The Importance of Self-Reflection: 10 Lessons I Learned in 2018

Kika Otiono Associate Editor

By Kika Otiono

Happy Black History Month!

2018 was an eventful year for many of us. Instead of focusing on some of my goals for 2019, I wanted to write about the greatest lessons I learned from 2018. Lessons are important parts of our life because it is an opportunity to make 2019 a better year by reflecting on my mistakes.

So, here they are:

  1. Every ‘failure’ is an opportunity for growth: it is okay to make mistakes, but it is NOT okay to dwell on them.

Not every endeavour will be successful, and I learned to be okay with that. The key thing to remember is that even if you didn’t get the job you applied to or the grade you hoped for, every mistake is a chance for you to reflect and to ask yourself: where did I go wrong? What can I do to prevent this from happening again?

As Beyoncé once said: “If you everything was perfect, you would never learn, and you would never grow.”

  1. Sometimes you will put in the hard work and it doesn’t result in a success. That doesn’t make you a failure.

This is one of the most important lessons I learned in 2018. Throughout my academic and personal life up until this point, I saw success as a very logical and linear process. In other words, my thought process used to be: “If I study for six hours instead of two, I will get a better grade.” This way of thinking may be rational, but it lacks nuance. You can put in all the work required – and even more – and you won’t succeed. That doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human. The fact that you worked so hard is a success in itself!

  1. God always has a plan: if He closes a door, He will open a window.

I also learned from my struggles in 2018 that sometimes an event can seem like a failure at first glance. But it might just be a way to create space for something greater to happen in your life. For example, I lost an internship that I applied for in the summer. I was shattered. The week after, I received an email about a wonderful job offer that paid more than the internship! Life works in mysterious ways. Trust the process.

  1. Ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to do it alone.

I think a lot of us have a difficult time reaching out to ask for help – we get to a tough part of our journey and we want to carry the weight of it on our own. In 2018, I learned that it is okay to take a break, to ask for an extension, or to just ask for someone to listen. Asking someone for help doesn’t make you weak, it shows that you are willing to be vulnerable. Vulnerability and self-care take courage.

  1. You don’t have to please everybody.

Matter of fact, you don’t have to please anyone. Your life is a personal journey, and if you need to do something for your own wellbeing, do it! Don’t say “yes” for the sake of it. Another part of this lesson is that forgiveness is key. Forgiving others isn’t only for their benefit, it is for yours.

  1. Be consistent! Small changes and victories in your daily life result in the biggest changes.

In December 2018 I read James Clear’s book Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. I genuinely believe everyone should read this book – it completely revolutionized the way I view habit formation and goal-setting. Through personal experience, I’ve learned that doing a little each day is much more important than making large, sweeping changes that won’t last.

  1. The possessions or relationships you covet will not make you a better person.

It is very easy to look around you and see people with relationships or things you desire and think to yourself: “If I had that, I would be happier.” This is hogwash. Focus on your own journey! If you are always looking into your neighbour’s garden, when will you water yours?

  1. Motivation does not result in success, discipline does.

The difference between motivation and discipline is important. Motivation is transient, and it might provide that surge of energy you need to complete a task or work towards a goal. On the other hand, discipline is what builds the strength in you to get through the tough and boring days. It is what enables you to study even when you don’t feel like it. I’ve learned to build discipline, not motivation.

  1. You are inherently valuable. You deserve love.

I think this one speaks for itself. I don’t think I quite grasped just how important self-love is until 2018. Learning to accept your flaws and to treat yourself with compassion will go a long way in your life. Trust me.

  1. The sun will rise each morning.

Repeating this mantra helped me through some tough times in my life. If there isn’t a zombie apocalypse, or the sun doesn’t explode out of nowhere, you will get through this. Each day is a new chance to refocus, restart, and retry. No matter how bad your day is going, just remind yourself: tomorrow, the sun will rise, and I will try again.


About the writer

Associate Editor Kika Otiono is a 3rd year student in Carleton University’s Humanities and Biology Combined Honours program. She is passionate about the Carleton community and helping other students, thus she is involved in numerous initiatives. She currently works as a Facilitator at Carleton’s Centre for Student Academic Support (CSAS) and serves as a department representative on Carleton Academic Student Government (CASG). Kika is an avid reader and loves learning about productivity, habit-formation, financial ownership, and literature. You can reach her at [email protected].