When we begin the journey of personal growth, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. With endless options for the changes we want to make and the new habits we want to form, it can be easy to fall into the cycle of paralysis by analysis. While it’s normal to feel lost, it’s neither useful nor productive.
So where do we begin?
Research suggests that observing behavior is the first step towards changing behavior.
The Hawthorne Effect is illustrative of how observation changes behavior. The effect occurs when people behave differently because they know they are being watched.
The effect was discovered in the context of research conducted at the Hawthorne Western Electric plant, in Cicero, Illinois, between 1924 and 1927; The study attempted to measure the effects of more or less lighting on the productivity levels of plant workers. However, it rendered inconclusive because the participants all knew that they were being observed, and their productivity increased regardless of lighting condition.
The same is true when we begin to observe behavior of light at a quantum level.
Let’s take a look at the physics of the observer effect.
Physicists have found that observation of quantum phenomena can change the measured results of this experiment.
In quantum physics, the double-slit experiment is a demonstration that light and matter can display characteristics of both classically defined waves and particles. Depending on the method with which light is being observed, it can behave as either a wave or particle, almost as if the light knows how it is being observed! Observing its behavior changes its behavior.
The experiment's results have been interpreted by some to suggest that a conscious mind can directly affect reality.
This phenomenon, however, doesn’t just occur in our external observations. It can occur in our internal observations as well.
When I first began meditating three years ago, I sat down with the lofty goal to sit in silence. However, I remember getting lost in the overwhelming noise of my mind. I found myself swinging from thought to thought like a monkey swinging from branch to branch. It was impossible to track or stop. I became increasingly frustrated with how little control I had over my mind’s activity. As much as I tried to suppress the noise, my efforts were futile. The only way out was through. So, I began to observe my thoughts and what I found was shocking. Between all the task-oriented thoughts were old memories I had yet to process. They had been cycling between suppression and repression until I began to pay attention to them. One by one, I resolved these traumatic memories, resulting in an unexpected transcendental experience.
One night, when I couldn’t fall asleep, I sat up in bed and began to meditate. It started same as always: observing my thoughts. But this time, there were no thoughts. Instead, light began to replace my thoughts. Bright light! So bright, I had to remind myself I was sitting in a dark room with my eyes closed! Fast forward and there was a rush of beautiful colors that looked like plasma within my body paired with a feeling of bliss like I had never experienced. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I meditated for four hours that day and it felt like four minutes and four years at the same time. This experience sparked an “addiction” to meditation and began to change the way I showed up in life.
Observing myself changed the Self.
And you’ll slowly find all the answers you're seeking. Close your eyes, be still, and ask your soul what it really wants to do in this life. Clarity will follow.
Self-reflection is about checking in with yourself.
Unfortunately, some of us don’t check in with ourselves for decades and decades, until one day we wake up and realize we’ve spent our lives working towards goals that we never really wanted, in places we feel we don’t belong. The good news is that we always have a second chance to change our story.
Self-reflection is the moment in which we pause and ask ourselves: “Am I going in the direction I want to go in?”
We tend to self-criticize rather than self-reflect.
Often when we think we’re self-reflecting, we’re actually criticizing and judging ourselves. Instead of asking, “Where do I want to go?” we’re more likely to say, “I’m not where I want to be.” This is a significant choice, and it determines a negative internal dialogue over a healthy one.
Give yourself constant grace.
Life requires endless reconfiguring— adapting, readjusting, learning to ebb and flow with the ups and downs of being a person in this world. Our journey is not linear. It’s okay to feel confused, lost, and less than good. There’s no need to panic. Sit still. Allow your inner voice to speak. Observe the infinite wisdom within.
We only have to worry about our next step.
What’s the next step?
Choose to get to know your true self, your true goals, and your true intentions. Ask yourself the hard questions in order to get where you really want to go. Recalibrate, refresh, and reconnect with yourself every single day, over and over again. Self-reflection is a constant and forever process.
It is not possible to observe reality without changing it.
Where do you want to go? Ask yourself this, many times, without judgment or self-criticism. We’re on our way to a beautiful and better future.