-10 people who know you intimately and you know will gift you honest, thoughtful and heart-full reflections.


Send a personal message to them with a link to fill out the survey.


Once everyone has filled in the surveys, sit with the reflections, notice any patterns, reflect on what has been affirmed and what feels like new insights.


Thank everyone and let them know something meaningful you took from the practice.


Reflection Questions & Journaling

If you were to just do one practice as a point of reflection as the change of year, season or any other transition in time, I would have it be journaling.


The magic of journaling is the structured monologue that takes place. In the same way that in an analytical meditation we explore our psyche, experiences, impulses and intuitions, journaling allows us to do the same and then read back over what we’ve written.


We become our own greatest guide and coach in this way. Building the capacities to probe into our own experience, listen to ourselves and make meaning for ourselves.

How should I do this ritual?


Create a clearing – set aside 1 hour, make some tea, light a candle, set the space.


Arrive in your body – do a short guided meditation, some dancing or whatever you need to move beyond the thinking-mind and into direct experience.


Explore each prompt – take your sweet time to sit with each prompt, write or draw whatever arises for you. Maybe even taking a short break to shake it out in-between each section.


Do it together – sharing the process of self-reflection with others can be a beautiful thing. Bring some friends together, all bring a plate of something to share, answer your questions, share some of your responses and celebrate the year and how you’ve grown.

Hindsight – reflecting on the year that has been.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Melody Beattie
  1. If you were to list 4 core themes that represent this year for you, what would they be? (ie. presence, exploration, connection)
  2. What are the top 10 things, people or events you are grateful for this year? (maybe you’d like to write them a little note?)
  3. What 3 achievements for the year are you most proud of?
  4. Which 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with?
  5. What activities made you lose track of time?
  6. Is there a goal or intention that didn’t transpire for you this year?
  7. Did you learn any new skills this year?
  8. Did you create anything cool this year?
  9. Any cool or funny compliments that you received and won’t forget?

Insight – harvesting the wisdom from your experiences.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Alan Watts
  1. What would you say is the most important lesson you learnt this year?
  2. Why are you most proud about what it is you wrote above?
  3. Out of all the places you went or experienced, where did you feel most creative and alive?
  4. What are the common traits among those 5 people you mentioned above? What type of people are you most in “flow” around?
  5. Those activities that you loose track of time with, have you acknowledged these before? Do you have regular time to do these?
  6. That goal or intention that didn’t transpire for you? Why do you feel this might have been? What can you learn from this?
  7. Are there any activities you found yourself doing this year that felt icky, out of alignment or clearly zapped more energy than they gave?
  8. Is the way you operated your year in any regard in contradiction to what you believe your values to be?

Foresight – planting seeds for the year ahead.

“True discipline is really just self-remembering; no forcing or fighting is necessary.”

Charles Eisenstein
  1. Right now looking forward, what would you like your overarching theme to be for 2019? (ie. exploration, remembering, commitment)
  2. What stands out as a key opportunity for personal growth next year?
  3. Who do you want to spend more time with next year?
  4. What new skill do you want to learn or improve?
  5. What personal attribute or quality would you like to sharpen or live more?
  6. What is one story you will stop telling yourself next year? What new story will you replace this with?
  7. What is the one goal that excites you the most for next year?

Wheel of Life Checkin


**I would usually do this checkin as a part of the ‘Insights’ practice above.


However, it can be a great stand-alone practice to gain perspective and clarity of your current position.

Example of a Wheel of Life Checkin
Example of a Wheel of Life Checkin

What is a Wheel of Life Checkin?


A Wheel of Life Checkin is a great way to gain perspective on how balanced you are in the areas of your life that matter most to you. By visually mapping your perceived-fulfillment in this way, you can start to see where you are doing well and where you might need to place a little more energy and love.


It is a great visualisation of what ‘wholeness’ looks like to you, and where you are currently in your journey towards it.


How do I do a Wheel of Life Checkin?


Of course this is my current way of doing this checkin. You’ll get the essence of the practice and be able to adjust and make it suit your needs and style.


Choose the spokes to your wheelThese might be similar to my 10 spokes below, or you might come up with your own. The question of ‘what are the elements to an enriched and ‘whole’ life for me,’ might be useful here in helping you discover your spokes – and they’ll change over time 😉


i. Health & Fitness?
ii. Intellect?
iii. Emotions?
iv. Spirituality?
v. Friendly & Family Relationships?
vi. Intimate Relationships?
vii. Wealth & Career?
viii. Experiences & Fun?
ix. Creativity?
x. Contribution?


Draw your wheel and label your spokes

Example of an empty wheel


Mark where you currently feel you are from 0-10 on each spoke – 0 = not so great, 10 = feeling super alive in this domain.

Mark your position on each spoke


Connect your dots – connect the dots on your spokes and see your wheel come to life.

Connect your dots and see your wheel

Reflect on your wheel’s balance – where is a little flat and might need a little more love and energy?


Looking back, what can you learn about how you managed and nurtured these domains of your life? What can you take away from this practice?


There you go! A collection of 3 yearly self-reflection rituals that I use, and find give me a grounded, honest and wholesome perspective. They leave me feeling grateful, honoured, connected and clear.


