"Owning Your Impact" Self-Reflection Exercise
Updated: Apr 4, 2020
Note: I first began teaching about owning the impact your behaviors and the energy you put forth in every moment has upon everyone your life comes into contact with (as well as many other people you don't even know due to the ripple effect) way back in 2006 when I was writing for a small magazine dedicated to personal growth and consciousness studies. Not too many people were interested, because this aspect of Ethical Intelligence requires seriously deep self-reflection, radical self-honesty and unwavering self-responsibility, and at a time when people were more into a "manifesting whatever you desire" by "stating it out loud to the Universe" and creating "vision boards" entitlement mindset.
As your practice of cultivating mindful, conscious awareness deepens, you begin to see that there is really no doing it "half-way" … and that gives you the ability to enthusiastically embrace your inner work with a spirit of adventure and a sense of realization that doing so is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our fellow human beings.
You then also realize that mindfulness and other consciousness-elevating practices are not all about you, as you open our awareness to include others. It's a conscious shift from a self-help only mindset to being more inclusive, and with empathy and compassion shifting from "me-me-me oriented" thinking and acting that is driven by personal gain to "we-oriented" thinking and acting that unites rather than divides; that celebrates one another's successes and gains without envy or cutthroat competitiveness; as well as doing what we can to help eliminate the pain and suffering of another by embracing the gifts inherent in even the most difficult life challenges.
I invite you to reflect upon the thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors that impact you and others, both beneficially – and not so much. My only request is that you be radically self-honest and equally caring toward yourself. We all have our dark shadows and blind spots, and can easily dismiss, deny, justify or excuse what we think, do and say that arises from these places within when it's uncomfortable to face and own them.
But if we don't do this they will not just magically go away.
Mindful, conscious awareness gives us the ability to calmly and honestly observe ourselves, and own that we all have some work to do on ourselves. Since everything we think, do and say has a ripple effect, by being honorable we can take this on with courage, humility, dignity, humor, curiosity and a heaping dose of kindness and self-compassion. Sometimes we may need help from a professional in this process, yet acknowledging we need help (and getting it) is an act of great, conscious power, not weakness, and we can be an inspiration to all whom we lead by authentic mindful example in whatever sphere of influence we have, in every situation and interaction, in any given moment. We concurrently see there no unimportant situations, interactions, or moments.
Self Reflection exercise
First, consider the impact you have upon yourself before you look outward. We are "whole people" - yet many people are out of balance in terms of relating to each part of him- or herself equally.
Physically: do you nourish your body with the healthiest food you can afford? Do yourself stress-reactively mindlessly consume foods or beverages, or have you learned to be attentive to what, when, where, why and how you eat and drink? Do you get proper sleep and exercise and engage in regular self-care practices?
Emotionally: how do you deal with the challenging emotions you experience – are you hyper-reactive, or do you "stuff" your emotions, or dissociate or comfortably numb yourself with food, shopping, or escapist behaviors? Or do you do your best to mindfully be with and learn from challenging emotions, allowing your practice to help you self-regulate - and not allow negative feelings to harmfully impact you and those around you?
Mentally: do you overload yourself with input, try to multitask, are inattentive and unfocused, fall into mind traps like catastophizing or perfectionism – or are you purposefully finding the space between the stimulus of stressful thoughts and your response to them with increasing ability? Are you choosing to not anxiously ruminate about the past or project into the future?
And lastly – how does your Spiritual life impact you? – and I mean "spiritual" in terms of the daily practices you engage in that bring depth, purpose and meaning to your life.
Think about regular situations at work or at school. What helps you be totally present and engaged in what you are doing? What creates stress and difficulty? What thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors either positively or adversely impact what you do, whether it's a task, or an interaction? How have you brought in harmony, and how have you created – or at least added to – problems that take place? Do you just blame others, or do you own your part? Are you passive aggressive, or sabotage others? How competitive are you – and what will you do to ensure you'll win? Are you assertive and say "no" when appropriate? How well do you handle frustration, conflicts and failure? Do you bring your best to all of your work or assignments – regardless of what they are - or do you just get by, procrastinating, doing the minimum, stuck in a status quo of Internal Operating System mediocrity?
Many people are aware of the effect different environments have upon them, yet what goes hand in hand is the impact we have upon our environments. Our home is intended to be our sanctuary, and we bring ourselves wherever we go. How do you treat where you live, and what is your impact upon it? Is your home clean and organized, or uber-cluttered, with dirty dishes, trash and laundry piled up, dust deep enough to carve your initials into it? Your outer environment is a reflection of what's going on inside of you, so when things are cluttered, messy, dirty, stressful, and overwhelming in your home environment, you can have a corresponding level of overwhelm and stress going on inside as well – which keeps you from living and being your best. Consider how mindfulness of place in your home can impact your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being and vice-versa, and what you can do to enhance it.
