Human beings are the only creatures capable of reasoning and introspection. The ability to reason allows us to make sense of things and to make conscious decisions based on logic, past experiences, and new evidence presented.
Reasoning is mainly used in relation to things in the external world, while introspection is a form of reasoning turned inward, where you closely examine your own thoughts and feelings. Gaining insight into who you are, examining your core beliefs and values, and analyzing how you came to acquire those beliefs is valuable for many reasons. Looking inward allows us to change patterns that aren't working, and to reframe our thinking in ways that enable us to create more meaning and purpose in our lives.
Introspection allows us to see that we all have unique histories and experiences that have shaped us into who we are. Perhaps the greatest gift that introspection provides is the realization that happiness lies not in the circumstances, but in your daily attitudes towards life. A lot of people view happiness as the end result of achieving something - whether it's a promotion, a new car or a vacation home. In reality, those things might be nice and could potentially enhance your life, but will they bring you sustained happiness? Probably not. Once you realize that happiness is an internal process, you begin to live your life in alignment with your core beliefs and values.
Another by-product of introspection is realizing that what other people think of you isn't nearly as important as how you view yourself. Are you a kind and compassionate person? Are you a person of integrity and do you keep promises that you make? Do you strive to be the best version of yourself each and every day?
Most of us reach a certain point where we feel compelled to look at the larger landscape of our existence. We question things like our mission in life or our purpose on the planet. We search deep within ourselves to uncover the rare abilities or wisdom that we can impart on our children, to share with our communities, or to contribute to the world. Some people are blessed with the ability of introspection at a very early age. A majority of us, however, reach this epiphany only after a particularly difficult life-altering event, when we are forced to look inward as a way to make sense of the things that seem to defy all logic and reason.
I recently came across a quote by J.D. Stroube which reads:
"Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led toward the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it."
While there are moments in life that are extremely difficult to endure, I truly believe that we are never given more than we are capable of handling. Although you can't change the fact that a particular experience happened, you can choose your perspective when looking back on it. Do you want to reflect on the pain, the loss or the heartbreak you suffered, or do you choose to reframe the event as a teaching experience and move forward in a positive, forgiving way that allows you to focus on the blessings of here and now instead?
There are times when difficult experiences provide you with an unexpected gift or valuable lesson. There are also times when you are simply provided with a sense of relief or appreciation that you had the strength to make it through that moment in time. Without introspection, the experiences we go through would have little meaning. It is our understanding of these experiences that allows us to transcend them in order to lead more purposeful and enriched lives.