I’d love to know, do you have a self-reflection ritual that you’d add to this or swap out for something? Which of these 3 rituals do you feel would be most useful or supportive for you?

Let me know in the comments or send me an email at al@aljeffery.com.


Feel free to share with those you know are also self-reflective folk 😉

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Lady holding books in-front of her face

The Fertile Space Between Your Self-Worth and Your Work (How To Let It Be Of You, But Not All Of You)

Photo by Siora Photography

Sitting here, 35,000 feet in the air, gazing out the window across the ocean on my way to speak to 600 accountants (CPA’s) in Auckland, then Sydney, then Canberra and then Adelaide. 


No matter how many talks I give, the trembles and nerves don’t seem to dwindle.


Our inquiry is into the role of community, vulnerability and emotional sensitivity in this Connection Economy. Why these very human capacities are so crucial in our work, and perhaps most importantly, in our life?


Part of me is sitting with the privilege and excitement of this opportunity, the other part doubting itself immensely. Here I am, sitting in my human-ness 😜 


“Who am I to be speaking on this topic? They won’t listen.”


“What if it’s a complete flop?”


“I’ll be a complete flop!”


Noticing the attachments I have to my talks (or group contemplations) and my identity and self-worth getting closely entwined with my words, my message and my craft. 


What do I do when I notice myself living through a slightly imbalanced, unproductive thought spiral? I wrote a haiku, of course.


Whispers of self-doubt,

What if I take the self out?

All doubt melts away.


So my inquiry emerges: 

How do we balance the great paradox of both, being your work in the world, and at the same time, not letting it be you?


Another great paradox.


As soon as we plop out of the womb and into this world, we are served with a gourmet platter of paradoxes to straddle: self vs other, strength vs ease, creating vs allowing amongst the many more.


Of course slowly remembering that these are all two sides of one big coin called life. A delicate dance moment-to-moment as we oscillate between environments, interactions and relationships. 


This paradox though, is one very prevalent in our culture today.


Many of us are born into a culture that asks “what do you do,” more than “what are you in love with, or curious about.” This breeds a value-system that shapes how we relate to ourselves, and others around our ‘doing’ in the world. 


Our work and that which we do, becomes a measure of our sense of self and our worthiness. Of course, leading us to constantly wanting to do more, to fill this trance of not-enough. 


We become identified with our work, we fear taking those small necessary risks, as their falling-short might be a reflection of our worth. 


Very rarely do I make strong statements, but I do want to make sure this one gets across:


You are not your work. It is not a reflection of you. It is an expression of you, but it most certainly is not all of you.


You are the whole, not the parts. 


As mindfulness will teach us, we are an ever-evolving constellation of parts.


Your emotions, thoughts, sensations, toes, hair, eyes, friends, talents, challenges, quirks – all a part of what makes you You. But it is all of this (plus an immeasurable amount more) that makes you who you are. 


We simply cannot reduce you down to a singular fixed aspect of yourself, and neither should you. We, ourselves are a dance of moving parts. 


Our work and our work in the world is one of these parts. It’s an aspect of ourselves, out in the world, but is not and cannot be all of ourselves. 


Of course, our aim is to have our work become a natural expression of our curiousities, our passions, talents and who we believe ourselves to be – this is what makes it feel meaningful. But here lays the fine line, the paradox. 


How closely can we build a connection and alignment with our work in the world, without it becoming us completely? 


The fountain of your work.


The beginning of this year, whilst wrapping up writing my book, I’d decided to take a small break from my keynote speaking work to reconcile my relationship to this aspect of my work. 


For me, my speaking career began at the age of 14, as I was crafting an identity, building my sense of self, and desperately working to fill the disconnection I felt inside. 


Speaking became something I did, to fill myself up, to feel as if everything was ok and my life had worth. 


Let me be honest and humble at the same time. Whilst I was a great speaker and did great work, it burnt me inside. This void of disconnection, of not-enough is not something a job, a person, a car, a house can ever fill – and keep filled. 


I’d try to reconcile this by simply making sure that the talks I would give and the clients I’d work with were aligned with who I thought myself to be.

It felt a little better. A greater sense of congruence and wholeness started to emerge. 


It still didn’t feel quite right though. There was still a searching. Each time I would present, it was a performance, something other than me, still with the attempt to feel like I was ‘enough’ on the other side. 


I’ve sat with this, probed why I had this experience and spoken to many others about this also. My consensus, is that I’m not alone. My provocation is that you too, like most people I spoke to may have remnants of this story playing out. 


It hurts, it’s murky, it’s scary and it’s confusing. Everything at once!


Our work and all that we do in the world needs to be an overflowing from oneself, a sort of fountain. We are enough, as we are, all the time. This is not up for negotiation. 


Creating, loving, giving, offering only with the hope that we will feel more full, more whole and more ‘enough’ on the other side will be a forever-chase. 


You are enough, even without it.


Without your work, without all that you ‘do,’ all the titles and roles you walk with, who is it that wants to be loved?


Who is it that is hoping that one day you’ll be able to sit with them under a tree and connect over all that they love and all that makes them feel alive?