Relationships (including SignificantOther/Family/Friends):
This is a big one, just like the impact we have upon ourselves, so I'll give a bit more time to this.
There's an old song that says you always hurt the ones you love, yet that is completely dysfunctional. Your relationships with the people who love and support you through the ups and downs of life are to be treated with care - always. Period. When we are mind-less and self-involved, we often take our loved ones for granted, and consequently cause them to experience suffering - even if its unintentional.
The deepest wounds are often those that are not physical in nature, and hurtful emotional wounds can last longer in one's mind and heart than the kindest expressions of love we receive. Some people say you should "never say never," but I've said many times that I feel there are three simple "nevers" in life:
Never take anyone or anything for granted. Never take out your anger or frustration on those close to you,.
Never go to sleep with upset feelings between you and a loved one.
So this is where I'm asking you to go the deepest in your self-reflection, and to own the impact you have upon the ones you love – and they upon you.
See where you've caused a loved one to experience pain in any way, and if you can, make amends right now. You never know when an interaction with a loved one will be your last, and the regret and pain we can experience by not being able to do so can eat away at us for a lifetime. Apologize with your whole being – and don't let it just be words that buy you a pass until the next time.
We teach people how they can treat us by what we accept from them. Create and maintain healthy boundaries, because it isn't compassionate to allow yourself to be hurt in any way.
Don't excuse abuse of any kind, no matter who the source is or why it is happening.
Respect yourself and acknowledge the positive impact of treating yourself with dignity, even if the other person doesn't like it. Exercise critical thinking and wise discernment without dismissively and judgmentally shutting down your heart and mind in the process.
The other component is being able to forgive another, even if what they did may feel unforgivable. We don't have to forget, we don't have to enable, yet as long as we allow the pain another causes us to feel to run our lives, this person or situation will own us and imprison us.
Treat everyone – not just your close loved ones – the way your best and highest self wishes to be treated- no excuses - and not just when you feel like it, and especially when you are under stress.
Now, if this self-reflection brings up lots of "stuff" for you, I really recommend enlisting the help of a professional that can help you work through it. That is an act of Evolved Power.
What impact do you have upon your community? Some people are very positively involved with where they live, and some not at all. You might not even think you have an impact, but you do.
Do you text while driving, or drive while distracted by your phone, or when you are really upset, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs – illegal or prescription - and are in denial about the potential harm you can cause? Do you waste resources, or feel it's too much bother to even recycle? Do you cut people off while driving, or park in handicapped spaces - yet you don't have any disabilities? Do you pick up trash when you can dispose of it easily, or ignore it? Do you open the door for others (regardless of gender) and treat service people with respect? How about your impact as a global citizen, or online? Do you act speak and act differently if you think you are anonymous? Do you bully or insult others in social media? Think about all the communities you are involved in – physical and virtual. What effect do your thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors have? Own your impact, both negative and positive – and give yourself credit for all the good energy you put out into the world.
Shadow Behavioral Patterns
Now take a look at some of the shadow behavioral patterns you may be engaging in that are not simply contained in any specific area of your life:
Lack of self care
Lying "Situational" ethics
Don't "walk your talk" (aka hypocrisy)
Abuse in any way
Numbing and escaping
Can you see how all the above have an adverse impact on ourselves and/or the people in our lives?
How many times do we have to do the same old thing expecting different results until we wake up?
Do you want to learn from joy - or pain? Love - or fear?
I encourage you to spend some time and go deep with your self-reflection.
Whatever area you see that you are impacting yourself or others in a harmful way, bring in kindness and self-compassion as you own the effects from the past, and choose to let it all go and begin again. Make amends whenever possible, as that too is an act of Evolved Power.
Recognizing, owning, facing, and feeling everything you’ve managed to hold at arm’s length in the present moment with honest reflection and a kind and open heart opens up a doorway to real choice, freedom and empowerment. I invite you to place one hand over your heart and compassionately say to yourself:
“Even though these particular shadow behaviors I own about myself have kept me from attaining inner peace and equanimity, I love, accept, and respect who I am right now with all my imperfect human-ness. I forgive myself, and will make amends wherever I can - and I choose to do some serious work on myself – not just for me, but for all the people my life comes into contact with."
©2006, 2017, 2020, Suzanne Matthiessen, innerevolution media. All rights reserved.