I met with a counsellor recently who ended our first session together with this: “Check in with yourself and notice how you feel.” After an hour-long session, I was being asked to self-reflect. While this is solid advice, it left me feeling unheard because self-reflection is what led me to seek out assistance. What I needed from the session were practical takeaways – what can I do to start climbing out of this rut? Sharpening the shovel that I used to dig the hole isn’t going to help.

Self-reflection is already part of my modus operandi. I write Morning Pages, talk to myself out loud, journal, keep a video diary, talk to my cat, and write blog posts about my experiences. I do all of this because I want to better understand myself and the world I live in. Recording my thoughts is the best way for me to keep track of them.

Checking in with myself won’t solve the problem that I’m currently facing because it doesn’t help me act on the world in order to create change. What I need are strategies that will help me harness control over the environment I’m in so that it becomes more fruitful and rewarding.

I’m not a monk. I need to create order amongst the disorder. I’m responsive to my environment. I want to leave footprints where I walk.

The trouble with self-reflection is that it can lead to inaction. It becomes a circular exercise when you start to look at yourself and the situation you’re in from every angle. You consider all of the options available to you. In trying to understand what is happening with yourself, it becomes increasingly more difficult to see and understand the world around you. You can’t make a decision because there’s no corner for you to stand in. You end up trapped in your own, self-made panopticon.