Connecting with this aspect or perspective of yourself, doesn’t mean you go and quit your job, stop doing all that you are. Not at all. 


It simply means you start to soften into a new way of relating to all you do. It feels lighter, more expansive and more creative. Who knows, you might find more joy in what you are doing, even if it doesn’t feel like your ‘reason for being.’ 🙃 


I’m curious, what resonated for you in this piece?


It felt a little more authoritative for me, some strong clear statements, but I trust I padded it out with some stories and anecdotes for you to connect with. This is one of the cultural entanglements that has woven itself into our personal worldview, that feels imbalanced, and that I explore in my forthcoming book. 


Let me know what feels resonant for you, or not. Al

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Walking in the forest

Living Through Questions, Towards Perspectives (how seeking answers might lead us astray)

Photo by Trevor Brown

“The quest for wholeness – for congruence between one’s inner and outer life – never really ends. It’s not a place you get to. It’s really a matter of asking the right questions, wrapping your life around them and living into them.”

― Parker J. Palmer


There’s only one question I need to ask myself when I notice myself feeling slightly off, out of sorts or disconnected: when was the last time I journaled or practice self-reflection?


What happens next is usually a naturally unfolding series of moments and realizations that bring me back to the insight or knowing I need, in this moment.


I’ll turn to my journal, I’ll sit in quiet contemplation, or I’ll ask to speak to a friend who I know can listen well and ask great questions. 


In our schooling, we are typically only rewarded when we give the right answers.


What I’ve come to realise though, is that our resilience and fulfillment really lies in asking the right questions and, as Parker Palmer would say, “wrapping our lives around them.”


This means asking the right questions of ourselves, but just as importantly, of others also.


Answers are static and contextual. We can carry questions with us.


In the pursuit for answers, most notably the ‘reason for my being,’ I find myself get caught up in thinking there is a right answer, in a fixed and static state. That I’ll find the magical answer and it will quell my need to continue the ’search.’


Some days I would get up and one answer would feel alive and brilliant, some days another answer feels brilliant. At first, this leading me into the dreaded existential spiral of wondering if there is even a ‘reason for my being.’ Without a reason, am I worthy or even good enough?


After years of fighting myself and my reality, and after reading Parker Palmer’s, Let Your Life Speak, I decided to try connecting to the questions that brought light into my life. 


Why do we feel disconnected from ourselves sometimes?


Why do we feel disconnected from others at times?


How do we find our way back to ourselves and each other?


What role do our systems and physical spaces play in facilitating this?


I noticed something profound shift inside me. Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert’s memorable assertion that “human beings are works in process that mistakenly think they’re finished,” became a visceral experience for me.


The searching was gone, I felt that I had arrived. Yet, the curiousity had just begun!


I started living as if I was a curious and compassionate detective. Living through my series of moments, intimately connecting to their textures and exploring these questions.

Each experience and each interaction bringing up new clues and fragments of answers to my questions. Slowly piecing together a puzzle of fragments that might even begin to shape a formed answer. However, that wasn’t the point anymore. 


Questions breed curiousity, awe and wonder!


I’d come to find that my connections with others became even more juicy.


More questions were asked, we’d come to these lovely new shared-realizations about topics that meant something for me.


My connection with the world around me became more intimate and inspiring. Of course it can sound like the greatest cliche to say that “you can see the entire universe in a blade of grass,” and it will sound cliche until you open to letting that experience move you for the first time.


Most importantly, for me, was how my connection to myself became more compassionate. There was no where else to be, my questions had me land in the right place no matter where I was or who I was with?


This sense of an inner-compass brought with it a strengthening and grounding exhale. 


Elizabeth Gilbert makes the distinction between the ‘Hummingbird’ and the ‘Jackhammer.’ The Jackhammer, sets a goal (this might be to find an answer), then strides heavily and violently until it thinks it has reached said goal. The Hummingbird though, flies gracefully from tree to tree, listening to the impulses and curiosities calling for attention. 


Living with Both, and.


Living completely as a Hummingbird – again, for me – flying from tree to tree and never settling on an idea or a path has led to burnout. Also, living as a Jackhammer, driving myself steadfast toward a place I’d thought I needed to be without taking poise, stepping back, rising above and looking down, also led to burnout. 


It isn’t either finding answers and then living with them, or finding your questions and living into them. It’s a little of both. Both perspectives will soothe you in different ways. The ability to dance between both modes of being is the art. 


As with all things: the paradoxical nature of our reality means that our ability to dance between each pole is where our resilience and fulfillment lays. The ability to have range.


For me, and I observe for many, the preference our culture places on answers and ‘getting it right’ does place necessary pressure on the pole of finding those answers and sticking with them.


Hence, recognizing and living with questions might seem like a healthy balancing force for our time. 


So, what questions bring light and curiousity into your life? Is there a way you could soften into leading with questions?



Would you like a copy of my ‘Orienting Towards’ self-reflection guidebook?


It’s a great tool for connecting with some of the questions that might breed clarity and curiousity into your life, I’d love to send it across. But yes, I will need your email 😉 so if you join my muse-letter below, it will be sent across for you 🙏

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