The Open University and the importance of self-reflection
On Tuesday the 2nd May, I will be on the South Bank with the Open University as they launch an amazing reflective cube, with the aim of encouraging the nation to take ten minutes out of their busy days to think about their next life and career moves.
The reason I have got on board with this concept is because I genuinely think that in this busy, modern world, we often forget to make time to explore what makes us truly happy and fulfilled.
When I was a kid, growing up in the 80’s, getting your photo taken was a pretty big deal. If you could firstly afford a camera, and then secondly manage to actually take a decent picture that wasn’t returned with a sticker over your face due to overexposure, then you were considered lucky. Back then, I often felt frustrated when I came across a truly awful photograph of myself, lurking in someone else’s album, but on reflection, I am actually really grateful that I grew up in an era where I didn’t have the technology to alter the shape of my body, or eradicate my teenage pimples, because it meant I wasn’t spending too much time concentrating on my imperfect appearance and terrible perm.
Fast forward a couple of decades and the world is a very different place, kids carry technology in their pockets that is so advanced they can use it for communication, education, and adventure, and whilst this is awesome, it also means that to some degree, we find ourselves filling each and every minute of each and every day!
I think for me, that’s where the real problem lies, we are so connected to the wider world, through cyber technology, that we are potentially becoming disconnected from our selves. For example, if you think about selfie culture, 75% of people of all age groups admit to feeling pretty obsessed about capturing the perfect image, with some suggesting they spend up to two hours per week posting their ideal selections. This really does support my suspicion, that people are purposely disconnecting from their ‘real’ selves, instead editing and posting only the very best (and often digitally altered) selves instead.
With all this worry over the external self, it makes sense that people are feeling that firstly they are short of time, and secondly that when they find pockets of free time, they are not spending it thinking about the things that can make them feel truly happy.
It really doesn’t matter how many times I tell people that physical looks are not the foundation of happiness these days, they simply don’t believe me, and I get why, after all, when you check Instagram and see celebs and Instastars with 100 million followers all looking perfect, then it makes sense people want to emulate their success. Of course, even though people may believe that being rich and beautiful is a recipe for happiness, it genuinely isn’t.
What makes us truly happy are the things that fulfill us and the people that surround us and we have a great deal of control over those elements of our lives. One of the first questions that I ask people when I am working with them is “Did you plan to be where you are in life today?” around 80% of people tell me that they kind of just arrived and the majority of those also add that they feel unfulfilled. It never ceases to amaze me, because you only get one life, and the way you live that life is completely down to your own choices, so until you feel like you are in the driving seat of life, you are going to feel like a passenger, and often one who is going in the wrong direction.
The Open University research suggests that almost half (43%) of the people who took part in their research confess to never setting aside any time to self-reflect and one in five (19%) have no recollection of the last time they set aside time to think about their life goals, and this is where things need to change.
You see, the moment you create some space to sit down and reflect on your life, is the moment you can begin to shape your life however you wish to do so. It doesn’t matter how old you are, creating the life you want to live is open to anyone willing to work at it, but it requires being open to self-reflection and honesty.
The amazing benefit of spending time on the inner self, is that unlike the physical, it is limitless in its potential and that’s really, really exciting.
Planning what you want for your life right now and onwards is something we should all want to focus on, because the truth is, that people who set themselves goals, are far more likely to have their dreams come true.
- Write down a list of your passions as these will determine what you should be doing with your life
- Set some SMART targets (small and measurable goals) and then commit to the timeframes involved in achieving then
- If you need qualifications or training to achieve the change you desire, then get online and start looking at where you can achieve these
- Try to cut out negative self-talk
- Digitally detox, yes I do mean putting that phone away and turning off the TV. Creating space will give you time for your all important self-reflection
- Practice some mindfulness. This can be formal such as Yoga, or informal, such as going for a walk in nature. Mindfulness can really help you to gain perspective and feel a sense of greater purpose
- Make a vision board, full of all the future things that you want to bring into your life. Simply making a physical picture can start the process of achieving the life you desire
If you want to step into this amazing reflection cube yourself then please come and visit, after all, how often do any of us take a real good look in the mirror?
Timings: Wednesday 3rd May, 9am-5pm
Address: Observation Point, Southbank, 58–72 Upper Ground, Gabriel’s Wharf, London, SE1 9LT
How to get there: The Observation point is just a short walk from London Waterloo station (8 minutes), Southwark underground station (11 minutes) and Blackfriars station (14 minutes).
Visitors: The event is free and will welcome all visitors, including passers-by.
For those unable to attend the Southbank event, the Reflection Cube will be at the following locations this summer:
- Rotunda Square, Birmingham (17th June)
- Briggate Leeds (15th July)